With the Draft only a day away it’s time to break down one more prospect before the festivities begin. This prospect also happens to be a player that is at a huge position of need for the Chiefs and one that could very well still be available at pick number 32. Former Utah Ute Jaylon Johnson chose to forgo his senior season to enter the 2020 NFL Draft. In three seasons as a starter at Utah, Johnson amassed 102 total tackles, seven interceptions, 21 pass breakups, and two touchdowns. In 2018 and 2019 he was named First Team All-Conference for the PAC 12, and has become a top CB prospect.
In recent weeks Johnson has been very hot on the radar for many Chiefs fans as several mock drafts and draft analysts have had him going to the Chiefs at the 32nd pick in the draft, or being taken in the second round via a trade out of the first from Kansas City. When taking a look at his film it is easy to see why some think he would be a good fit in in Steve Spagnuolo’s defensive system.
At six feet tall he fits the bill for what Spags likes to go with at corner. Long arms can help him break up passes, but what really popped off the tape to me about the way Johnson plays was how quick he is at closing in on plays. When playing off the ball he appears very comfortable playing underneath routes, and it is apparent that while at Utah he had the green light to for the ball when he thought he could get it. This aggression and style of play is something that the Chiefs have certainly taken note of when doing their scouting on Johnson.
Another strength of Johnson is his versatility as a player. Utah mixed up man and zone coverage pretty frequently, something that the Chiefs defense did often in 2019. He has the hips swivel and back peddle to play solid man coverage, as well as good man to man strides. He likes to play right on the receiver as tight as possible at times implementing press coverage and trying to jam his man off the ball.
While he did play an aggressive press style at Utah, he is more than just a press corner. In the clip above against Oregon, he is able to read the jab step in by the wideout and keep his stride with him while not biting on the move. He has the coverage skills and athletic ability to be comfortable playing any style of coverage.
Johnson still has a few flaws in his game that like most incoming rookies he will need to iron out if he wants to succeed in the league. First is his tendency to have choppy feet at times which can limit his ability to get in and out of breaks while playing man coverage.
Another fault in his game that has hurt him the most is sometimes he has trouble turning back to locate the ball which can get him into unfavorable situations with his body placement as well as his hand fighting. His aggression in coverage had come back to hurt him and at times the press style Utah wanted him to play caused him to hand fight far to long into plays.
Johnson was one of the players who the Chiefs have met with prior to the draft, showing that the team has some interest in his skill set. From the review of the film, it is easy to say why. His aggressive nature and big-play capabilities are cornerstones of what the Chiefs have tried to do on defense this past season. Another key trait of his is toughness. He is willing to make a tackle on any player as well as go into the box to make a play when need be. He shows good body language even when he gets beat and never seems to lose confidence in his game. As a corner, this tough mentality and short memory are key for success in the NFL. There will be times in his rookie season when he is tested and picked on, but having this mindset will help him overcome these obstacles. Whether he overcomes rookie problems as well as continues to develop his game will be up to him. Whether he does so in Kansas City will be up to Brett Veach. The Super Bowl Champions are almost on the clock.