Johnson will get an opportunity to show what everyone has seen from him in the FCS over the last few years in the 2021 Senior Bowl later this month. The 2019 AP first-team All-American is used on fly sweeps, speed shovels, speed outs, box fades (No.2 slot), slants and even one-step screens from the No. 3 position in bunch formations (back in 2018).
He demonstrates savvy working against off-man coverage in the slot or on the outside. His biggest impact may come in the return game, where he has very good peripheral vision and balance. We had the opportunity to watch him perform in the 2018 FCS playoffs versus Kennesaw State and his hand-eye coordination impressed in that contest.
Other Notes: Attended Bellevue West HS (Neb.) and earned all-state honors after catching 16 TDs and recording 4 INTs • Was a member of a state championship team in basketball • 2017 (1,166 all-purpose yards): 23 receptions for 318 yards (13.8 YPR) and 3 TDs; 28 yds/KR and 2 TDs • 2017: 32 tackles, TFL, 5 PBUs • 2018 (AP All-American): 67 receptions for 1,332 yards and 17 TDs; 27.2 yds/KR • 2019 (AP 1st Team All-American): 72 receptions for 1,222 yards (17 YPR) and 8 TDs; 8 carries for 149 yards; 21.7 yds/KR • Career Stats: 40 games, 162 receptions for 2,872 yards (17.7 YPR) and 28 TDs; 12 carries for 182 yards (15.2 YPC); 26.7 yds/KR and 2 TDs
The 2019 NFL Draft has long been lauded for a deep class of interior and exterior defensive linemen. One position -although devoid of Top 10 talent- that has unique depth is the cornerback spot. We take a look at three players from that position group.
Justin Layne 6’2 185 Michigan State
Layne has a smooth style accompanied by defensive end-like arm length (33″). The former college wide receiver posted 30 touchdowns as a prep level star at Benedictine High School (Ohio). For a taller corner, he flips his hips relatively well in man-to-man coverage. We were surprised at his ability to react off of the wide receiver’s block of the safety in crack-and-replace situations to tackle.
The former Spartan needs to monitor allowing his motor-press technique turning into a backpedal at the line of scrimmage. This has allowed easy access on quick slants. On the plus side, however, this same technique keeps him in the hip pocket of receivers. In these instances, he is adept at playing through the hands of wideouts with his back turned to the quarterback in man-to-man coverage (PBU, 4th QTR/5:07, Utah State; PBU, 4th QTR/5:07, Penn State vs. Johnson).
NFL teams hold Layne in relatively high regard and we expect him to possibly come off the board at least by the end of Day 2 next weekend.
Corey Ballentine 5’11 196 Washburn
Ballentine averaged nearly 31 yards per kickoff return as a junior at the Division II level. In 46 career games, he forced four fumbles and displayed a knack for blocking kicks (three in 2018). The first-team All-MIAA performer uses adequate technique in press-man coverage and has shown the ability to close on crossing routes that break away from him. Despite recording just five interceptions in school, he has a natural feel and comfort finding the football due to his footwork, hip flexibility and confident disposition.
For him to transition from the D2 level to the pros, the 2018 Cliff Harris Award winner will have to concentrate on playing a little bit lower in his stance. This would eliminate him from reacting too dramatically to hard jab steps, which he has a tendency to do on occasion. Teams that have Ballentine in mind will be comforted by the fact that he was a part of the team’s kickoff and punt return units, while also returning the kickoffs referenced earlier. The former Washburn track & field sprinter posted a 21.2-second time in the 200-meters while in school.
Jordan Brown 6’0 201 South Dakota State
We were fortunate to see Brown play in person during the team’s playoff contest against Kennesaw State in December 2018 and we were impressed with his down-to-down awareness. The Jackrabbits team captain is another former wide receiver with the skills to play off-man or bump-and-run.
The Kennesaw State contest required him to play disciplined football because of the Owls’ diverse triple-option attack. His fourth quarter plant-and-drive on a quick three-step hitch created a tip that was intercepted by a teammate. The turnover sealed the game for the team. He believed his indicators and drove on the football with force. We were not as impressed with his inability to protect his thigh boards in this game, but he has exhibited solid tackling technique on film. Maintaining eye control will be key for Brown in his next level ascension (see Southern Illinois ’18).