This week, the NFL is holding their annual draft combine in Indianapolis. This is the three-day, per position, job interview that sees most of the talent show up and get poked and prodded by NFL doctors before they hit the field for position drills and speed and agility testing. The most notable test for the speed players at the skill positions is the 40-yard dash.
On Saturday, Duke Johnson and Philip Dorsett each had an opportunity to flash their speed for the scouts. Dorsett was the second fastest of the wide receivers with a 4.33, while Johnson finished with a 4.59, good enough to be in the middle of the pack. He will need to improve that time to show that he belongs in the first or second round of the upcoming draft. Johnson came into the combine looking to run a sub 4.4 time similar to that of Dorsett.
Prior to meeting with the Miami Dolphins yesterday about their vacant backup running back position, the former Miami Norland star met with the Baltimore Ravens who are locking for an heir apparent to Ray Rice, who was cut from the team last season amid controversy surrounding his alleged domestic violence incident with his then-girlfriend in an elevator in an Atlantic City casino.
Johnson told the Baltimore Sun that his ability to catch passes out of the backfield, something the he excelled at during his days in Miami, and his ability to line up in the slot, will make him a more attractive candidate than, say, a player like Melvin Gordon, who briefly held the rushing record for yards accumulated in a single game while at Wisconsin last season.
"Being able to receive out of the backfield is the No. 1 thing," Johnson said. "I'm a mismatch with linebackers. I can catch the ball really well. I think at the end of the day if there's short yardage and I need to get it, I'll go and get it. Whoever drafts me will get a great player and they won't regret it."
There is wide speculation that Miami might take a chance on Johnson and pair him with former Miami Hurricanes star Lamar Miller, who rushed for over 1000 yards for the first time last season. Miami will apparently not bring back Knowshon Moreno and Miller's backup was by committee last season.
Duke, as reported by Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, compares himself to LeSean McCoy. Johnson ran for 1,652 yards during his senior season at Miami and scored 10 touchdowns. He probably could have had more, but did not play in the second half of many games that saw Miami either blowing a team out, or out of many games that required them to have an additional wide receiver on the field.
He said that is comparable to McCoy in "his quickness, his burst and his ability to make people miss in the open field and out of the backfield."
Aside from Miami and Baltimore, Johnson has also been cited as having impressed scouts in Detroit and Indianapolis. Johnson is in a very deep class at the running back position, which did not see a player get drafted until the third round last season. He will be competing with Todd Gurley and Gordon to see who comes off the board first and how quickly.