The Atlanta Falcons need to improve their pass defense in the 2015 NFL Draft. Should general manager Thomas Dimitroff target Kevin Johnson on day two?
Atlanta picks at No. 42, and there is a chance the cornerback out of Wake Forest could be available to them at the top of the second round.
In 2014, the Falcons ranked 32nd in both total defense and pass defense, so it’s expected they will be on the lookout for a pass rusher early, as well as help to the secondary a little later on.
So where does Johnson fit in?
Johnson is one of the top cornerback prospects in this year’s draft, and he has been rising up draft boards in the past couple of months. He has good height at 6’0″, and could be the most all-round cornerback in this year’s class.
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com believes Johnson has ‘smooth hips with excellent balance’. He adds that the Wake Forest star is ‘disruptive in press coverage’, and that he ‘alters routes and slows receivers’. Zierlein writes:
"“Johnson is a three-year starting cornerback who showed great improvement in man coverage from 2013 to 2014. While he lacks desired weight at the position, his cover skills, athleticism and competitiveness give him a shot to come in and start right away. Johnson can play gunner on special teams.”"
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Johnson played 47 games for Wake Forest over a four-year span, and he was a starting cornerback for three years. In his time at college, he recorded 189 tackles, 38 defended passes and seven interceptions.
With Johnson alongside Desmond Trufant, the Falcons could be on the right course to turn a weakness into the strength in 2015.
Walter Cherepinsky of WalterFootball.com ranks Johnson second among cornerbacks in this year’s class, writing that he is a ‘good cover corner’. Cherepinsky adds:
"“Johnson is a tall corner who has long arms, quick feet, physicality and speed. He can match up with speed receivers and blanket them in and out of their breaks. He runs the routes with receivers and prevents them from getting separation. Johnson has quick feet and is agile. He can flip his hips open and run with receivers down the field. Johnson also is is tall and physical to take on big receivers. He is an asset in the red zone and able to win the 50-50 throws. He also is a willing run-defender.”"
A concern is his weight. Johnson has a lanky frame, and could do with bolstering up to add more strength to his game in the NFL.
It would be exciting to watch Johnson develop in Dan Quinn’s system in 2015, and he has the potential to become a key contributor as the pass defense improves.
But will Johnson actually fall to No. 42 in the draft?
It’s possible, but improbable.
To get Johnson, the Falcons would either need to take him eighth overall, which would be way too early, or look to strike a trade. This could be done by trading down in the first round or trading up in the second round.
The problem with trading the eighth overall pick would be finding a trade partner in the spot Johnson fits. It’s expected he will be taken at the bottom of the first round, and it’s hard to see a team in this area that would be willing to give up what it would take to move up to No. 8.
It’s more likely the Falcons will be able to trade up from No. 42 with one of those teams, who can in turn acquire more draft picks.
The Green Bay Packers are a team to look at here. Packers general manager Ted Thompson likes to target a player and move to where he values him, and it’s possible he would be willing to trade with Atlanta.
Green Bay owns the 30th overall pick. The last time they owned that pick, Thompson traded out of the first round — maybe it happens again with Atlanta.
The problem, however, is that a team like Green Bay could be in the market for Johnson themselves, so Dimitroff may need to move to No. 29 to be able to take Johnson.
With one of the top pass-rushing prospects locked up with the eighth overall pick, Johnson would be a perfect addition to the Falcons’ defensive backfield.
If Dimitroff can get him with the 42nd overall pick, then great. But it’s unlikely Johnson will fall this low. If he can strike a trade to pickup Johnson, then I would be all for it.
The Falcons need talented football players on defense. Kevin Johnson is exactly that.