As a junior at Oakland (Cal.) Technical High School, University of San Diego quarterback Josh Johnson played on the same team as Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch. After an outstanding senior season, Johnson is set to join Lynch in the NFL this spring. Johnson did not receive much attention coming out of high school, yet he has had a solid career. Choosing to join a rising San Diego program, Johnson would finish as the NCAA's all-time leader in passing efficiency (176.7). The line from his senior season reads: 68.4 percent completions (206-for-301), 2,988 passing yards, 43 touchdowns and one interception.
Most of Johnson's games were played at Torero Stadium against Division II opponents. This did not bring him the national attention most other quarterback prospects received last year. However, this final season saw him shed the label of being a "running quarterback" to being an actual pocket passer. He did not show much throwing the ball at the 2008 Senior Bowl or 2008 NFL Scouting Combine, but a bad back may have been the main culprit for that. He improved on his throws during San Diego's Pro Day. His other numbers (4.53 40-yard dash, 33 1/2-inch vertical jump) were right where scouts expected them to be, at the top of his class.
Johnson is an energetic player with the ability to bring it on the ground or through the air. He has above-average body control and balance, which keeps him steady when throwing on the run. He possesses good vision and knows when to use his cutback lanes once he commits to running. His scrambling ability is helped by a second gear that helps him elude would-be tacklers at the line of scrimmage. Ball security should not be an issue for him as he does a good job protecting it. He has developed into a quarterback who will use his legs only when other options aren't there. Not only can he scramble, Johnson is a threat to air the ball out while on the run. His balance and body control have already been mentioned; however, Johnson has a compact, fluid throwing motion, which gives him a quick release on his throws.
The 43:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio tells you Johnson is a strong decision-maker on the field. He makes accurate reads and will go through all the required checks. He worked in a pass-oriented offense at San Diego, which should help him dealing with the complexities of NFL offenses. Not only does he make the right reads, but Johnson shows good accuracy on his short passes, even though he sometimes does not adjust to receivers as well as he should. In addition to his cerebral tendencies, Johnson is a vocal leader on the field who demonstrates good fire and confidence in himself.
It is on the deep throws where Johnson is most comfortable. Good hip movement and a quick release allow him to get the ball out quickly. He has great accuracy on his deep throws. Compared to his short throws, Johnson does a better job hitting his receivers in stride than he does on timing patterns.
Johnson has adequate height for the position (6-foot-2 3/4), but he could add some more bulk to his frame. This would help him withstand the physicality at the next level, especially if he wants to be able to run with the ball often. Johnson's throws tend to wobble when he does not get his feet set up quick enough.
As mentioned above, Johnson needs to do a better job varying the speed on his passes, mostly on timing routes. He does not do a good job putting touch on his shorts throws, especially on screens and dump passes. The lack of touch often forces receivers to adjust to him, rather than the other way around.
Finally, playing in the Pioneer Football League did not give Johnson many opportunities to face off against top-notch defenses. This could prolong his learning curve in the NFL.
Expected Draft Placement
Johnson's numbers and improved workouts - his Pro Day passing was significantly better than the combine - have him situated in the lower second tier of quarterbacks. A team running the West Coast offense, who have the time to develop him could look to draft him anywhere from the fourth to sixth round. The Green Bay Packers are one of these teams as they are believed to be looking for him another project quarterback. The Jacksonville Jaguars are another team that could look at him sometime in the fourth round or later, as are the Chicago Bears.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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