Rookie Rundown: RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn

Rookie Rundown: RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn

NFL Draft

Rookie Rundown: RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn

(Brett Davis, USA TODAY Sports)

An award-winning prep star with ample suitors, running back Kerryon Johnson gave up his dreams of a professional basketball career and joined the Auburn Tigers in 2015. He started one of his 13 outings as a true freshman and showed flashes of what was to come over the course of the season.

In 2016, Johnson shared the bulk of the backfield touches with Kamryn Pettway and found the end zone 11 total times in 12 contests. Johnson’s junior year saw him take over the lead role and burst onto the national scene with 1,391 rushing yards and 18 scores, chipping in another two through the air.

Height: 6-foot
Weight: 212 pounds
40 time: 4.54 seconds (March 9 pro day)

Johnson is a well-balanced player whose game reminds of Darren McFadden or even Arizona’s David Johnson. The Auburn product isn’t as good of a receiver as the Cardinals star, nor is he the athletic dynamo that was DMC coming out of Arkansas.

Player movement tracker

One aspect of Johnson’s overall makeup deserving attention is his frame. While this is not necessarily a negative, since he has played effectively at a high-level program, Johnson has a bizarre build for an NFL running back. He’s taller than most teams tend to prefer, and his lower body is thinner than what is commonly found on a 6-footer. It has obviously worked for him in high school and college, but there is concern he could be susceptible to injuries on the pro stage due to a narrowness of his hips and legs.

Kerryon Johnson statistics (2015-17)

SEASON
ATT
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
52
208
4.0
19
3
14
159
11.4
37
0
2016
182
895
4.9
47
11
17
125
7.4
37
0
2017
285
1391
4.9
60
18
24
194
8.1
55
2

 Pros

  • Quality pass protection and above-average receiving skills will keep him on the field all three downs.
  • Punishing runner in the open field and tough to bring down upon initial contact
  • Has multiple gears and can accelerate in a hurry
  • Doesn’t show quit on any play, and his feet always churn after contact
  • Returned from injury at less than 100 percent vs. Missouri and scored five times on 18 carries

Cons

  • Missed two games in 2017 (Clemson, Mercer) with a hamstring injury
  • Stiff hips jump off the screen, which results in many wasted steps through pitter-pattering footwork. Tight hips prevent lateral jump-cuts and limit his ability avoid contact.
  • May excel in a power-blocking system and not reach his potential in a zone-blocking scheme. Tends to force runs if the lane isn’t there and isn’t adroit at bouncing to the outside.
  • Has to fight for every yard — could have a short career with all of the contact he welcomes and finds because of his limited athleticism
  • Quicker than fast: Johnson won’t win many track contests in the NFL
  • Limited upper-body strength (11 reps of 225 pounds during bench press at the combine)

Fantasy outlook

Johnson should come off of the board in the second round. He doesn’t have excessive mileage, and he has experience as a productive complement in a split backfield.

Teams will have varying degrees of interest in Johnson. Should he fall in the draft, the door is wide open for just about any team looking to add a capable back on the cheap. Assuming he doesn’t slide, the most likely contenders for Johnson’s services include the Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers.

An ideal situation would be Carolina to pair with Christian McCaffrey. Johnson could fit with the 49ers as the Tevin Coleman role in Kyle Shanahan’s system. Seattle doesn’t run enough to make Johnson enticing. Washington, Baltimore and Detroit have too many bodies to make Johnson a comfortable fantasy selection. Indy would be interesting if the line improves and Andrew Luck is back to himself.

In the unlikely chance he is a featured back (Seattle or Tampa), Johnson has low-end RB2 or strong No. 3 appeal. Sharing chores in any of the other aforementioned backfields somewhat lowers his Year 1 value, making the former Tiger a flex target.

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