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Could Indiana safety Jamar Johnson be a sleeper fit with Rams?

Johnson could play nickel in the NFL

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The LA Rams have drafted two safeties in each of the previous two years, but that won’t necessarily take Indiana’s Jamar Johnson off of their board. Even on day two. This would be in part because Johnson’s comp over at NFL.com by Lance Zierlein is former Rams safety John Johnson.

“He has a chance to be what everyone wants to have on their roster — a true nickel-safety hybrid.” — Pro personnel director for NFL team

Johnson is 6’1, 197 lbs and he reportedly ran a 4.58 40-yard dash at his Indiana pro day last week; right around where Johnson wanted to be at. Johnson played in 20 games over the last two seasons, recording 50 tackles with six interceptions and four sacks. He’s been praised for his versatility and like 2020 third round pick Terrell Burgess, Jamar Johnson could project as a starter at a number of different positions, including free safety and slot cornerback.

In the modern defense, there’s nothing unusual about having three safeties or five defensive backs on the field for the majority of the game. The Rams lost 1,024 snaps from John Johnson and 972 snaps from Troy Hill when they signed with the Cleveland Browns and they led the defense in snaps played last season. Jalen Ramsey was third, Darious Williams was sixth, and Jordan Fuller was seventh.

Secondary players represented five of the top seven players on LA’s defense last season in snaps played.

Going into 2021, the Rams return Ramsey, Williams, and Fuller, as well as Burgess, Taylor Rapp, Nick Scott, David Long, and Juju Hughes. Burgess and Rapp, Burgess and Long, Hughes and Long, Rapp and Scott, no matter which two you pick, it’s possible that Los Angeles won’t have another need.

But it is also possible that Jamar Johnson could have a bright future as the next John Johnson.

ProFootballNetwork:

Indiana safety Jamar Johnson is a scheme and positionally versatile prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. Indiana has played a 4-2-5 defense during his career there, and he has lined up in various positions.

Therefore, he should be able to adapt to most defensive schemes in the NFL. He has the ball skills, football instincts, and enough functional athleticism to impact the game whether that be in the box, covering in the slot, or playing as a high safety.

Teams with a need at the safety position include the Las Vegas Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, and Minnesota Vikings. Additionally, there a large number of teams that could look to add versatile playmakers to the secondary.

NFL.com:

Johnson played in 10 games as a reserve and on special teams (two tackles, one interception, one pass breakup) as a freshman. He started once in 13 appearances in 2019 but was quite productive for the Hoosiers, posting 25 tackles, 4.5 for loss, with three sacks, two interceptions (one returned for a score) and two pass breakups. When senior safety Marcelino Ball suffered an ACL tear before the 2020 season, Johnson had to step up his game. He did, tying for the team lead with four interceptions, breaking up four other passes and posting 43 tackles (3.5 for loss with one sack) in eight starts to garner second-team All-Big Ten honors from league coaches. He was ejected in the first quarter versus Michigan for throwing a punch at an opposing player. — by Chad Reuter

Lance Zierlein:

Ascending defensive back offering coverage and positional versatility for today’s brand of NFL football. Johnson offers enough field fluidity to cover the slot and showed off impressive instincts and ball skills to excite teams about his potential as a high safety. His combination of vision, field awareness and instincts usually have him in the right place at the right time. Johnson is willing as a tackler, but needs to clean up his technique and approach to bolster his run support for the next level. His high football IQ should aid his transition to pro football as a future starter with a strong upside.

The Draft Network:

Indiana safety Jamar Johnson projects favorably as a potential NFL starter in defenses that play split safety, middle of the field open coverage with frequency. Johnson has a fair amount of upside in coverage in man assignments but his half-field responsibilities in zone allow him to process releases and simultaneously position himself well to drive and trigger on the run if need be. Johnson’s development into a prominent prospect has been one that required good fortune and steady development—he transformed from a special teamer as a freshman and eventually took over a starting role in 2020 with the Hoosiers’ defense. He’s got a proven nose for the football and, at 6-foot-1 and 197 pounds, he has the kind of physicality that you’re looking for in a D-gap presence in the nickel as well. Johnson has generated strong ball production and made the most of his opportunities to generate turnovers for the Hoosiers’ defense; he accounted for six interceptions over his final 21 games with the program between 2019 and 2020. Johnson has a little bit of added polish needed to his game, but he’s got the physical profile and nose for impact plays to feel optimistic about his forecast as an NFL starter.

Ideal Role: Hybrid safety.

Scheme Fit: Split zone heavy coverages.

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler:

SUMMARY: A one-year starter at Indiana, Johnson was the free safety in former defensive coordinator Kane Womack’s 4-2-5 base scheme, lining up in the boundary and alternating slot responsibilities in subpackages. The Hoosiers led all Power 5 programs in interceptions in 2020, and he led the team with four, allowing only 12 catches and zero touchdowns the last two seasons. Johnson is an instinctive pattern reader with fluid movement skills, allowing him to play out in front and make plays on the football. He can get physical when he wants but tends to be a choosy tackler and made business decisions on tape. Overall, Johnson needs to crank up the toughness and discipline, especially in the run game, but he has the awareness, range and ball skills to compete for interchangeable safety and nickel roles.

GRADE: 3rd-4th Round

Johnson has been projected as high as the second round, but the majority of mock drafters are placing him in the 3rd-4th round range right now. The Rams have pick 57 in the second, as well as picks 88 and 103 in the third round. If Johnson falls to the end of the third round, could LA use their final pick on day two to keep him from going to day three?

Poll

Should the Rams consider Jamar Johnson?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    I’d go as high as 57
    (6 votes)
  • 39%
    If he’s available at 88, definitely
    (88 votes)
  • 57%
    Day 2 is too early for a safety
    (127 votes)
221 votes total Vote Now