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2019 Miami Hurricanes NFL Evaluation Profile: S Jaquan Johnson

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The heartbeat of the Canes defense looks to pump life into a pro defense

NCAA Football: Virginia at Miami
Nov 18, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes defensive back Jaquan Johnson (4) intercepts a pass for a touchdown during the second half against Virginia Cavaliers at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Nicknamed ‘The Franchise’ at Killian High School, strong safety Jaquan Johnson has been a leader for quite some time. His leadership is not exclusively verbal, nor is it limited to game days during the college football season. Johnson has been a model citizen since his arrival to Coral Gables. It may be the only trait that exceeds his star on the gridiron as a Hurricane.

Observing Jaquan Johnson as a pro prospect should be straightforward. An impact player that seems to make a play whenever he’s in the vicinity, possessing the intuition to cause a momentum shifting play at a moments’ notice, No. 4 is a throwback to the bravado of Canes past. He also talks that smack talk, but can back it up with a level of performance that Miami football grew accustomed to. Although Johnson has been knocked for his lack of size at the position, Jaquan has a sturdy muscular frame that saw him miss just two games in his four years at UM. So any concerns relating to his durability should be a moot point going forward.

So what kind of NFL prospect is Jaquan Johnson? A damn good one. We watched the film, took some notes and will show you why.

Film Watched

Miami vs LSU 2018

Florida State vs Miami 2018

Miami vs Boston College 2018

Strengths

  • Good range of mobility. Able to reach the play from a deep safety position on the field towards the line of scrimmage.
  • Good speed to rush the passer and turn back upfield to get a hand on the receiver after the catch. Highlights his mobility and range of coverage.
  • Assignment knowledge is sound.On a goal line stand against the Tigers, Johnson switches off of the TE and picked up the fullback, blanketing him from making the reception.
  • Able to get skinny at the line of scrimmage. Knifes his way through blocks to get to the play.
  • Decent closing speed to make a play on the receiver.
  • Showed up well against FSU. Stuck to his keys, ignored the misdirection, making play after play.
  • Able to get lower than just about every ball carrier he makes a tackle on.
  • Shows an ability to flip his hips and redirect. With the speed of the NFL a few notches faster than college, this will be crucial.
  • Solid wrap-up tackler, regardless of where he is on the field. Manages to trip up the ball carrier whenever contact is made.
  • Has an uncanny ability to diagnose the play quickly and swivel through traffic to make a play on the ball carrier.

Weaknesses

  • Doesn’t take the most efficient route on a blitz. Against LSU, came off a double DB blitz that went for a 50+ yard run.
  • Does not hold up well at the point of attack. Can be overwhelmed by tight ends.
  • A one dimensional blitzer who only employs a speed rush, with next to no counters off of that.
  • Average hands as a receiver means that he’ll drop as many interceptions as he’ll make.
  • Can lose leverage on stretch runs when positioned close to the line of scrimmage.

Considered to be the heart and soul of the Hurricanes’ defense for much of his tenure, Johnson is a huge positive for his team against the run or pass. Blessed with great closing speed, possessing the instincts to avoid the clutter near the line of scrimmage, and being one of the most dependable tacklers on the roster, Jaquan Johnson has bailed the Canes out time and again. Looking forward to his next challenge, Johnson’s speed, football acumen and fluidity in coverage will likely be coveted by a team or two. Unfortunately, the biggest knock against Johnson will be that he doesn’t have ideal height, and questions regarding how he’ll handle going against NFL TEs and big-bodied WRs at the next level.

Given his success from high school into college, Johnson will make the case to be an immediate starter, regardless of the perceived flaws attached to his profile. A captain, leader and shining ambassador at the University of Miami, look for number four to win over some new fans while making the Miami faithful proud of what he’s accomplished entering the NFL.

What the Experts Have to Say

Johnson isn’t a big guy but he can lay the wood. He’s good in run support and a sure tackler. He explodes downhill but always under control. Johnson is undersized in coverage against tight ends and bigger receivers, and because of his size, he sometimes struggles to bring opponents down in their tracks. He lines up all over the field, but is primarily in centerfield.

CBS Sports Staff

An undersized but talented player that many teams will view as a box safety. Johnson lacks range in coverage, size versus tight ends and speed versus receivers—but he will come downhill with a full head of steam and make plays underneath. Johnson will be able to get the attention of many teams with his play on special teams.

Projected Round: 4th round

Matt Miller — Bleacher Report

Interchangeable safety with aggressiveness and leadership qualities teams covet. Teams also covet big and fast which could push him into the third day of the draft. Teams might pick at his measurables, but he’s reliable in coverage and extremely consistent as a downhill, open-field tackler with a taste for striking. He has good short-area quickness and soft hands, but he lacks ball-hawking instincts, which limits his production. Johnson’s play demeanor and urgency need equal consideration or a team could lose out on solid player.

Round Projection: 5th round

Lance Zierlein — NFL.com

He is an eager run defender with the toughness required for downhill work, although his overaggressive appetite and lack of length lead to mistakes. Overall, Johnson is the type of tone-setter who affects the game with his passion and intangibles, but his lack of ideal size and speed will create limitations in the pro game, projecting as a special teamer and back-up safety.

Dane Brugler — The Athletic

Round Projection: 6th round

A pint-sized safety who plays like a linebacker, Jaquan Johnson is truly fearless in his playing style, flying around the field showing off instincts in the run game, better tackling than you expect given his frame and exuding energy and hustle as the defensive leader of a talented squad.

Round Projection: Late Fourth

Jon Ledyard — The Draft Network

IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!