— Good length. Enables him to engage first more often than not.
— Explosive first step. Can really get rolling off the ball.
— Quick, agile player. Regularly shoots across an OL's face or into an adjacent gap.
— Flashes of powerful hands. Jolts people back when he strikes clean.
— Fluid mover in space. Can finish plays in the backfield when he gets there.
— Too often comes out of his stance high and fails to regain leverage at any point.
— Footwork is lacking right now. False steps out of his stance regularly.
— Lower-body strength is not there yet. Struggles to hold ground versus the run or generate push as a pass-rusher.
— Overall pass-rushing effectiveness is limited to stunts and twists right now. Not a natural 1-on-1 winner.
— Needs to play faster. More athlete than football player right now.
12 G, 43 TOT, 6.5 TFL, 1.5 SK, 1 FF, 1 FR
— Unrated recruit in 2016.
— Started a majority of the team's games since 2017.
— 2021 second-team All-Missouri Valley Conference.
Eric Johnson II is a fireball of athletic potential who will need time and refinement to grow into the NFL game.
Johnson is a stellar athlete for a 300-pounder. When he gets off the ball cleanly, he flies and overwhelms guards instantly with his explosiveness. He also has the side-to-side quickness to slash into adjacent gaps at will. He is also effective at turning his shoulders and flying across an offensive lineman's face to get into gaps further away. Whenever Johnson frees himself into space this well, he generally does well to move fluidly and find the ball-carrier.
Johnson's lone athletic question is his lower-body strength. Despite being explosive, he does not anchor well in the run game. He also struggles to drive through blockers in the passing game, leaving him rather limited as a pass-rusher when paired with his inconsistent and uninspired hand usage.
To take the next step, Johnson needs to work on his technique and awareness to facilitate his athleticism. He flashes great upper-body strength and punch, but he too often plays with slow hands and does not strike as cleanly as he could. Johnson's pad level is also wildly inconsistent coming out of his stance, and he struggles to regain leverage from there. His feet and eyes can be slow when working across the line of scrimmage while engaged, too, leaving him behind plays a bit too often.
Johnson fits as a gap-shooting 3-technique. Just let him loose. His flashes of explosion, fluidity and violence are a good fit for that role. However, he has to improve his technique and consistency, as well as find a consistent pass-rushing tool, before fully blooming into an NFL starter. Johnson should play sparingly early on while working to iron out his game, but the payoff for someone with his athletic tools could be excellent.
GRADE: 6.4 (High-level Developmental Prospect - 5th Round)
OVERALL RANK: 172
POSITION RANK: DL16
PRO COMPARISON: Kendall Reyes
Written by B/R NFL Scout Derrik Klassen