Johnson only has one year of great production, but it was an impressive year that saw him take over multiple games. Johnson transferred from Georgia to Florida State for the 2021 season in search of more playing time. Given the way Johnson blossomed last year, it was a good move — though maybe his dominance shouldn’t surprise given that he was recruited to that great Georgia defense by Kirby Smart.
In fact, he has become a popular pick for the New York Giants in mock drafts. The Giants could certainly use a player with Johnson’s tools, but has he really worked his way from an unknown to the Top 10 in just one year?
Games Played: 28
Tackles For a loss: 24.5
Forced Fumbles: 3
Passes Defensed: 4
Games Played: 12
Tackles For a loss: 17.5
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes Defensed: 2
Best: Length, explosiveness, bend, quickness and agility, awareness, play strength
Projection: A pass rush specialist who becomes a starter early in his career
(Johnson is Florida State EDGE number 11)
Florida State EDGE Jermaine Johnson II has an excellent combination of size, athleticism, and awareness to play the position at the NFL level.
Johnson primarily aligned as a pass rusher in Florida State’s defense, playing either a defensive end or rush linebacker role. Johnson has good lower-body flexibility to settle into a compact stance as a down lineman, but has the ability to be explosive and play with great leverage from a 2, 3, or 4-point stance.
Johnson has truly great explosiveness off the line when rushing the passer. His get-off is sudden and he gains great ground with the opening steps of his rush. Johnson also has tremendous length at his disposal, giving him a variety of options as a rusher. He is able to win with speed around the edge, with a potent bullrush, and by exploiting blockers who over-set in response to his speed by converting speed into power. He also flashes long-arm, swipe, push-pull, and rip moves.
He has very good play strength for a speed rusher, which allows him to set a firm edge in run defense. He is able to make plays off of blockers when he can generate separation from linemen. Johnson also shows very impressive situational awareness throughout the play. He does a great job of tracking the ball in the backfield and is rarely fooled by misdirection. Johnson also has the ability to react very quickly when the ball comes his way and is rarely taken by surprise when a runner makes a quick cut.
But while Johnson has a well-stocked toolbox and a variety of moves at his disposal, he isn’t a technician as a pass rusher.
Johnson’s hand usage and placement improved over the course of his final season, but it’s still inconsistent. He doesn’t consistently use his length to initiate contact with blockers and even when he gets his hands on them first, he doesn’t always try to win inside leverage.
Johnson can also be something of a “kitchen sink” rusher who throws a wide variety of moves at blockers, but does so without an apparent plan. There are stretches of games when he can be seen doing a lot, but accomplishing little.
Overall Grade: 8.3
Jermaine Johnson II projects as an eventual starting EDGE with scheme versatility at the NFL level. Johnson might be forced to start his career as a pass rush specialist, but he has all the tools to grow into a good starter at the NFL level.
Johnson has a versatile frame and experience as both a down lineman and as a stand-up rusher, and that should allow him to find a home on teams that run any type of front.
Johnson might need a year – or even just part of a year – as a pure pass rusher while coaches work with him to fully unlock his considerable toolbox. Johnson still needs work as a technician, both polishing his hand usage and helping him to develop a cogent plan of attack as a rusher. He also plays noticeably slower when the full offensive playbook is open. Johnson has the ability to be all but unblockable when he is able to just pin his ears back and concentrate on rushing the passer.
That isn’t to say he’s a poor run defender – he isn’t. Johnson has the length and play strength to be a good run defender at the NFL level, and he does a great job of tracking the ball in the backfield. But there’s currently a slight hesitation in his game as he reads the offense and allowing him to just concentrate on rushing the passer will help him be productive right away.
Johnson showed great development over the course of his season at Florida State, and his ceiling is sky-high if he can continue that development at the NFL level.