Johnson was a two-year starter at Boston College and was a draft crush of NFL Network’s Mike Mayock (who wasn’t at all BC biased). He offers plenty of versatility for a Rams defense transitioning from former Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams to new DC Wade Phillips.
The Johnson draft selection is especially intriguing if you do a little digging on Phillips’ history with defensive backs. Its an incredible list of who’s who. If you trace Son of Bum’s past defenses you’ll find defensive backs who played at the heights of their careers under the former Denver Broncos DC: guys like Steve Atwater, Roy Williams, Ken Hamlin, Glover Quin, T.J. Ward and former Rams S Darian Stewart to name a few.
In 2016 the Broncos drafted Justin Simmons, a third-round pick out of Boston College and Johnson’s secondary mate at BC. To say Phillips never noticed Johnson during the scouting process of Simmons would be naïve. Applauded for his mental prep, Johnson could be Wade’s next personal project at safety.
2017 looks to be a tough year for Johnson to get significant playing time. With Maurice Alexander (roster preview) and Lamarcus Joyner locked into major roles at safety and Nickell Robey-Coleman (roster preview) the new slot corner, Johnson will need a huge camp to overthrow the veterans for a starting job. Cody Davis (roster preview) is another veteran safety in line for a key backup role.
The Rams have cited Johnson’s ability to play corner early in his college career and could find ways to work him in the mix as a CB. The depth chart at CB is also full but with much less certainty.
Johnson was the third draft selection of a regime with a new coaching staff; that alone is reason enough to believe they really like him though 2017 could be a learning year for the rookie. Johnson should see time in specific sub packages but some form of Alexander/Joyner/Davis should be in line for the heavy lifting at safety.
Joyner is still the defense’s wild card. Because of that, he will likely be moved around the defense freeing up true safety snaps for either Johnson or Davis. There is no allegiance to Davis, so I’d expect Johnson will have every chance to earn those sub package snaps.
Johnson will have a chance to audition for a starting role in 2018 with Alexander, Joyner and Davis in the last years of their contracts. If the season doesn’t go as planned for the Rams, Johnson could get an extended look towards the end of the season with starter reps.
Chances of Making Final Roster (10/10)
Draft status alone should make Johnson a lock. The Rams only have three players listed at safety so Johnson’s chances of earning a league-standard top four safety spot would seem to be a formality.