All week, we’ll be giving a scouting preview of a different running back who are coming out in the upcoming NFL Draft who may or may not fit the zone blocking system. Today, we're going on a little departure from where I was planning on heading. After yesterday's reaction to the Joe McKnight post, a few of you posted comments and emailed me suggesting we look at USC's other running back (well, the other draft eligible one), Stafon Johnson. Well, you're the boss, applesauce.
Who is he?
Stafon Johnson was highly touted coming out of high school, but during his college career he typically played second fiddle to another back; still, outside of Joe McKnight, there was probably no one on last year's USC team with more explosiveness, speed, or athleticism. He's very elusive and has good size -- 6'0", 210 lbs. He is expected to run the 40 yard dash in the low-to-mid 4.4s.
Johnson is probably best known for his weight lifting accident, wherein he nearly died and most people probably would have. He was giving interviews at the Senior Bowl and seems ready to move on up in this world. He is a combine invite and will certainly be one of the guys a lot of teams are watching. He's viewed as a potential 5th or 6th rounder by most, but I get the feeling he might not drop past the early 5th, especially if he shows well at the Combine.
How does he fit the scheme?
Well, I guess you could argue that he'll fit in pretty well since he already has fit in fine at USC. Jeremy Bates will be running a different offense than they did at USC last year, but that should only play to Johnson's strengths. A couple of scouting reports I've read on Johnson suggest he might be a better NFL back than he was in college, but a red flag must be raised if Carroll couldn't use his potential in college.
Johnson's got decent hands, but nothing too special. He is not stunningly durable, but other than the freak weight lifting accident, he didn't really have any serious injuries. Johnson isn't great in pass protection, but everything he lacks there can be taught -- it's not lack of strength or willingness, in other words.
Stafon Johnson could very well become a high level back from a low draft round, which makes him exciting. Still, there's a reason he is rated as low as he is. He was not a star in college, and there should certainly be some question as to whether Pete Carroll was as impressed with him as interviews might suggest. If he's there in the fifth, I'm not sure we go this route, but if he drops to the top of the sixth the value might be too high to pass on.