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Redskins Draft Countdown: Northern Iowa RB David Johnson

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Redskins Draft Countdown: Northern Iowa RB David Johnson

The NFL Draft is just over weeks away and I’ll continue researching the prospects throughout the lead-up to the draft. Along the way I’ll be sharing some of what I find out with Real Redskins readers. The focus will be on players in areas of need for the Redskins but I might look at players at just about any position since Scot McCloughan has said that he will take the best player available regardless of need.

David Johnson
Running back
Northern Iowa

What they’re saying:
What I liked:  Johnson is a big strong man who is tough to get down and a guy who runs well inside his scheme.  He is sturdy and a real workhouse who can do a lot of things well for you.  He can easily pass protect with his size and his receiving ability is absolutely top shelf.  He has great hands and is able to catch and run in an instant.  He also can stop on a dime and has some real jump cuts that are nice.  His 40-time at the combine was 4.5, which is more than fast enough at RB, and even more impressive, his 10-yard split of 1.58 was about as quick as you will see.

What I did not like:  The hardest part of looking at a runner at this level is trying to figure out what sort of level of competition he is working with and against.  He trucks a few linebackers in these games, but they do not appear to be of NFL quality by any stretch.  His quickness and explosiveness in-games does not reflect his amazing times.  There are stretches where he just doesn’t look like he has any turbo at all in his game.
Bob Sturum, Dallas Morning News

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins are looking for a third-down back and Johnson could be the best option for that job in the draft. Johnson, who some colleges talked to about being a wide receiver when recruiting him, caught at least 30 passes in all four of his seasons at Northern Iowa, a total of 141 receptions for an average of 12.3 yards and 14 touchdowns. No other running back prospect in this year’s draft has more than one season with 30 catches on his resume.

Johnson is more than just a scatback making a living on swing passes. He has good size (6-1, 224), speed (4.5 in the 40 including an impressive 10-yard split of 1.58), and athleticism (see the combine “spider web” from Mockdraftable.com above). Over the course of his career Johnson rushed for 4,682 yards including 1,553 last year.

Another factor going in Johnson’s favor is his kick return ability. He didn’t do it full time in college but last year he had 12 returns for an impressive 36.5-yard average with a touchdown. In the Senior Bowl he returned three kickoffs for a 27.3-yard average.

Potential issues: The biggest negative on Johnson’s ledger is where he played and whom he played against. Northern Iowa is in the FCS division (formerly known as 1-AA). When he breaks a tackle or turns on the jets and outruns a defender, you have to wonder what might have happened if the Panthers had been playing Ohio State or USC.

Bottom line: What the Redskins need to ponder here is similar to what I wrote about previously regarding Alabama’s T. J. Yeldon. If the Redskins are going to spend a top 100 selection on a running back—both Johnson and Yeldon are projected to be third-round picks—do they need to be fairly confident that the back they take can carry the load in case Alfred Morris in injured or if he leaves in free agency a year from now. A third-round pick does not necessarily have to be a starter but you want him to develop into more than just a situational player.

Johnson’s kick-return ability could help nudge his value up even if Scot McCloughan has some doubts about him being a workhorse back. But it will still come down to projecting how he can perform taking the big jump from FCS to the NFL. That will be the biggest challenge for McCloughan and the rest of the GM’s evaluating Johnson.

In his own words

Johnson on his pass catching ability:
Oh yeah, that’s something I work on a lot. One-on-one routes we would do every day in practice. After practice, I always tried to work on my routes with the receivers . . . In high school, I actually was a running back and wide receiver. Coming out of high school, because of my height and I was only about 180-190, a lot of colleges were talking to me about playing receiver. Going into college, all I was working on was receiving. My college actually recruited me as an athlete to play receiver. I played receiver for the first week of camp. That’s where it came from, training for that.
Previously in Draft Countdown:

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Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Giants

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Giants

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, November 23, seven days before the Washington Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins Kickoff 7:30 NBC Sports Washington; Redskins vs. Giants, NBC, 8:30  

Days until:

—Redskins @ Cowboys Thursday night (11/30) 7
—Redskins @ Chargers (12/10) 17
—Cardinals @ Redskins (12/17) 24

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Giants

Look out for Eli—There are many reasons why the Giants are 2-8 but Eli Manning is not one of them. He isn’t nearly the turnover machine he has been for much of his career. His interception percentage this year is 1.6; he hasn’t been under 2.3 percent interceptions this decade. Manning only has 14 touchdown passes but considering that Odell Beckham, who went out in the fourth game of the season, still leads Giants wide receivers in touchdown receptions, that’s not bad.

Running game stuck—What makes Manning’s performance even more impressive is the fact that he doesn’t get much support from a running game. The Giants are 26th in the league with 920 yards. They have gained some traction lately after installing Orleans Darkwa as the starting running back; he is averaging 4.8 yards per carry for the season and 71 yards per game over the last three games. The Redskins certainly don’t want to let him get going tonight.

Reverting to reality—The Giants ranked 32nd in total defense in 2015. They dropped millions on free agents such as Janoris Jenkins, David Harrison, and Olivier Vernon and jumped to 10th. Now, this year they are 31st and equally bad against the pass (29th) and the run (30th). Health hasn’t been a huge issue, although Vernon has missed a few games and Jenkins was suspended. Redskins fans know full well that spending sprees don’t necessarily make for permanent improvements and Giants fans are learning it this year.

Keys to winning

  • Run the ballThe Redskins are 4-2 this year when rushing for 90 yards or more.
  • Continue to protect the ball—The Redskins have turned the ball over just twice in their last three games.
  • Don’t give them hope—The Chiefs let the Giants hang around last week and New York stole a win. The Redskins need to get on top early and mash down on the gas pedal.

Prediction—It’s hard to see a scenario where the Redskins lose this one. Even in their injury-depleted state they are battling every game and the same can’t be said for their opponents today. The weather forecast is for cold temperatures but not much wind, ideal conditions for Cousins to throw for 300 yards. For once, the Redskins get up early and keep going.

Redskins 31, Giants 13

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

The referees made a fairly obvious mistake last week in the Redskins loss to the Saints when they flagged Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins for intentional grounding late in the game. 

Let's be honest: the call was terrible.

Cousins never felt a pass rush on the play, and was very obviously throwing the ball away. Jay Gruden talked about the play on Monday, and could not figure out how a flag came out in that situation. 

We had two receivers in the area. Quarterbacks throws it away all the time that are uncatchable balls whether they are in the pocket or not. As long as there is a receiver in the area, you can throw it whether they are looking or not. Guys run bad routes – one guy runs a hitch and he’s supposed to run a go and the quarterback throws the go ball, it’s not grounding. So I don’t know why the confusion.

The NFL even reached out and apologized to Redskins team president Bruce Allen for the blown call, a hollow gesture that did not generate much excitement from Cousins (via 106.7 the Fan). 

Whatever they do to say, ‘we’re sorry, wrong call,’ it’s tough because there’s nobody bringing that up in February or March when we're making decisions about which direction to go with the organization. We appreciate the clarification but you know it really doesn’t do much.

If you're keeping score, the NFL, the Redskins head coach and the Redskins quarterback all know the call was wrong. 

You know who doesn't think the call was wrong? Fox analyst, and former Cowboys Hall of Fame QB, Troy Aikman.

Grounding? Free rusher? Decide for yourself below.