Alongside Bijan Robinson, Roschon Johnson was the lesser-known Texas Longhorns RB in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle. But Johnson still earned Round 4 capital from the Chicago Bears, and he could end up being a very cost-effective RB selection at the professional level. What does he give the Bears, and how does he project?
Roschon Johnson NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Running Back
- School: Texas
- Current Year: Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’0 1/2″, 225 pounds
- Length: 31 3/4″
- Wingspan: 77 5/8″
- Hand: 9 1/2″
Johnson was a high four-star recruit, listed inside the top 250 in the 2019 class. He was a dynamic dual-threat QB with electric running ability, historic high school production, and a massive frame of over 220 pounds. And yet, for all this early promise, Johnson never eclipsed 650 yards or seven touchdowns on the ground.
On the modern CFB landscape, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see Johnson transfer. After the 2020 season, he was essentially stuck behind emerging star Bijan Robinson as the No. 2 running back. But Johnson didn’t leave, and he didn’t sulk. He settled in, cherished his role, and became a valuable piece of the Texas offense.
Johnson did a little bit of everything for Texas. Yes, he took carries and helped shoulder the workload for Robinson. But he also lead blocked and pass blocked. He took catches out of the backfield and split out wide at times. He went in motion and took running snaps from the wildcat position as well.
Along the way, Johnson proved himself to be an extremely competent complementary threat to Robinson.
NFL evaluators no doubt made note of the fact that Johnson not only stayed but also made the most of his place in a talented Texas backfield and found a way to produce. That perseverance could take him far in the NFL, where he’ll at least be out of Robinson’s shadow.
Roschon Johnson Scouting Report
- Has the size, mass, and density to be a freight train in space with matching physicality.
- Explosive long-strider with a turbo button, stressing angles with curvilinear burst.
- Urgent runner in tight spaces with surprising twitch and burst out of single cuts.
- Able to employ patience and fast feet behind the line, then diagnose lanes and attack.
- Has excellent contact balance, bouncing off tackles and surviving with play strength.
- Has shown he can use jagged stride variations in space to disrupt tackling angles.
- Possesses the necessary full-field vision to get outside and glide between blocks.
- Aggressive forward finisher with a gnawing physical edge and enviable leg churn.
- Flashes superb route-running nuance, using fast feet, tempo, and head fakes at stems.
- Extremely willing lead and pass blocker with sturdy technique and formidable strength.
Areas for Improvement
- Doesn’t quite have the elite initial explosiveness to clear the second level with ease.
- Has a degree of lateral agility but lacks great short-area freedom and hip flexibility.
- Doesn’t have elite instincts in congested areas and sometimes delays behind the line.
- Experiences wasted motion behind the line, with hip stiffness impacting the ability to uncoil.
- Sometimes has to gather himself ahead of cuts in space, delaying transitions upfield.
- Sometimes struggles to throttle up and down quickly enough to escape early contact.
- Initial footwork can be a bit tighter at times, as a wide stance can leave him vulnerable.
- Doesn’t quite have breakaway long speed and isn’t a home-run threat in the deep third.
- Can be prone to body catches as a receiving threat, which can invite drops.
Roschon Johnson’s 2023 NFL Outlook
Johnson graded as a fringe top-100 prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft on my board. He was selected with the 115th overall pick in Round 4 by the Bears and was the eighth running back to be picked.
Though he enters a crowded backfield in Chicago led by Khalil Herbert and D’Onta Foreman, he could make an impact in Year 1.
The surface-level analysis will point to the fact that Johnson was never able to become a full-time starter in his collegiate career. Playing behind Robinson will have that effect on a player — but it’s not a reason to take away from Johnson’s game. He’s a well-built, versatile utility back whose value equation is very appealing.
Much like he proved at Texas, Johnson can be an extremely valuable stable back in the NFL. He has the size, athleticism, contact balance, vision, and tenacity to take on heightened volumes. He’s an able receiver who can run routes, split out wide, and create after the catch. And he’s an extremely willing blocker both in pass protection and leading on the ground.
A rotational role is likely for Johnson, but it’s just the floor. There’s a reasonable path forward where Johnson becomes a more productive pro running back.
His three-down utility ensures that coaches will trust him on the field in a variety of situations. And if thrust into a starting role by injury, he has the tools to take it for an extended period and flourish.
Johnson’s ceiling isn’t as high as Robinson’s. Johnson doesn’t have nearly the same short-area instincts, hip flexibility, or agility. But in both gap and zone schemes, Johnson can function as an explosive, long-striding, physical back who gets downhill quickly, finishes forward on almost all of his runs, and provides added value in the passing game.
Sharing touches with Herbert and Foreman in 2023, Johnson’s volume won’t be great. But his ability to play on all three downs and be used in a variety of ways will give him consistent use in Luke Getsy’s offense.
Behind a reworked offensive line that includes Nate Davis and first-round rookie Darnell Wright, Johnson could find daylight more than a few times. And an injury to either back ahead of him will only increase his volume — volume that he has the size and frame to take on. Thus, Johnson is a strong rotational presence with workhorse upside.
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