2023 NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Liberty EDGE Durrell Johnson

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’ll be profiling Liberty EDGE Durrell Johnson.

#11 Durrell Johnson, EDGE, Liberty (R-Senior) – 6031, 237lb

NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Invite


Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Durrell Johnson 6’3 1/8”, 237lb 8 34 5/8 80 5/8
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
4.80 N/A N/A N/A
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press

The Good

— Long-armed defender with an athletic frame
— Does a good job stabbing blockers with long arms to punch the pocket
— Has a push/pull move to disengage blocks in pursuit of the football
— Motor runs hot on every play as he flies around the field
— Displays impressive burst off the line and closing speed to the ball
— Tends to be around the football
— Will get his hands up in passing lanes
— Does a good job on slants to cross face of blockers into the backfield
— Effort shows up when initial rush fails to work off blocks
— Lives in opposing backfields, leading the nation in TFLs in 2022
— Has shown he can be productive against bigger competition
— Is a fluid mover in space, able to drop into zone coverage
— Has the awareness to get his hands up into passing lanes

The Bad

— Undersized when it comes to bulk and play strength
— Can struggle to win with strength and power
— Got substituted off the field often on run-heavy downs
— Will get overwhelmed by size and power at the point of attack
— Lacks the base and anchor to hold the line against bigger, stronger blockers
— Needs to develop more hand usage as a pass rusher
— Can get stuck on blocks, leading to losing outside contain
— Lack of play strength causes him to struggle executing twists and stunts
— More of a tweener at OLB/DE than a natural fit at wither position
— Doesn’t have a lot of experience playing off the ball


— Senior Prospect from Baltimore
— Born June 26, 1998 (age 24)
— Began career at the JUCO level at ASA College
— Redshirted first year on campus
— Played in eight games in 2019 and made 41 tackles, 8.5 sacks, and one fumble recovery
— Transferred to Liberty prior to the start of the 2020 season
— Started in all 11 games in 2020 and made 38 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks
— Played in nine games in 2021 and totaled 25 tackles and six tackles for loss
— Missed part of the 2021 season due to injury
— Played in 13 games in 2022 and made 58 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks, one interception, three fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble.
— Led the nation in tackles for loss in 2022

Tape Breakdown

Durrell Johnson may not be a household name out of Liberty, but his production speaks for itself. The edge rusher totaled 27.5 TFLs in 2022, the most in the FBS, as he constantly lived in opposing backfields. Be it as a pass rusher or run defender, Johnson showed a knack for coming off the ball hard and fast and being a handful for opposing tackles as he displayed his effort in pursuit to the football.

As seen above, Johnson shows great closing speed to the football, chasing down his target with a hot motor. He also is quick off the LOS, making it difficult for blockers to get a hand on him. Watch this play as Johnson crosses face inside against the tackle. The two OL run into each other as he flows into the backfield and wraps up the ball carrier for a loss on the play.

Johnson tends to be around the football often thanks to his effort and feel for making plays. Be it deflecting a pass to himself, like in the first clip for an, INT or being around the ball that gets coughed up, which Johnson recovers, on a goal-line stand his nose for the football and instincts help him be in the right place at the right time.

When it comes to rushing the passer, Johnson does a good job of using his speed to challenge tackles up field at the top of the arc, then counter back inside. Watch this rep where Johnson fights to win the corner against the LT, but then spins back inside as the tackle gets off balance, hitting the QB as he throws the ball.

He also has a nice push/pull move thanks to his long arms like you see in this clip. Sling-shotting himself off the block by using the swim move to clear the tackle’s shoulder, he runs into the backfield where he sandwiches the passer with a fellow defender.

Johnson’s motor sticks out when there is no play to be made. After his initial rush fails, he continues to work and fight off the block in pursuit of the QB. Watch these two plays against Arkansas. Johnson’s first rush is stopped, but he continues to fight off the block and manages to get home to the QB thanks to his impressive motor and effort.

Johnson lacks ideal size and weight for the edge position, having a thin frame, and can struggle to hold his own against the run as well as generate a push against bigger, stronger blockers. He is a bit of a tweener when it comes to the EDGE position. His frame is more suited for an off-ball LB but he plays like a pass rusher. Watch this clip below of Johnson attempting to fight off the block. He does a good job of long arming the blocker into the pocket, but he can’t disrupt the play in time as the QB completes the pass to his WR for the first down.


Durrell Johnson is a small-school prospect who has made a fair amount of noise as a pass rusher as well as a disruptor against the run. An effective slasher, he provides great backside pursuit of the ball as a run defender as well as relentless effort as a pass rusher. However, his thin, lanky frame creates an odd scheme fit at the next level. He isn’t built like traditional off-ball LB but is too undersized to be an every-down OLB/DE.

When watching Johnson, I was reminded of Dadi Nicolas coming out of Virginia Tech. Nicolas had near identical size coming out (6’3, 235lb, 34 3/4” arm) and was a decent athlete who showed good pursuit of the football as a pass rusher as well as a run defender. However, he didn’t have the ideal frame of a 4-3 DE or an every-down 3-4 OLB and was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. After bouncing around the league for a few seasons, Nicolas tried his hand in the CFL before falling out of football altogether.

This isn’t to say that Johnson can’t carve out a role with an NFL franchise. If he does it will likely be as a role/rotational player who is a core special teamer rather than as an eventual three-down defender. Should he add more strength and size to his frame, Johnson’s chances of sticking in the league should increase. The Steelers need to add edge depth, and Johnson could be a name to consider late in the draft or as an UDFA.

Projection: Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 6.3 – End of Roster/Practice Squad (6th Round)
Games Watched: at Arkansas (2022), at Southern Miss (2022), vs Toledo (2022)

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