Scouting Report written by: Jimmy O'Brien
Johnson is a big, physical cornerback, with long arms, a well muscled physique, and no aversion to contact. He was recruited out of high school as a wide receiver, and chose Montana over PAC 12 schools Arizona State and California. At Montana, Johnson put team goals first, accepting an immediate position change to corner, then proceeding to make himself a four year starter, three time First Team All Big Sky, and a two time Walter Camp All American. As he embarks on his pro career, he may again be asked to put the team first, and accept another position change, this time to free safety, where his closing speed, tackling ability, and developed ball skills (honed through years as a receiver) can be best utilized. He is versatile enough to play either corner or safety, and this characteristic certainly raises his draft stock.
Johnson is an impressive physical specimen, with ideal size and mass, quick feet and hips, and plus leaping ability. Coming out of breaks, he keeps his pad level down, and maintains good balance. Adept at keeping plays in front of him and sharply breaking forward on routes, especially come-backs. In press-man, he has both the long arms and the strength to jam and re-rote receivers, and he rarely overextends. In zone, when he reads the play quickly, he closes with authority, typically making the hit or breaking up the pass. Ball skills are first rate; as an ex-wide receiver, with good hands, he tracks the ball well in the air, and will come down with the pick, then gain yards on the return, flashing open field moves developed as a punt returner, which he has experience doing during his tenure at Montana. Instinctually knows when to come off his man and play the ball. As a tackler, he accelerates into contact, and wraps up securely. Excels at corner blitzing, and can be a load to handle for opposing running backs assigned to blitz pick-up. Has experience and success as an in-the-box player near the line of scrimmage.
Although he displays good acceleration and closing burst in the forward direction, he’s slow to re-direct to either side, and lacks lateral burst and change of direction ability. Has the physique for tight press coverage, but he’s rarely physical at the line. At Montana he was called on to primarily play press-bail. He may be adept at jamming opponents, but his experience in this capacity is limited, so far. In off-man coverage, he often opens his hips prematurely, abandoning his backpedal, and immediately turning to run with the wide receiver. At times, he allows fast receivers to get behind him, and lacks the closing speed to recover. In zone, he can be slow to diagnose route schemes, and, at times, looks lost in coverage. Versus the run, he only gets involved when the play is run at him, and is not a sideline to sideline chaser of the ball.