2023 NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Iowa State DB Anthony Johnson, Jr.

From now until the 2023 NFL Draft takes place, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I will be profiling Iowa State defensive back, Anthony Johnson Jr.

#1 Anthony Johnson, Jr., DB, Iowa State (rSR) — 6000, 205 lbs.

Combine/Pro Day

Measurements

Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Anthony Johnson, Jr. 6’0”/205 8 3/4 31 1/4 75 1/2
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
4.54 1.55 N/A N/A
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press
10’5” 37.5 N/A

The Good

— A ton of starting experience (4 years at corner, 1 at safety)
— Active communicator pre snap
— Experience in a variety of coverages
— Solid overall awareness of receivers in his area
— Can play in slot, box or deep
— Good tackler overall, wraps up and stops ball carrier
— Physical, downhill demeanor; will blow up blockers to disrupt the play
— Good jam in Man coverage, sticky coverage in short area and red zone
— Potential as a blitzer

The Bad

— Just one year at safety
— Understanding of coverages from the deep safety
— Angles and getting his head around on deep routes
— Gives too much space in off man
— Acceleration to match breaks by WR
— Inconsistent breakdown when tackling when coming from deep
— Getting off blockers in the run game

Bio

— 2022: 60 tackles, 41 solo, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 4 PBU, 1 FF
— Career: 245 tackles, 164 solo, 14 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 INT, 28 PBU, 5 FF
— 62 games, 54 starts
— 2022 second-team All-Big 12 – Coaches; first-team Phil Steele
— Academic All-Big 12 in 2021 and 2022
— Moved to safety in 2022 after four years at cornerback
— Holds Iowa State record for career starts
— Communications studies major
— Birthday 12/2/1999 (age 23)

Tape Breakdown

Few players in this draft will have more collegiate starting experience than Anthony Johnson, Jr. A four-year starter as a cornerback before being moved to safety in 2022. He has experience playing outside, in the slot, in the box and as the deep safety. Primarily he aligned to the boundary side of the field and played in a variety of coverages.

Against the pass, as the deep safety he is still learning the process. Communication is a big part of his game, constantly talking and gesturing with teammates prior to the snap. He has been used as the single-high safety and in Cover 2. When playing Cover 3 he was utilized in the middle and on the outside. He gets good depth and has a solid understanding of receivers in his area. He closes on receivers well from the deep third and will put a big hit on receivers. In space, he is a good tackler when playing under control.

At Texas, Johnson (1) shows his awareness recognizing the route coming from the other side and reading the QB to get back and break up the pass.

Playing closer to the line of scrimmage, Johnson looks much more comfortable. In the slot, he displays patience and good jam in press coverage. He has the speed to run with receivers and is sticky in the short area and red zone. In zone coverage, he displays good awareness of receivers coming into his area and good change of direction to close on the ball. His screen recognition is strong and gets downhill quickly. He was not used to blitz but with his speed and physical demeanor he is a good candidate for that.

You can’t teach effort. Against Kansas State, when this pass is thrown, Johnson is 16 yards behind the receiver. He doesn’t give up on the play and punches the ball out at the 1-yard line.

Against Oklahoma, he is at the top of the screen. With eyes on the QB, Johnson will push through the rub route to make the hit on the RB.

Johnson is at his best against the run. He attacks and any lead blocker should be wary because he will aim to blow him up to disrupt the play. On the outside he will force the play inside while trying to duck under the blocker and make the play. He scrapes well to the outside, staying inside the runner to prevent cutbacks. He aims low on runners and wraps up and can take down all types and sizes of runners.

Against Baylor, he takes on a 310-pound pulling tackle and gets the stop. He was flagged for a cut block but the replay showed it to be a bad call.

Against Kansas State, he attacks the lead blocker, throwing himself into the ball carrier’s path for the tackle.

Against Oklahoma, he plows through a WR’s block attempt to try to get to the ball.

Attacking, downhill, sure tackler in these clips with the last coming in the red zone.

When playing deep, Johnson needs to improve his angles to the outside and get his head around more consistently. He’s still getting accustomed to playing there so it’s a work in progress. In off man coverage, he gives up a lot of space, allowing too much room for completions. His acceleration to match the receiver’s cut is adequate leaving him to play catch up. When coming from the deep safety he needs to breakdown consistently. Improvement is needed when getting off blocks.

Against Kansas State, in off man coverage in the slot, he is giving up a lot of space and gets spun around by the receiver.

Coming under control, especially from a deeper position, is something Johnson can clean up.

Conclusion

Johnson has the versatility to play in the slot, the box or deep. Physicality is a big part of his game. He is at his best when playing closer to the line of scrimmage and looks comfortable in press or zone coverage. To play as a deep safety is not out of the question but needs fine-tuning. He is a good tackler in space and is very good as a run defender.

Areas to improve include understanding of angles and coverages as a deep safety. In man coverage, allowing less space in off coverage and reading the cuts of receivers more quickly would be beneficial. Consistency breaking down as a tackler, particularly when coming from a deep position, and getting off blocks will help in the run game.

Players who switch from corner to safety usually don’t show the physicality with which Johnson plays. He puts his body on the line to disrupt running lanes. With the loss of Terrell Edmunds, the Steeler need a safety that can play in the box. Pittsburgh likes to use three safeties at times with the versatility to interchange them. Johnson gives that with the potential to be used deep, in the slot and as a blitzer.

He’s kind of a bigger version of Mike Hilton but for his comp I’ll go with Chuck Clark, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens. Clark had similar size, speed and athleticism coming out of college. Both had lots of experience, showed no hesitation getting after the run game and were good reacting to the quarterback in coverage.

Projection: Last Day Two-Early Day Three

Depot Draft Grade:  7.6 Potential Starter/Good Backup (4th Round)

Games Watched: 2022 – Vs Baylor, Vs Kansas State, At Texas, At Oklahoma, At TCU

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