NAME: Jermaine Johnson II
SCHOOL: Florida State
HEIGHT: 6’4 5/8″
WEIGHT: 262 lbs
CLASS: Super Senior
HOMETOWN: Eden Prairie, MN
HIGH SCHOOL: Eden Prairie
A 3 star recruit out of Eden Prairie High School, Johnson elected to go the JUCO route to avoid having to redshirt his freshman year due to some academic eligibility problems. In two years at Independence JUCO, Johnson had 96 tackles, 19 for loss, 12.5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles and was ranked the #1 JUCO recruit in the country in 2019 over the likes of Sam Williams, Jaquan Brisker, and Markquese Bell. He signed with Georgia after racking up 22 offers, including ones from Colorado, Oregon, and Miami. In two years as a Bulldog, Johnson had 36 tackles, 7 for loss, 6.5 sacks, and a forced fumble in 16 games, but playing time became an issue with the amount of talent in the pass rushers room. With an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson transferred to Florida State, where he had 70 tackles, 17.5 for loss, 11.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in 12 games.
GAMES WATCHED: 2021 – Notre Dame, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Miami
For an explanation of Alex’s grading scale, refer to this article.
Explosiveness – 55 (Above Average): Considering he’s 262 lbs, I’d say Johnson is an explosive athlete for his size. I don’t know if I’d say he’s an explosive athlete for the position, though, especially if he’s being asked to play 3-4 OLB. When heading north/south, it’s clear Johnson has straight line quicks. But laterally, it’s a different story, and I worry a touch about his ability to consistently play in space against the run at the next level.
Pass Rush Plan – 75 (Elite): There were multiple times that I watched Johnson go to the same move every time in the first half of a game, only to send the opposing tackle reeling with a counter in the second half. That kind of setup isn’t something you commonly see with college pass rushers. Even in single reps, Johnson is fully capable of chaining moves together to get home. It’s hands down the best part of his game.
First Step – 65 (Star): He’s quick off the ball and rarely makes a false step. Every initial move is set up in conjunction with his feet. Johnson rarely looks shot out of a cannon, though, and I thought most of his best reps in this area came as a stand-up rusher.
Strength/Power – 65 (Star): Florida State had the freedom to get creative with Johnson, lining him up as an interior rusher on some downs. That’s because he has the ability to convert speed to power well enough to even get guards and centers moving backwards. Johnson is also able to disengage virtually at will to head towards the ball. My only concern here is that some stronger tackles were able to latch on in pass protection and move him the way they wanted to.
Run Defense – 65 (Star): Thanks to some above average length, Johnson is a stout run defender at the line of scrimmage. On option plays, he stays in his gap and knows just when to hit the gas downhill to make a play. In pursuit, he has such a high motor that he ends up around the play nearly every time. It’s that lack of lateral explosiveness that worries me.
Motor – 75 (Elite): This dude runs. From the first snap to the final one, Johnson brings the same energy on every play, no matter the down and distance or scoreboard. He’s going to come at you hard and fast and it’s on you to slow that momentum. In the games I watched, hardly anyone was able to.
Tackling/Pursuit – 70 (Star): I don’t think Johnson missed a single tackle in the 4 games I watched. As a pursuer, he has enough straight line speed that he catches most college RBs. He got plenty of chances to show it, too: because Florida State’s run defense left a bit to be desired, Johnson routinely made plays 5, 6, 7 yards downfield.
Bend – 40 (Below Average): This is my big concern with Johnson. There’s plenty of reps where tackles are able to force Johnson’s arc wide and he just can’t sink his hips enough to flatten it back out. It results in a lot of plays where he’s hand fighting behind the quarterback to try to circle back around. Ankle flexion is less of a problem and helps him stay on course in a few situations as well, so it’s not all bad.
Frame – 55 (Above Average): When you take his height and weight together, it’s about average for the position group, whether you’re calling him a 3-4 OLB or a 4-3 DE. He gets a little boost because I think his length is above average and he looks like he has room to bulk up to really fill out a 4-3 role.
Versatility – 60 (Above Average): Again, Florida State’s creativity in Johnson’s usage has me feeling optimistic here. They had him stand up, put a hand in the dirt, move inside, switch sides, you name it. I think he’ll be a better run defender in a 4-3, where he’s not asked to cover quite as much ground, but he also has the ability to shift inside on rush downs in a 3-4.
Red Flags – 10/10: I didn’t uncover anything in my research to suggest that Johnson will be a high-risk player in the NFL.
Final Grade (w/o RAS): 7.71
Round Grade: 2nd
Summary: Johnson has been mentioned in the first round conversation as of late, and while I like a lot of the things he brings to the table, I’m not comfortable grading him that highly. I think that some of his athletic limitations are going to cap his ceiling in the NFL. He just doesn’t have the hyperathletic bend we’re used to seeing from true top tier pass rushers in today’s NFL, and he’s not gifted enough laterally to take on a full complement of responsibilities as a 3-4 OLB at an elite level. That said, my gut says that Johnson is going to stick in this league for years to come as a 6-8 sack guy, maybe in a rotational role of some sorts. He just plays with too much energy and does too many little things well for him to completely wash out.
This EDGE class is jam-packed with talent, so it’s tough to say where I think Johnson will land. The grade reflects a low second rounder, which in this class might be as low as EDGE9 or 10. That insane level of talent might mean that he slips through the cracks and is left waiting longer than he wants to for his name to be called. But the way that he plays, I’m confident any sort of slight like that will only fuel him.