Over the last few months, Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II has established himself as a top-10 prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. The spotlight hasn’t always fallen on the Eden Prairie, Minnesota native. His journey has been one of struggle, internal reflection, and last chances. However, his talent has ultimately 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: 6’4 3/8″
- Weight: 259 pounds
- Wingspan: 82 7/8″
- Arm: 34 3/8″
- Hand: 9 5/8″
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. 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.
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 he replicated that with a 4.58 seconds effort at the NFL Combine while weighing in at 254 pounds. That speed is evident on film, with a play where he chased down Najee Harris in 2020 particularly standing out as a good example.
Speed, agility, and strength
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.
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 opposing passer. Johnson can hit with violence, and he also uses his strength to disengage from blockers.
Pass rush prowess and run-stopping refinement
The Florida State defensive end also possesses a tidy arsenal of pass-rush moves. He showcased spin, swipe, and swim moves, as well as a potent bull rush in the games studied. With an official 34″ arm measurement, Johnson also has the length to ensure he can be disruptive at the point of attack in multiple ways.
While his pass-rush prowess is incredible, Johnson is also one of the best EDGE players against the run in the class. He diagnoses extremely well and uses his aforementioned athletic ability to fly to the ball carrier. Here, his long arms give him an impressive tackle radius. Additionally, he uses his power and physicality well to set the edge in the run game.
Areas for improvement
Following his exceptional season for Florida State and an almost better pre-draft process, Johnson has asserted himself as a top-10 prospect in this 2022 NFL Draft class. At present, he’s the sixth overall player and second-ranked EDGE on the Pro Football Network Top 300 Big Board. However, there are minor areas for improvement in his game.
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 improve some of the finesse elements of his game rather than relying on bullying his way past his opponent.
While there were some examples of him being able to bend off the edge, he isn’t elite in this regard. Johnson can be a little stiff as he attempts to work come around the edge.
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.
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.
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. He could have returned home to Minnesota to play for P.J. Fleck. 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.
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.
While 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.
Johnson’s NFL Draft ascension
Instead of lining up for the Bulldogs in 2021, Johnson transferred to Florida State. He’s emerged as a leader of the defense, helping improve the unit considerably. Furthermore, Johnson was incredibly productive tallying 70 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He also recovered a fumble in the Clemson game for his first career TD.
Earning ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors, Johnson attracted national attention with an invite to the Senior Bowl. He was arguably the star of the show in Mobile, routinely winning his 1-on-1 reps and often bulldozing his opponent with trademark power and physicality.
If the Senior Bowl helped Johnson ascend his NFL Draft stock, the NFL Combine secured it. His 4.58-second 40-yard dash time confirmed the speed he’d shown in pursuit during his career. Meanwhile, the 10’5″ broad jump was an indicator of the explosion with which he plays the game.
At present, it seems highly unlikely that the FSU defensive end will slide out of the top 10 in Las Vegas. Furthermore, he’s attracting attention from the teams picking in the first five selections. From academically ineligible to one of the best players in the 2022 NFL Draft, Johnson has had quite the journey. And it isn’t over yet.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for Jermaine Johnson II
Positives: Game-changing pass rusher coming off a terrific year. Fluid, displays good movement skills, and flows down the line and outside the box in pursuit of the action. Quickly locates the ball, immediately alters his angle of attack, and chases hard to make plays. Effectively diagnoses the action, remains disciplined with assignments, and works to make plays on the ball rather than just pin his ears back and rush upfield.
Comes out of a three-point stance and stands over tackle, gets a lot of force going up the field, and rarely gets knocked off his feet. Works his hands throughout the action, plays with balance as well as body control, and displays a variety of moves to get off blocks. Displays good first-step quickness off the snap.
Negatives: High-hipped with long legs. Doesn’t play to his 40 time. Has a linear build and will struggle handling blocks at the next level.
Analysis: After transferring to Florida State from Georgia, Johnson turned in a terrific campaign in 2021. Then, he was unstoppable during three days of Senior Bowl practices. He’s an athletic pass rusher who must get a little stronger and polish his game, but Johnson comes with terrific upside.