It?s been a long and winding road through college football, but defensive end Jermaine Johnson II has put himself in position to be one of the top-10 overall picks in the NFL Draft when teams take the stage at the end of the month in Las Vegas. After an impressive last season in college, Johnson shot up the rankings and put his name into the national conversation of the best defensive prospects available this spring.
Johnson has long been touted as a run defender, but an outstanding showing at the Senior Bowl has teams dreaming about his versatility as a pass rusher as well. He has the power and athleticism to beat blockers on the pass rush and has clearly been building up a toolbox of moves to beat opposing offensive linemen and offensive tackles on rush moves.
Jermaine Johnson‘s Career Before Florida State
Johnson is a native of Eden Prairie, Minnesota. He attended Eden Prairie High School, where he was an All-Metro selection, naming him among the top players in the Twin Cities.
However, despite a promising football career, Johnson?s D1 prospects would need to be put on hold. He graduated from high school with a GPA of just 1.9, making him academically ineligible to play NCAA Division I football. That led to his decision to enroll at Independence Community College. It was at Independence where he was featured in season 3 of Netflix?s documentary series “Last Chance U”.
After two seasons at Independence, Johnson had offers from Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas, UCLA and Georgia, and he ultimately decided to head to Athens and play for UGA. He spent two years with the Bulldogs, racking up just 36 tackles in 21 games (four starts), though he did have 7.5 sacks in that time.
However, he was not happy with his role as a reserve pass rusher for the Bulldogs, where he only started three of his seven appearances in 2021.
Raising His Draft Stock in Tallahassee
Towards the end of his junior season at Georgia, Johnson decided to enter the transfer portal, choosing to end his collegiate career at Florida State. In Tallahassee, he had his most productive season, amassing 70 tackles and 12 sacks, along with a pair of forced fumbles while playing in 12 games for the Seminoles.
Several games stood out during Johnson?s season with FSU, perhaps most notably his performance during a 31-28 win over Miami on November 13th. In that game, he forced a fumble in the first quarter to set the Seminoles up with a short field, which they eventually converted into a touchdown to take a 14-0 lead. Johnson had three sacks in that game and seven tackles, five of them for a loss.
He also piled up three sacks and 11 tackles against Jacksonville State, a sack, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries against Clemson, and 1.5 sacks along with seven tackles in his Florida State debut, an overtime defeat against #9 Notre Dame.
Johnson was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-Conference honors for his season with Florida State. He ended the year tied for eighth in the country with 18 tackles for loss. He was an ESPN All-American, a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award (on-field performance, leadership abilities and contributions to school and community) and a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award (Best Defensive Player in College Football) and Lombardi Award (Best embodies the values and spirit of Vince Lombardi).
The Scouting Report on Johnson
Johnson ran a 4.58 second time in the 40-yard dash at the 2022 NFL Combine and recorded a 32-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-5 broad jump. He measures 6-foot-4 tall and weighs in at 254 pounds with an 82-inch wingspan.
He is long and athletic, registering a 9.22 relative athletic score (RAS), which is rated on a scale of one to ten.
Though not projected as high in most mock drafts as Michigan?s Aidan Hutchinson, Oregon?s Kayvon Thibodeaux, and former Georgia teammate Travon Walker, Johnson has drawn high praise from many teams and some mock drafts have him going as high as #8 overall to the Atlanta Falcons. Others believe that he will be snatched up by the Patriots if he is still there in the 20?s.
Detroit Lions Showing Significant Interest in Johnson
According to reports, Johnson visited the Detroit Lions, who have the #2 pick in the NFL Draft. Detroit also holds picks #32 and #34.
Could they be considering taking Johnson at #2 overall? It would be hard to believe that they would pass over Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux, who met with them the day after the Lions hosted Johnson.
It also seems unlikely that Johnson will be there at the end of the first round for the Lion?s second and third picks of the draft. Could Detroit be looking to move down and snag a pair of edge rushers?