As we continue our “Dead Tree Media” review of the Minnesota Vikings’ draft class of 2017, we come to the third pick they made at this year’s selection meeting, Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson. The Vikings have some definite questions to answer on the defensive interior, and it appears that Johnson is someone that could make an impact pretty early on for the Vikings.
Once again, this review encompasses scouting reports from two different pre-draft scouting magazines, one from Athlon Sports and one from Lindy’s Football.
We’ll start with what Lindy’s had to say about the 6’3”, 310-pound defensive tackle. Lindy’s designators for the defensive linemen are a little different. . .rather than having things divided up by defensive end and defensive tackle, they have “Defensive Line” and “Edge” designations. Johnson was listed in the “Defensive Line” category, where he was #12 on Lindy’s list. He did not appear on their list of the Top 100 overall prospects in this year’s class. Lindy’s had a fourth-round grade on Jaleel Johnson, so at least according to them the Vikings got him in the right place.
In Our View: A two-year starter at Iowa, Johnson often lined up over the A-gap or nose-to-nose with the guard, developing into one of the Big Ten’s best defensive linemen in 2016 — became the first defensive tackle to lead the Hawkeyes in sacks in a season since Mike Daniels in 2011. Started 27 games in 2015-16, and took off as a senior — led the team in tackles for loss (10.0) and sacks (7.5), adding 55 tackles to earn First Team All-Big Ten honors.
Johnson competes with the flexible body control and heavy hands to jar blockers off balance and be a homewrecker on the interior. With his active play style and fluid movements, Johnson projects as a three-technique with starting potential.
Strengths: Looks the part with wide shoulders and thick hips and legs. Fluid movement skills and hip flexibility to work in tight spaces. Extends into blockers with shock in his hands to push, pull, and work off contact. Understands timing, length, and leverage and his high school wrestling background shows on film. Generates force and works his way through bodies, driving his legs. Quick to find the ball.
Weaknesses: Johnson’s disruptive energy leads to unblockable stretches when the fire is roaring, but also takes him out of plays. He lacks the base strength to consistently hold the point of attack. Gets himself out of control and loses sight of the ball. Allows his pads to rise once engaged with blockers, standing up and staying glued at first contact. Too easily moved by doubles and his base narrows, negating his anchor strength. Limited scheme versatility.
The Lindy’s review makes it sound like Johnson has all of the physical ability to make an impact in the National Football League, but just needs some refinement. If anyone can give him that refinement, Mike Zimmer and Andre Patterson are as good a bet as anyone.
Now, we’ll take a look at the Athlon guide, where we return to the more traditional designations of defensive tackles and defensive ends. Johnson is listed by the Athlon guide as the 9th-rated defensive tackle in this year’s draft class, and have a third/fourth round grade on him.
Strong Points: Johnson emerged as a force in the Big Ten over the past two seasons. He moves well for a 300-pounder, showing an impressive initial burst at the snap in addition to the fluidity to bend and squeeze through gaps. He’s very good with his hands, a technician with the violence, quickness, and the long arms to ward off blockers. He has a great motor and enough creativity to make plays late in the down as a pass rusher.
Weak Points: More of a penetrator than a run stuffer, Johnson plays upright and doesn’t anchor well enough to defend the run on the interior. He struggles to hold the point of attack, and he is often overwhelmed by double teams. He also lacks functional strength as a pass rusher, too often getting knocked off balance when blockers can get hands on his chest.
Summary: He’s a good fit for a team emphasizing penetration with their three-techniques (or possibly as a five-technique). While he has limitations against the run, Johnson has a good chance to stick in the league for a long time.
Final Grade: 3rd/4th round
If the Vikings are looking for Johnson to play more of the Sharrif Floyd role in the Minnesota’s defense, then it sounds like Johnson is the sort of player that can fill that role. Floyd might be better against the run at this point (when he’s healthy), but if the Vikings want a disruptor on the interior, Jaleel Johnson could be playing a significant role in this Viking defense sooner rather than later.
That’s a quick look at what the draft experts had to say about Jaleel Johnson prior to the 2017 NFL Draft. We’ll have more on the Vikings’ 2017 draft class as we go along here.