In recent years, Miami has been a huge beneficiary of the NCAA Transfer Portal, and have largely benefited on the defensive line. Namely, since 2019, Miami has welcomed premier pass rushers in Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche, as well as Trevon Hill - all of whom have varying degrees of exposure to NFL franchises in their early careers.
This past season, Miami clearly needed reinforcements on that defensive line after losing Phillips, Roche, and Gregory Roussaeu, so the Canes explored the portal yet again. The Canes looked no further than a Miami Southridge product as they locked in Deandre Johnson, who previously played for Tennessee.
Johnson underwhelmed at times but has the quality tools to carve out a role on an NFL roster.
DE Deandre Johnson Draft Snapshot:
2022 NFL Draft Ranking* - 57th EDGE
(Position Ranking based on The Athletic, Dane Brugler, 2022 Draft Guide)*
Height: 6’2” (10th Percentile)
Weight: 252lbs (16th Percentile)
Arm Length: 33” (29th Percentile)
Wingspan: 79 1/8” (34th Percentile)
Hand: 10 1/8” (70th Percentile)
2017: 6GP, 4 Tackles, 2 TFLs, 1.0 Sack, 2 FF (Tennessee)
2018: 12GP/1GS, 13 Tackles, 3 TFLs 2.0 Sacks, (Tennessee)
2019: 13GP/2GS, 13 Tackles, 4.5 TFLs, 2.5 Sacks, 1 FF (Tennessee)
2020: 8GP/6GS, 28 Tackles, 6 TFLs, 4.5 Sacks, 5 PD, 2 FF (Tennessee)
2021: 11GP/9GS, 26 Tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 4.5 Sacks, 1 FF, 3 FR
CAREER: 84 Tackles, 24 TFLs, 14.5 Sacks, 1 PD, 6 FF
Go Be Great, Deandre Johnson! pic.twitter.com/QFRUT5gOVW— GO ‘CANES! (@83_87_89_91_01) December 21, 2021
Pro Football Focus (PFF) Grades
- Overall 2017 PFF Grade: 59.5
- Overall 2018 PFF Grade: 61.8
- Overall 2019 PFF Grade: 68.2
- Overall 2020 PFF Grade: 67.0
- Overall 2021 PFF Grade: 66.0, (73.8 Run Defense, 64.1 Pass Rush, 71.1 Coverage) 478 DLine
Pro Day Results:
40-Yard Dash: 4.83 (45th Percentile)
Bench: 20 reps (23rd Percentile)
3-Cone: 7.58 (6th Percentile)
Shuttle: 4.51 (28th Percentile)
Vertical Jump: 33” (49th Percentile)
Broad Jump: 9’6” (43rd Percentile)
From Miami, but took the Long Route to the U
Early in Johnson’s football journey, he was faced with significant adversity. In March 2015, following a freshman season that involved a fractured fibula, Johnson was stabbed several times by a female classmate in a random event outside the school cafeteria. The event required life-saving surgery. He spent several days in the hospital and lost nearly 40 pounds but returned from to play his junior season. Johnson not only bounced back, but he had a breakthrough senior season tallying 15 sacks, which caused his recruiting stock to skyrocket.
Johnson had been considering in-state programs, such as Miami, but eventually signed with Tennessee. At a thin Volunteer EDGE position, Johnson was called upon to offer immediate depth. Johnson bulked up and ended up playing six games that first year in reserve duty. In his sophomore season, Johnson shed some weight in order to assist the Vols with the team’s defensive scheme alterations and play more off-the-ball.
Johnson’s production lacked during his sophomore and junior years as he only had 13 total tackles each season. In his senior campaign, Johnson had a bit of a breakthrough as he tallied 28 tackles in eight games. He flashed as pass-rusher on a mediocre SEC team against stiffer competition with six tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, as well as two forced fumbles. After the season, Johnson claimed he was receiving fifth-to-seventh round grades, but needed a full season to shoot up draft boards.
Johnson opted to head closer to home and join the Canes. Johnson hoped for a Phillips-like rise in his grad transfer year, who had 45 tackles, 15.5 TFLs, and 8.0 sacks his final season, but Johnson strung together a slightly underwhelming 26 Tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 4.5 Sacks, 1 FF. He did have as many sacks as 2022 draftee, Quincy Roche, and hopes to leverage his effort and overall tools to carve out an NFL roster spot.
SEC-Tested and Relentless Pass Rusher
Upon enrollment at Rocky Top, many thought Johnson would occupy a viper-like role, a term used to describe a positionless defender that occupies numerous facets of the defense. However, in the past two seasons, Johnson has played almost exclusively on the defensive line as he played over 95% of his snaps there over that time according to PFF. He is not completely one dimensional as he has lined up on both the weak side and strong side as a pass rusher, and he has experience in both a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme.
Johnson’s underclassman years at Tennessee could be defined by flashes of athletic ability and dedication to his craft but subpar production that included rising to the occasion when given the opportunity. As the most experienced player for a rebuilding pass rush at Miami, and even though the Canes’ fanbase was expecting more production, Johnson tied for the team lead with 8.5 TFLs.
.@DVandernat might agree. Johnson earned an NFLPA invite based off his CGS performance. Heard good things from NFL scouts this week too.— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) January 18, 2022
Johnson’s play style can be described as relentless as he does not quit on any given play and until every whistle. He exhibits good containment by keeping the play in front of him, whether it relates to the ball carrier or passer. Johnson gives solid effort on every play, and, despite having shorter arms and below average speed, he can sneak up on quarterbacks to jar the ball loose (eight FFs during career) or force errant passes. He covers a lot of the field, often seen chasing ball carriers from behind or from the opposite side of the gridiron.
That being said, Johnson can be absent for long periods of play and sometimes inconsistent, especially when evidently mismatched (even though he hails from the SEC, he had two combined tackles when matched up against top ten prospects, Alabama’s Evan Neal and NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu). Johnson is somewhat limited in his attack but he can have a nose for the ball as he recovered eight fumbles during his career.
While Johnson did not live up to the expectations in Miami, he has been on the rise in the draft prospect as he works with former Cincinnati Bengals strength and conditioning coach Cliff Brown. It is reported that he impressed scouts at the NFLPA Senior Bowl enough to warrant an invitation to the College Gridiron Showcase. As a plus, he also has played special teams.
- Relentless effort on every play until the whistle
- Sound Containment skills upfront
- Nose for the ball (eight FR and FF during his career)
- Special Teams experience
- Scheme Diversity and Assignment-proof (4-3 or 3-4)
- Has battled back from adversity (high school stabbing incident)
- Below average speed/athleticism
- ‘Tweener’ size but played almost exclusively defensive line (a bit undersized length-wise compared to NFL defensive linemen)
- Some inconsistency and went absent during periods of play
- Limited skillset at point of attack
- Will be on older side as far as rookie age
Best NFL Fits (UDFA): Teams that could use a developmental prospect who will earn his spot by way of special teams initially
NFL Comparisons: Quincy Roche
Johnson did not do enough to increase his draft stock in 2021 as his production pretty much leveled off as his career progressed. Regardless, there are some respected draft scouts who have spoken highly of Deandre. Senior Bowl Director, Jim Nagy, says Johnson would be the first prospect he would draft from the College Gridiron Showcase.
Johnson has strived through adversity from the high school incident and showed immense patience at Tennessee, earning his way into the starting lineup. That toughness and effort was obvious in his play style. However, he has physical limitations and will need to work his way onto a roster as a special teams-first athlete.
Draft Night Projection: (UDFA)
UDFA to Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers tend to players with intangibles who can earn a roster spot by hard work on special teams. Johnson could get a good opportunity there under the tutelage of Mike Tomlin, John Mitchell and another former head coach, Brian Flores.