Football NFL

DJ Johnson: the most underrated player in the 2023 Draft?

If you aren’t doing a bit of digging into prospects in this years Draft, you may not know who DJ Johnson is. Most boards have him as a late day 3 pick if that. I personally think he’s being overlooked for a few (valid) reasons but he should be getting more hype. Here’s why

Why is DJ Johnson not getting any hype? Well the answer is quite simple. DJ Johnson will be 25 years old this December (this is the age of some guys coming up on their 5th year), which is a huge turn off for a rebuilding team when he’s so much older than a lot of his peers. The other big reason is that he has a bit of an injury history (2022 was the only year he played more than 10 games in). Those are factors that heavily hurt his draft stock which is fair but let’s look at his play and see how good he is when he is on the field.

The first thing that pops on film when you watch DJ Johnson, is how good of an athlete he is. He’s 6’4 260 with 33 inch arms and runs a 4.49 40 with an astonishing 1.51 10 yard split (99th percentile among LB prospects). He has an explosive first step and quick hands too. I think he could get a bit stronger and isn’t gonna over power your stronger NFL tackles but he doesn’t need to when he’s so fast and quick. He’s legitimately one of the best speed rushers in the draft. I don’t think he’s big and more importantly strong enough to play inside but he gives you a strong pass rusher off the edge.

He’s one of the better pass rushers in the draft but my favorite trait that Johnson Possesses, is his ability to squeeze down blocks in the run game. If you know anything about me you know I love the ability to squeeze a down block and splat a pulling guard more than anything. DJ Johnson is up there for the best squeezer in the class. He takes away space between him and the Tackle instantly and is more than fast enough to make a play on the running back if it’s a run away from him. An issue with him is he can get shaken if he is in open field he’s better at attacking from behind than in front (he had a 14.3% missed tackle rate this year and a 16.4% missed tackle rate on his career). He’s good at fighting reach blocks (pretty much any elite athlete will be to be fair). He’s got a good rip move which comes in handy when fighting reach blocks. I don’t like him against base blocks which are the most common blocks you’ll face and his biggest concern on the field I’d say.

DJ Johnson (#2) squeezing Down blocks.

DJ Johnson is probably the hardest evaluation to make in this entire class. He has the talent to be a day 2 pick but he has Two very major red flags in missing games and being one of the oldest players in the class (he’s almost 25 years old). He gives you a good mixture of pass rushing and run stopping and isn’t someone you can try and option which is very valuable but it’s hard to sell him as a Day 2 pick if you aren’t a team that’s looking to win now when he’s already so old and you combine that with an injury history which makes it to where I’m not sure if he should have a round 3 or round 6 grade. He played 11 of 13 games this year (opted out of the bowl game), which makes me optimistic on that end but the age is still a huge issue.

If I had to give a grade on Johnson I’d prolly put him at the end of the third beginning of the 4th. He has a very high floor but at 25 I doubt he is developing much.

Player Grades

• Speed Rushing: 8.5/10

• Power rushing: 6/10

• Pass rushing: 7.5/10

• Base Block defending: 4/10

• Reach block defending: 8/10

• Down Block defending: 9.5/10

• Run defense: 7/10

• Athleticism/Frame: 8/10

• Strength: 5/10

• Versatility: 4/10

Overall Grade: 6.5/10

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