VS. Oklahoma State 2009
Jerrod Johnson has a lot of talent, but I think he needs to work on his fundamentals to warrant a draft selection as high as the 2nd round as is commonly talked about.
I realized that I would get an opportunity to watch Johnson in this game while I looked for further highlights of Andre Sexton, so I paid particular attention to him in this game. To be perfectly honest, I was not very impressed.
He clearly has a lot of talent, but his fundamentals are relatively sloppy overall and his throwing motion is not clean in my estimation. He doesn’t operate exclusively out of a shotgun spread offense, but Texas A&M does run a lot of four and five wide receiver sets over the course of a game. This means Johnson is in the shotgun quite a bit, though to his credit he did line up under center a number of times.
He doesn’t have much poise in the pocket, and needs significant work on learning to stay patient, so he can buy time by stepping up, or side-stepping the rush (which he should have no problem with considering his mobility). Some of this I blame on the offensive line’s poor performance. I imagine he is used to having to scramble for more time, but if he gets drafted and developed properly by a team with a decent pass-blocking offensive line, he should be able to adjust to having a fairly consistent amount of time to scan the field. As it stands right now he is being pressured very frequently. To make matters worse, it usually happens before he has had ample time to go through his progressions. This isn’t an excuse for ALL of his bad footwork and his other bad habits, but it certainly does explain how he developed some of them and why they are so persistent.
Johnson does have pretty good size, mobility and arm strength, but a lot of his passes had a surprising amount of air under them in this game. It looked as though this has to do with him not stepping into some of his throws, throwing off of his back foot, etc. However, it is still an issue that I noticed and I thought it warranted mention. He also rarely goes through more than one of his progressions, and if that option is covered he usually starts to scramble to try to extend the play instead of staying patient, going through his other reads and buying time inside of the pocket. Perhaps as a Senior he will have matured and he will spend more time in the pocket, but he seems to have been conditioned to scramble after his first reads aren’t there, partially because of the offense he runs and how he plays and partially because his offensive line doesn’t consistently give him enough time to comfortably stay in the pocket.
So between his lackluster footwork, his throwing motion with a bit of a hitch in it (he seems to drop it down below his chest on a regular basis) and a number of his passes hanging in the air for too long, Johnson has some issues he will have to overcome to get drafted in the first three rounds come April. Not to mention he will have issues transitioning to the NFL because of his experience in a more wide-open attack at Texas A&M, largely because of all the snaps he takes in shotgun.
I personally grade Johnson as a 4th rounder at this point, but he could move up with another good season this year. He needs to show more patience in the pocket, better footwork, better mechanics on his release, and more consistency in going through more than just one or maybe two of his reads on any given play. I look forward to watching his games this season to get a more accurate feel of his strengths and his weaknesses, and how he well he has worked on them. He definitely has talent that warrants development, but he needs mechanical work and that means he will need a year or two of development before he can get any kind of significant playing time.