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Dennis Johnson Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Arkansas RB

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 23:  Dennis Johnson #33 of the Arkansas Razorbacks stiff arms Tharold Simon #24 of the LSU Tigers at Razorback Stadium on November 23, 2012 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Ryan LownesFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2013

Stuck behind Knile Davis for most of his college career, Dennis Johnson did not carry the load in Arkansas.

Due to injuries, however, he was given his chances to shine in limited action. He always made the most of these opportunities, showing off a surprisingly well-rounded game.

Johnson has the potential to be the type who might be a better pro than college player if he lands in the right situation. Is it reasonable that he develops from a reserve at Arkansas into a stud at the next level, however? 

 

Strengths Weaknesses
+ Great balance, fights to stay on his feet - Ball security has landed him in the doghouse
+ Versatile, can play special teams and on third down - Lacks elusiveness, straightforward running style
+ Compact runner with good power - Not much of a home run threat
+ Displays vision and patience - Has a bit of an injury history

 

Tools

At just 5’6 ¾”, 196 pounds, Johnson has a very compact build. He runs low to the ground, demonstrating strength in both his upper and lower body.

He does not appear to be a burner and can be caught from behind, though he has some burst and flashes a second gear in space. He has average lateral agility and does not look overly fluid or dynamic making cuts. Tony Pauline reported the results of Johnson's Pro Day on twitter.

 

Intangibles

A high effort, competitive player, it would appear Johnson landed in Bobby Petrino’s doghouse due to ball security issues rather than anything character related.

He missed the majority of the 2010 season due to a bizarre bowel injury suffered on a kickoff return. Also, he seemed to deal with minor hamstring and back issues early in his redshirt junior year.

 

System

Playing in Bobby Petrino’s power spread system, Johnson never really received ample opportunity to shine in the backfield. He usually operated as single back in shotgun or pistol formation in the Razorbacks spread offense but may be a better fit for a pro-style system. Occasionally, he lined up at receiver in the slot, and he leaves Arkansas as the school’s all-time leader in kick return yardage.

 

Vision

Johnson displays vision and solid discipline. He shows patience, waiting for his blocks to develop and finding creases. Overall, I was impressed by his decision-making, as he did a nice job of at least gaining the yards that were blocked for him.

In space, however, he is not as creative as you might like to see and occasionally freezes.

 

Passing Game

A very good receiver out of the backfield, Johnson also runs routes from the slot. He displays natural hands and catches the ball reliably. For his size, he has an impressive catch radius and makes plays away from his body with ease.

Additionally, he is a responsible pass protector that shows the ability to mirror defenders. His technique may need some work, but there is no denying his willingness to throw a block.

 

Running between the Tackles

Johnson runs with very impressive balance, bouncing off tacklers and falling forward for extra yardage. By running low, behind his pads, he avoids taking direct shots to his midsection and lower body. He demonstrates short-area burst and quickness to go along with good vision, allowing him to be very successful between the tackles.

His lack of height can also be advantageous, as defenders occasionally lose sight of the 5'7" Johnson in traffic.

 

Elusiveness

It seems as if Johnson generally believes the shortest path between point A and point B is directly through a defender. His focus is typically on breaking tackles and gaining yards after contact.

He possesses average lateral agility, not making especially explosive or dynamic cuts. There is some wiggle in his game, but he lacks ankle-breaking quickness and can be predictable.

 

Power

Johnson displays good power, finishing runs and falling forward. He is very strong with excellent balance.

Running behind his pads, he is often the one delivering the shot, breaking tackles and gaining yards after contact.

He is a tough, grinding runner that displays consistent leg drive in traffic.

While not quite as powerful or muscular in his lower body, Johnson's style is slightly reminiscent of the Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew.

 

Future Role/Scheme Versatility

An ideal third down back with a well-rounded game, Johnson has a chance to flourish at the next level. His ability in the passing game, vision and power make him an attractive option for any scheme.

He is very tough and will earn a job immediately on special teams. While he is not electric, he has been very productive as a kick returner.

Ball security is an issue; he has a fumbling problem that must be corrected before he expects to see significant time in the backfield.

Johnson is not a flashy player, but he is the type that will play a long time in the NFL and out-play his draft position

 

Draft Projection: Fifth-Sixth Round

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