Given his rank of two stars out of his Eden Prairie, Minnesota high school, Jermaine Johnson‘s path to Florida State University was difficult. Nevertheless, Johnson chose to go to Independence Community College instead of taking a back seat role at a bigger program. At Independence College, Johnson starred on Netflix’s show Last Chance U, where he gained notoriety and became the nation’s No. 1 JUCO player. After that success, he decided to leave for Georgia and play for the bulldogs, where he totaled 34 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and one forced fumble with limited play in two years. However, those numbers were good enough for FSU to give him starting duties his senior year.
Once he got to FSU, things were different for Johnson. As a starter, he put on a display that showed everyone just how good he was. Johnson seized the opportunity with 70 tackles, 12 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles, which put the NFL on notice. With accomplishments such as The ACC defensive player of the year in 2021, All-ACC member, and a finalist for the Lombardi Award this year, Johnson showed why he is one of the top edge rushers in the class and well-deserving of a first-round pick.
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Name: Jermaine Johnson II
Jersey: No. 11
School: Florida State
Weight: 265 lbs
Games Watched: Notre Dame (2021) Wake Forest (2021) University of Miami (2021)
Major Injury History: None
Pass Rush Ability (13.75/15)
Johnson shows a remarkable ability to rush the passer with his speed but shows the need for improvement when it comes to him using a bull or power move. While he isn’t horrible with them, he does need to add a little more power with whatever team drafts him. However, the significant upside to his pass rush is that he is one of the faster edge rushers in this class, and that has a lot of potential as a starting weak-side edge defender.
Johnson’s explosiveness is where most people find him to have the best in the class, making him a curious prospect in this draft. Johnson shows the ability to beat the edge with his first step and has a lot of promise with how quickly he can jump off the line. His ability to explode off the snap and have the linemen try to keep up with him while trying to pass protect will be one of his biggest strengths coming into the league. With the NFL getting faster and more pass-heavy, having an explosive edge is in high demand.
First Step (8.25/10)
The ability that Johnson shows to have a first step that is quick and powerful with the way he uses it with a punch or long arm move to get around the edge or gain the inside leverage against a tackle. With his first step being the area of his skill set people considered elite, it’s something NFL teams see as a building block for him to be a future stud on the defensive line.
Johnson’s first step is impressive, but the ability to get around the edge allows him to win after the snap. Johnson shows an excellent knack for having the ability to bend around the edge and almost hover off the line of scrimmage. He shouldn’t bend the way he does at his height and weight, but he can. In addition, he has the mindset to place a long arm and turn the corner to pressure the quarterback to force him up or out of the pocket.
Hand Usage (7.25/10)
Johnson has shown the ability to place his hands in excellent spots, which allows him to use long-arm moves or duck and rip moves. But, while more often than not, he has good placement, he does show on tape the ability to place it late or early and get his motion denied and force him to make another one. It’s not often that it happens, but it does happen. For example, in the Miami game this year, where he got three sacks, he could have had five if he didn’t time his hand placement wrong and fire it too early or too late.
Johnson does show an excellent motor and the ability to keep the pressure for every snap he’s on the field. Watching the games he played this year and the last two years shows that he will give the team his total effort if he is on the field. Johnson will give the team everything Johnson has, whether chasing down running back or fighting over a block for a tackle. Seeing the progression from his first two years at Georgia to his final year at Flordia State, it’s clear to see how much he has developed.
Johnson’s ability to make an open-field tackle or a tackle between the trenches has demonstrated a downside to sometimes being blown off the line during a run play and put into a position that he won’t make the tackle. The upside is that he will fight for it and isn’t afraid to chase the running back down with his speed. That speed leads him to get 70 tackles and almost play like a linebacker chasing someone down in space.
Strength at the LOS (7.75/10)
One area of Johnson’s game that is a semblance of weakness is his strength, with times looking overmatched by a double team or help from the tightened. If Johnson can add a little more muscle mass, he will win with his power. He isn’t always going to win with his speed and explosiveness, so gaining the muscle required to succeed with strength is something that he will need to dominate in the league. If he adds the force, he will have the ability to win against a tackle with strength and speed, which will take his game to a different level. At his height and weight, winning with two other skills would take his pass rush to another level and put him in the category of the elite rushers in the NFL now.
Run Defense (8.75/10)
As a potential weak side edge, the ability to play the run game is an essential skill to have, and Johnson does it very well. While he can get blown off the ball and put into a bad situation to make the tackle, he somehow still can put himself in a position to make the tackle even when it seems like he doesn’t have a chance. With his ability to make a tackle that he shouldn’t, he does show that ability and skillset to make it somehow and put himself into an excellent position to attempt it.
While he will probably play weak-side edge in the NFL, he will be moved to the strong-side edge and the primary pass rusher for his team if he adds the proper muscle. There isn’t another area he could play as he isn’t going to move inside unless it’s on a big pass rush situation. If the coach thinks he can win with his speed against a more oversized guard, then having him play inside critical pass rush down wouldn’t be a terrible use of his skill set.
Johnson shows the ability to do multiple things on a football field that are elite. Whether his first step or his explosiveness. There are many things that the NFL teams will see as a building block for a pro bowl edge defender. In addition, the ability to make open-field tackling and tackles at the line of scrimmage is something that team will be attracted to when it comes to Johnson as a prospect and one that the team will value when making him their selection.
Rookie Projection: Starting weak-side edge
Third Year Projection: Strong side edge
Final Grade (85.75/100): Late first-round pick
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