PROSPECT SUMMARY - JAMAR JOHNSON
Indiana safety Jamar Johnson projects favorably as a potential NFL starter in defenses that play split safety, middle of the field open coverage with frequency. Johnson has a fair amount of upside in coverage in man assignments but his half-field responsibilities in zone allow him to process releases and simultaneously position himself well to drive and trigger on the run if need be. Johnson’s development into a prominent prospect has been one that required good fortune and steady development—he transformed from a special teamer as a freshman and eventually took over a starting role in 2020 with the Hoosiers' defense. He’s got a proven nose for the football and, at 6-foot-1 and 197 pounds, he has the kind of physicality that you’re looking for in a D-gap presence in the nickel as well. Johnson has generated strong ball production and made the most of his opportunities to generate turnovers for the Hoosiers’ defense; he accounted for six interceptions over his final 21 games with the program between 2019 and 2020. Johnson has a little bit of added polish needed to his game, but he’s got the physical profile and nose for impact plays to feel optimistic about his forecast as an NFL starter.
Ideal Role: Hybrid safety.
Scheme Fit: Split zone heavy coverages.
Written by Kyle Crabbs
Games watched: Ohio State (2020), Michigan (2020), Penn State (2020), Wisconsin (2020), Mississippi (2020)
Best Game Studied: Ohio State (2020)
Worst Game Studied: Michigan (2020)
Football IQ: It is easy to appreciate just how comfortable Johnson is in his reads despite not logging a ton of starting experience. He’s disciplined to keep himself divided between routes when he’s pressed and leveraged and he illustrates confidence in his break on the play to trigger quickly and get into the action. He showcases anticipation to key the quarterback and has a good jump to attack the football.
Tackling: Johnson is big and physical—he offers plenty of appeal here. He’s stepped downhill and genuinely cracked opposing players on a number of occasions. That said, he can be a bit sloppy at times with securing his challenges and needs to be more persistent to make sure he’s secured the finish in head-up scenarios. He takes effective angles and illustrates he understands his own speed and range.
Versatility: There should be very little that is considered off-limits to Johnson in an NFL defense. I wouldn’t charge him with playing in the post if you want to play a lot of single-high, but he could feasibly man the middle in C-3 heavy systems and half-field assignments will be little issue for him. He’s a capable and confident defender in the slot, too. I wouldn’t drop him low against shifty, smaller slots with high foot fire, but against tight ends, I do think he’ll do well for himself in man-to-man.
Range: I would classify Johnson’s range as adequate. He’s boosted by his anticipation and field vision to ensure he positions himself effectively to break on throws but he doesn’t have dynamic burst and range and transitional pop to play in a single-high role and be charged with playing center field. MOFO opportunities will allow him to sufficiently squeeze his half of the field and still feel late developing routes working from the middle of the field.
Ball Skills: The opportunities that Johnson has had to get his hands on the football have yielded productive results. He plucked two throws from Ohio State’s Justin Fields in a big performance in 2020—one striking against a late throw up the seam and tracing the eyes on the second to take advantage of an ill-advised lollipop under pressure. He appears to have sufficient length to reach and extend to challenge the football.
Run Defending: Johnson has a very good appetite for stepping down and attacking the run and his field vision typically allows him to see these plays developing in plenty of time to squeeze and prevent gaping lanes between the B- and C-levels of the defense. His tackling prowess is sufficient but could stand to improve with more discipline and deliberate challenges to wrap up, even when he’s committed to cutting ball-carriers low to chop them down.
Functional Athleticism: I consider Johnson to be an above-average athlete. He’s not superbly rangy and his short-area burst is effective but not overwhelming. His transitional quickness from soft coverage is admirable and offers appeal that he can take matchups in space against tight ends in the slot.
Competitive Toughness: He plays with an edge—although that got the better of him against Michigan this past season after he swung on a Wolverines receiver and was ejected from the contest. His effort and tenacity as a player are high quality and he has plenty of functional strength for the position and to effectively challenge in the box.
Flexibility: I would describe Johnson as more fluid than dynamic, but that shouldn’t be considered a slight. Johnson offers enough mobility to throw open his hips effectively and attack vertical stems that press the sideline—he offered a number of these reps to close the honey hole quickly and ensure sideline shots didn’t land home. He can be a little haphazard with his posture as a tackler and would benefit from ensuring his keeps his knees soft and hips down.
Special Teams Ability: Johnson has the right mentality and style of play to be an effective special teams player. His early career at Indiana featured reps as a primary special teams contributor, so he has working experience on coverage units as well. He’s big and physical enough to rough up blockers and has room to improve as an open field tackler if need be.
Prospect Comparison: Louis Delmas (2009 NFL Draft, Detroit Lions)
TDN Consensus: 80.38/100
Kyle Crabbs: 80.50/100
Joe Marino: 80.00/100
Jordan Reid: 80.00/100
Drae Harris: 81.00/100
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