Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II is a rapidly ascending 2022 NFL Draft prospect. However, the spotlight hasn’t always fallen on the Eden Prairie, Minnesota native. His journey has been one of struggle, internal reflection, and last chances. Ultimately, his talent has prevailed, and Johnson’s scouting report reveals why NFL Draft analysts across the nation are touting him so highly.
Jermaine Johnson II NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive end
- School: Florida State
- Current Year: Super senior
- Height: 6’5″
- Weight: 262 pounds
Jermaine Johnson II Scouting Report
If you’re an NFL team in need of a pass rusher next season, the 2022 NFL Draft is an excellent place to find your star defensive player of the future. While Kayvon Thibodeaux is the cream of the pass-rush crop, there is a deep well of talent from which to draw in the spring.
Michigan’s duo of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo are soaring, as is Purdue pass rusher George Karlaftis. So, where does Johnson fit in this 2022 NFL Draft class? His scouting report reveals that he has the traits to push his way right to the very top.
With more NFL teams dabbling in disguising their defensive formations, versatility as a defensive player is becoming a more valuable attribute. That’s a tick in the box on Johnson’s scouting report. During his college career, the Florida State defensive end has played with his hand in the dirt and stood up over the tackle.
Additionally, during his time at Georgia, Johnson was tasked with playing outside linebacker. As a result, he is equally adept at dropping back into coverage. Furthermore, for both FSU and Georgia, he’s switched effortlessly from one side of the defensive formation to the other. Put simply, wherever you line Johnson up, he’s going to be a nightmare for the opposing offense.
Jermaine Johnson II has exceptional athletic upside as an NFL Draft prospect
Johnson’s athletic ability has been lauded since his high school days. That doesn’t always translate as your career progresses. However, for Johnson, it certainly has. He ran a 4.5 40-yard dash in high school, and there’s little to suggest that he won’t run that at 260 pounds at the NFL Combine. Against Alabama, he went toe to toe with Najee Harris, who ran a 4.45 at the 2021 NFL Combine.
He routinely shows this speed in pursuit, and there were several examples in the games studied of him tracking down a player beyond the line of scrimmage. Athletic ability isn’t defined purely by speed, however. Johnson also has an impressive first step, explosiveness at the line of scrimmage, and has showcased remarkable lateral agility.
The Florida State defensive end uses this lateral agility to be a disruptive force at the line of scrimmage. He can seamlessly shift from attacking the outside track to cutting inside and pressuring from the interior of the defensive line. If he maintains his pursuit around the outside, he has the speed, explosiveness, and bend to get to the quarterback successfully.
If you want a graphic example of how athletic Johnson is, switch on 2020 Georgia vs. Alabama and watch him go to work against Evan Neal. The Alabama offensive tackle is as athletic as they come in this NFL Draft class. Johnson had multiple winning reps where he dipped, exploded around, and then ducked under the blocking attempts of the Crimson Tide tackle.
Strength and pass rush moves
As you’d expect from a 6’5″, 260-pound defensive end, Johnson displays impressive strength at the point of attack. He easily overpowers running backs and tight ends tasked with halting his pursuit of the opposition” passer. Johnson can hit with violence, and he also uses his strength to disengage from blockers.
The Florida State defensive end also possesses a tidy arsenal of pass-rush moves. He showcased spin, swipe, swim moves, and a potent bull rush in the games studied. Johnson also has the length to ensure he can be disruptive at the point of attack in multiple ways.
Areas for improvement
As Johnson performs at a high level for Florida State this season, he is understandably climbing up NFL Draft boards. He has the size, speed, strength, and versatility to be successful at the next level. However, there are some areas for improvement on Johnson’s scouting report.
While he has demonstrated the ability to be physical, Johnson can sometimes be overwhelmed by bigger offensive tackles. Furthermore, he relies on his physicality to disengage from blockers rather than technique. To be successful at the next level, he will need to use technique rather than physicality in this regard.
Jermaine Johnson II Player Profile
Not every journey to the NFL Draft runs smoothly. Not every prospect hails from the talent-rich states of Florida or Texas. Some paths to the NFL Draft are tumultuous, taking twists and turns, traversing lesser-traveled ground. Johnson has taken that journey, trodden those paths, and emerged on the other side as an exciting NFL Draft prospect.
Eden Prairie High School in Minnesota is not well renowned for consistently producing NFL talent. The frozen north is far removed from the hotbeds of high school football. Even the most productive, athletic, and talented high school prospects in the state have to fight and battle their way to achieving recognition in recruiting circles.
There was no doubting that Johnson had athletic talent at Eden Prairie. At the age of 15, he could bench 300 pounds, run a 4.5 40-yard dash, and register a 4.55 5-10-5 shuttle. Johnson was productive too. As a senior, he tallied 37 tackles and 7 sacks.
Yet, he never received the recruiting recognition that his athletic ability deserved. Rated as a two-star prospect by 247 Sports, Johnson was the 105th weakside defensive end in the 2017 class. Despite the lowly national ranking, he was the 11th-best player in Minnesota, further indicating the difficulty that even the state’s best talent has in making it to the upper echelons of college football.
Johnson II’s college football career
However, for Johnson, there was an even bigger problem. With a GPA of just 1.9, he was deemed academically ineligible by the NCAA. While the talent was there, the offers were not. Johnson couldn’t receive a single FBS offer.
With the conventional path to the NFL blocked off, the promising defensive end talent was forced to abandon the bright lights of Division I college football and travel the junior college (JUCO) route. In February 2017, he left Minnesota and made the 600-mile journey to Independence Community College in Kansas.
“I just arrived in the middle of nowhere Kansas, and I didn’t know if I’d ever play football at the big stage,” Johnson told The Macon Telegraph. “I was broken down, rebuilt, and found out who I really am.”
During his time with the program, Independence CC was featured on the popular Netflix documentary “Last Chance U.” It may have been his only chance, let alone his last chance, and Johnson thrived at the JUCO level. During a 20-game career, he tallied 96 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles, and 3 pass breakups. Off the field, he propelled his GPA from 1.9 to above 3.0.
From Independence to the FBS
While Independence head coach Jason Brown is a highly controversial figure, Johnson credits him with taking a broken-down kid that arrived in Kansas in 2017 and propelling him into the NFL Draft prospect he is today.
“Coach Brown changed my life in many ways. And not only for that. He expected the best in everything and knew when I was slacking.”
Johnson’s dominance at the JUCO level ensured a very different recruiting process at the end of 2018. As the No. 1 JUCO prospect in the nation, Johnson attracted over 20 offers, with multiple programs in several Power Five conferences wanting to land the four-star pass-rush prospect.
Johnson could have returned home to Minnesota to play for P.J. Fleck and the Golden Gophers. Yet, with his eyes on a bigger prize, the star JUCO defensive end committed to Georgia.
Johnson II turns heads for the Georgia Bulldogs
During his first season with the Bulldogs in 2019, Johnson had the opportunity to demonstrate his ability in a rotational role. Although he saw action in 14 games, his only start came against Murray State. Regardless, at every available opportunity, he made an impression. Johnson forced a crucial fumble against Auburn while tallying 20 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and a pass breakup during his debut season in Athens.
Even during the disrupted offseason of 2020, Johnson worked hard to develop from his first season. He worked out in his garage with weights purchased by his father. Additionally, the pass rusher spent time at the Eden Prairie field working on elements of his game. He was aware that the athletic ability he’d demonstrated throughout his career would only take him so far.
“I don’t think I put my best on film last year, personally,” he told the Star Tribune. “Going into this season, I was really excited to prove some things, work hard, and just get better. In JUCO, my athleticism got me so far. Coming here, learning that technique gets you further.”
Although the shortened season limited Johnson to seven games in 2020, he started in three. Despite being involved in a rotation, he topped his production from his first season. Johnson’s 4 sacks were third on the team. He added 11 total quarterback pressures and 5 tackles for loss. On the biggest stage, against Alabama and highly rated NFL Draft prospect Neal, Johnson logged a career-high 4 tackles, a sack, and 2 QB pressures.
Despite earning recognition, Johnson II exits Athens
Johnson’s performances for Georgia during the 2020 season earned recognition from Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, who told reporters:
“He has a lot of natural talents. He’s extremely athletic, fast. He plays the sand backer position really well. The fact that he can set edges, play man to man, and rush the passer. I think he’s just starting to come into his own.”
While Smart felt Johnson was just coming into his own, the talented pass rusher had reservations about his role for the Bulldogs. As we’ve seen this year, the Georgia defense is stacked with talent, and Johnson had concerns that being involved in a rotation might impact his NFL Draft stock. As a result, he entered the transfer portal at the end of the 2020 season. His father explained the situation to the Athens Banner-Herald:
“You can’t get to the league without film and the constant rotation for no reason. That’s not going to do it. “
Johnson II flying up NFL Draft boards for FSU
Instead of lining up for the Bulldogs in 2021, Johnson transferred to Florida State. It was another twist in his journey to the NFL Draft and one with the potential to backfire as the Seminoles defense had been, for want of a better word, terrible in 2020. Rather than backfire, the move has ignited Johnson’s NFL Draft stock.
He’s emerged as a leader of the defense, helping improve the unit considerably. Furthermore, with the opportunity to see the field more, Johnson has been incredibly productive through the first nine weeks of the 2021 college football season. He impressed right out of the gate with 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks as FSU played Notre Dame close in front of a national audience.
Although Jacksonville State shocked the Seminoles, it wasn’t for lack of effort from Johnson. The Florida State defensive end racked up 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and a career-high 11 tackles. With four games to go in the season, Johnson has amassed 49 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 2 pass breakups. He’s attracted national attention, which includes a spot on the Senior Bowl watch list.
Led by Oregon’s Thibodeaux, the 2022 NFL Draft edge class is shaping up to be extraordinarily talented, and Johnson could end up being right at the sharp end of it come April. That’s quite a journey — from academically ineligible to one of the best draft-eligible players at his position.