Iowa State’s Leonard Johnson proved himself to be a talented cornerback during the Cyclones’ triumphant upset over then-No. 2 Oklahoma State last season.
Though he struggled at times, the 5’10”, 196-pound defensive back—who just recently signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after going undrafted—held his own against one of this year’s top receivers in Justin Blackmon, garnering praise from the two-time Biletnikoff Award winner.
He's just one of the more physical guys that I've faced, I just think he's better than the rest of the corners I've faced. He's one of the best in the Big 12.
Many pundits would tend to agree with Blackmon’s comments, ranking Johnson as the best or second-best cornerback prospect from the Big 12—behind Oklahoma’s Jamell Fleming.
The National Football Post likes what they see in the young prospect:
…A well-built kid lacking ideal height, but plays fast and I like his footwork and balance. Isn't a dynamic athlete, but can play some press and off coverage, and looks capable of getting playing time both on the outside and in the slot at the next level.
However, Johnson does have some question marks surrounding his overall game, and that places him behind some of the more polished cornerbacks in the 2012 class, according to CBSSports.com:
Overly physical and attracts officials' attention. Average ball skills and doesn't get his head around quickly in man coverage. Falls in love with laying the lumber and misses easy tackles, especially downfield.
His stock took a hit following a dismal performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he bounced back with a positive pro day at the Iowa State campus, according to WalterFootball.com:
Johnson had a disappointing Combine with a slow time in the 40-yard dash and a less than impressive performance in the field drills. That definitely hurt his stock, but he rebounded at his pro day. Johnson's 40 was reportedly in the 4.5 range and he looked better in the field drills. Johnson should be a solid second-day prospect.
Despite his negatives, Johnson does have a place in the NFL and can be a contributor on defense and special teams. Draft wiz Wes Bunting does not see the Cyclone standout being a starter any time soon, but he can definitely be utilized in certain packages where his subpar speed can't be exposed by opposing offenses. He is a tough, overachieving player and should see some playing time in the NFL, especially if he is able to perform for the Bucs at a similar level to which he did against Justin Blackmon and Oklahoma State.