When the Denver Broncos Indiana Safety selected Jamar Johnson with the 164th overall selection of the 2021 NFL draft, many fans were confused. After all, the Broncos had just taken 12 picks from Texas Safety Caden Sterns.
Why the double-dip in the security position, especially a prospect with much-discussed concerns about his ability to attack?
Answer: It is a multi-faceted discussion that deserves a lot more nuances than just accepting choices at face value. You have to dig a little deeper.
Last season, the Broncos’ depth of safety was virtually nonexistent behind Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson, especially on the track. Alijah Holder and Trey Marshall were forced to play in the cornerback position due to the havoc from the injury penalty that claimed Essang Bassey and Duke Dawson’s seasons, as well as limiting the impact of starters AJ Bouye and Bryce Callahan.
After these two cornerbacks were eliminated from the rotation, PJ Locke was promoted to the active squad by the training team in the late season. Although the two played admirably for defenders, it was necessary to improve the quality of the room and add more depth to the rotation.
There’s also the fact that Jackson will be playing this 33 year old season and is already showing signs of slowing down. His physicality and professionalism in his approach to the game are necessities for this defense, but there was a need for a youth movement. Also, Jackson should be a great mentor to his newest teammates.
Sterns and Johnson offer high quality ball hawking skills with an incredible range and particular versatility of the teams the Broncos have struggled with for the past couple of seasons. Denver had to add two safeguards in some way, shape, or form.
But what makes Johnson’s selection so fascinating is the player’s incredible value in the face of the pre-draft process. Considered one of the top security measures in a stacked security class by the fifth round of the draft, Johnson is hailed as one of Day 3’s biggest thefts, according to Pro Football Focus.
PFF Big Board Rank: 47
Johnson slipping this far wasn’t a complete shock as we at PFF were much higher up in Indiana than most when it comes to safety. Tackling problems and a lack of experience were two of the biggest problems for the teams as he missed 22.5% of his duel attempts over the course of his career and only took just under 800 snapshots during that time. As a reference, Trevon Moehrig, who represents the highest level of security on the PFF draft board, played more than twice as many snapshots in his TCU career.
Even so, the coverage capability Johnson has shown in his smaller sample is too good to ignore. Johnson played all over the field for the Hoosiers and thrived in every role he played. He showed off the nimble feet and smooth hips required at the back end of the NFL. Johnson achieved 89.3 coverage in a career in Indiana that included seven interceptions and six forced imperfections. It goes perfectly with this Vic Fangio defense and is a fantastic addition to an already stacked abutment.
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Johnson was a highly productive security for the Hoosiers, producing one of the best games of his career against Ohio State. It was a game where he intercepted two interceptions from Justin Fields, one of the top quarterback candidates in the class. Johnson’s range and ball skills fit seamlessly into Vic Fangio’s defense.
The fly in the ointment is its poor ability to attack. Fangio issues an edict to keep the game in solid form. Give up the farms on the Fang, but nothing more afterwards.
“We all had good feelings for him,” said Fangio on Saturday evening at the end of the draft. “He’s the type of guy who played well. He didn’t do as well as he should all the time, what he eluded with you. We like his talent, his potential and his skills. It’s going to be a good competition. ” between these two guys and the other safeguards already on the list. “
Fangio and Defense Coordinator Ed Donatell see something there to work with and may be able to train him out of those bad techniques.
Given its value, fit, and versatility, Johnson is a first-time GM Paton homerun. Paton shattered his first draft as a man in charge, but Johnson was perhaps the best pick in his class.
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