So I can admit when I have jumped the gun. And I may have jumped the gun in my initial “mild displeasure” over the Lions selection of Mr. Kerryon Johnson.
It’s not that I thought Kerryon was a bad player. I knew he was good. He led the SEC in yards and touchdowns and was named the Conference Offensive Player of the Year. You don’t do that without being good at football.
But I was irritated that the Lions used a premium pick on a non-premium position (RB is the easiest position to fill on offense) , and then even at that passed on superior talents at the position … like Derrius Guice.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I was unable to do my usual thorough analysis pre-Draft. So a lot of my thoughts about Lions picks were based on superficial analysis and memory of players from watching them live. Pre- draft, I ranked the RBs as so:
- Saquon Barkley (drafted #2 overall)
- Derrius Guice (drafted #59 overall)
- Sony Michel (drafted #31 overall)
- Nick Chubb (drafted #35 overall)
- Ronald Jones (drafted #53 overall)
- KERRYON JOHNSON
- Rashad Penny (drafted #27 overall)
I may still be mad at passing on Guice after I look at his film in-depth. But after taking a deeper dive on Kerryon, I saw a lot of things that I may have missed live. And they make me feel a whole lot better about this pick. ( Also, so does this)
So Kerryon. He has nice size for the position at 6’0 and about 215. His combine agility numbers were so-so, but he had outstanding explosion numbers. A 40 inch vertical and a 10’6″ broad jump are outstanding and confirm the explosion you see on tape.
Speaking of tape:
So the first thing you notice about Kerryon is his running style. It is very patient and methodical and has drawn a lot of similarities to LeVeon Bell’s. While that is certainly the top end of the spectrum for Johnson, like Bell he is very adept at waiting for his blockers to get in position before planting his foot and exploding into the hole. His feel for running is very evident as he varies his approach based on what the defense is showing him. Sometime he will press one hole, waiting for defenders to over pursue, before darting back into the hole he just created. Other times, he will explode north and south as soon as he identifies the crease. He has great balance and very good power through the hole and is able to finish through contact, drive his legs and fall forward the majority of the time. Occasionally, he doesn’t display the greatest vision, and misses holes (had a cutback for the TD here) but this is not a regular occurrence.
By no means is Kerryon a burner, in fact raw speed is probably his biggest flaw as a back. But he is as complete as it gets in the other much, more important dimensions. He is a more than capable pass catcher out of the backfield, even though his route running could use some work. He’s not an open space savant (like his teammate Ryan Davis #23, goodness gracious that guy is terrifying in space), but he can get the job done and get positive yards when put in that scenario.
Kerryon is also going to play and play a lot because in terms of pass protection, he’s one of the best I’ve seen at the college level, on par with Zeke Elliot and Mike Hart. He shows time and time again that he is an asset, and stonewalls linebackers and defensive backs alike. His technique is excellent, his vision to identify blitzers is as well and he just has a willingness to block that is just not found in a lot of running backs.
That to me speaks to his competitiveness. Kerryon is a physical and thumping runner, and he likes to mix it up, even when he doesn’t have the ball. Despite him not testing off the charts in agility or speed , he has flashes where he showcases some long speed and where he makes people miss in space. He also has these dynamic, play maker runs that are just a mixture of explosiveness, toughness and it-factor. Let me also be clear … he was doing all of the things I’m showing you against 2 of the top 3 defenses in college football, Georgia and Alabama, whom both played in the NCAA Championship game … Auburn beat both as well.
I am very intrigued as to what this pick means for the Lions this season. They seemed poised to go into the year with the Thunder/Lightning pairing of LaGarrette Blount and Ameer Abdullah, mixing in Theo Reddick as a 3rd down specialist. However, Kerryon is a wild card as he can contribute in both the run and pass game in multiple ways.
I’m also interested in seeing if the additions of Blount and Johnson means the Lions are looking to install a run scheme that is more zone oriented. It would make sense as our offensive line is wickedly athletic at this point and both Blount and Johnson’s running styles seem more conducive to zone rather than gap blocking.
After thinking things over, I get the pick a lot better. After this season, it’s likely that neither Abudullah or Blount will be here, and Riddick is no guarantee himself unless he can show improved skills running the ball. Kerryon is a great foundational piece as a do-it-all back who can play every down, and has the toughness and athletic ability to have success. Perhaps next season, they add the speedy, game breaking complement to Johnson to really open up this offense. But I appreciate Mr. Johnson and I’m looking forward to what he will bring to us this season.
I give this pick a B+.
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