The Colorado Buffaloes can hardly be described as a defensive line factory. Since the turn of the millennium, just four defensive linemen have made the journey from Boulder to the NFL. However, Colorado defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson is looking to add his name to that list in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Mustafa Johnson NFL Draft Player Profile
- Position: Defensive Lineman
- School: Colorado
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’0″
- Weight: 280 pounds
Tony Pauline’s Mustafa Johnson Scouting Report
Positives: Junior-college transfer who started for Colorado the three years he was on the team. Intense, hard-working defensive lineman who gets the most from his ability. Fires off the snap with a terrific first step, plays with proper pad level, and easily changes direction.
Intense, goes hard after the action, and displays a closing burst in a straight line as well as laterally. Moves well to the action, and shows ability in pursuit and to the flanks making plays. The opponents’ focus, yet tough to stop with his tremendous first step.
Negatives: Lacks bulk and gets engulfed at the point of attack. Out-positioned by larger blockers.
Analysis: Johnson was a hard-charging defensive lineman for Colorado and got the most from his ability. He has the attributes to line up as a three-technique tackle on Sundays.
Mustafa Johnson Player Profile
Johnson is no stranger to making the journey out of Colorado to strive for football success. Born and raised in Aurora, he journeyed to California ahead of his first year in high school. A formidable athlete, Johnson found early success in both football and basketball. On top of his ability on the court, he excelled on the field. Even as a sophomore at Turlock High School, he racked up 76 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Over the next two seasons, he would become dominant. He earned All-District honors as a junior and senior while twice named to the Central California Conference Defensive Player of the Year. As a senior, his total tackle numbers dipped down, but he proved disruptive with 8 sacks.
Despite his success, he wasn’t ranked by major recruiting sites. As a result, he had to travel the junior college route. Johnson enrolled at Modesto Junior College, where he quickly established himself as one of the best players in the Valley League. As part of a season where he put up 58 tackles and 6.5 sacks, he had a standout game against American River, where he registered 13 tackles and 2 tackles for loss.
After earning first-team All-California Community College Region I recognition, his JUCO recruitment caught fire. Although he received interest from multiple college programs, the three-star recruit opted to return home to Colorado and committed to the Buffaloes.
Johnson’s college football career at Colorado
The Colorado defensive lineman made an immediate impact in the Pac-12. While he heads to the NFL with the potential to be a full-time defensive tackle, the high school defensive end was a potent threat wherever he lined up. During his first six games, he registered at least 1 tackle for loss, getting off to an electric start to his Buffaloes career.
He led all Colorado defensive lineman with 73 tackles, the most for the program since 1997. His 8.5 sacks led the Pac-12 conference. Furthermore, he amassed an eye-watering 18 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hurries. His impact earned him first-team All-Pac-12 honors.
Johnson threatened to continue his dominance as a junior in 2019. In the second game of the season against Nebraska, he logged 3 tackles for loss and 3 sacks while demonstrating strength with his first career forced fumble. Yet, an injury suffered in the fourth game of the year derailed what could have become another career-defining season.
Despite the loss of three games, the Colorado defensive lineman still contributed 34 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. His influence on the team was noticeable, with the Buffaloes defense improving on his return.
It proved to be a catalyst for his final campaign in Boulder. During the shortened Pac-12 season, Johnson registered tackles for loss in four of his six games. Colorado opened the season with four straight victories before falling to Utah and Texas in their final two. After earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors, the Colorado defensive lineman declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. Johnson leaves the program with 100 tackles, 15 sacks, and 26 tackles for loss.
Mustafa Johnson’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
As alluded to earlier, despite arriving at Colorado as a defensive end, Johnson will be considered a defensive tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft. He presents a difficult evaluation as he is slightly undersized for an average defensive tackle while being oversized as a defensive end. His experience of playing on the edge is apparent in his movement, with good change of direction ability.
Some team fits for the Colorado defensive lineman include the Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Seattle Seahawks.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.