Tag Archive: James-Michael Johnson


Defensive Ends:

1- Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: Coples was dominant at times this week and looked unblockable in 1 on 1 drills versus almost everyone on the South offensive line. He can be as good as he wants to be thanks to his great combination of size, length and athleticism. He projects to be a great LE in the NFL if he continues to work and provide the effort level that he had this week.

2- Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama: Upshaw has convinced me that he can play 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB. I think he might be a better 3-4 outside linebacker, but he’s got plenty of upside. He might not have ideal measurable and 40 yard dash times, but he is a very strong, powerful player that is fundamentally sound. I wouldn’t bet against Upshaw in the NFL, and I don’t think you should either.

3- Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina: Ingram definitely impressed me this week. I think he can play in both a 4-3 and a 3-4 as well, and should be fine at outside linebacker where I think he might have the most upside. He has an impressive variety of pass rush moves and was all effort this week, taking reps standing up, with his hand in the dirt at DE and even inside at defensive tackle at times in 1 on 1’s.

4- Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State: McClellin feels like he should be higher on this list, but the three guys ahead of him are potential 1st rounders much like McClellin might end up being. He’s an impressive kid with better speed and pass rushing ability than a lot of people give him credit for. He’s a top 60 pick for sure, may be a top 40 guy when all is said and done.

5- Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall: Curry definitely has upside, and should get a 2nd or 3rd round grade from me after I finish my tape study of him, but he didn’t beat Mike Adams all week and didn’t look overly impressive rushing the passer this week. Once he was engaged he struggled to rush the passer, and while he has size and athletic ability he needs some development.

Defensive Tackles:

1- Mike Martin, DT, Michigan: Martin really impressed me this week. He’s not tall, but he’s very well built and is extremely strong, plus he has natural leverage because of his lack of ideal height. He’s got a terrific motor and very active hands, and just doesn’t stay blocked. He’s going to go higher than a lot of people expect him to.

2- Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson: Thompson definitely showed his athleticism this week when he beat people off the ball initially with his burst and hand usage. He’s a 2nd round pick in my opinion but he’s got plenty of upside as a 3-tech, and he reminds me a bit of Jonathan Babineaux from the Atlanta Falcons.

3- Kendall Reyes, DT, Connecticut: Reyes weighed in lighter than I was hoping him to, but he’s got plenty of burst and athleticism off the snap. He’s got upside as a pass rusher, and might be able to contribute in a rotation early on in his career in pass rushing situations, but I worry about him versus the run. He can penetrate and get into the backfield, but I think he might get washed out in the run game if he doesn’t get stronger and put on a little weight.

4- Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati: Wolfe came into the week very underrated but he had a strong week all week, showing his versatility to play defensive end or defensive tackle. He projects very well to a 5 technique or to a 3 technique at the next level in my opinion. His versatility will definitely help him on draft day, and he really opened some eyes this week if they hadn’t watched him play much. He may end up with a 3rd or 4th round grade from me once all is said and done. I think he has a future as a NFL starter without a doubt.

5- Jaye Howard, DT, Florida: Howard is someone I’ve been a fan of since early on in his junior season when I was watching tape of Florida. He’s got NFL size and athleticism, and I think he may end up in the fourth round when all is said and done. He’s not rated high but he’s got the ability to contribute to a NFL rotation early on in his career.

Linebackers:

1- Keenan Robinson, OLB, Texas: Robinson is my favorite linebacker here and it was really fun to be able to interview him yesterday. He’s a complete linebacker than can play all three positions if needed, but projects best to the weak-side. He’s strong, can attack blocks, is a very good tackler who has pop as a hitter, shows ability in coverage and can blitz when asked to. He’s got it all, and he’s very underrated despite that. I may end up putting a 2nd round grade on him when my film study on him is done.

2- Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina: Brown had a great week, partially because the practices were non-contact and he wasn’t able to display his relatively poor tackling skills. This week was the perfect venue for Brown to show off his terrific athleticism and his ability to run around and find the ball. However, when he’s got the pads on and is asked to tackle he will come back down to Earth because he’s not a fundamentally sound tackler and often tries to go for the big hit. He also likes to arm tackle, and doesn’t consistently wrap up at all. I expect two or more missed tackles from him today.

3- Lavonte David, OLB, Nebraska: David is an undersized linebacker who will probably have to play weak-side linebacker in the NFL, but he’s a very good tackler who is a pretty complete linebacker himself. If he was a little bit bigger he would be a very highly thought of prospect, and I have always been one who doesn’t like to overlook smaller players with lots of talent.

4- Sean Spence, OLB, Miami: Spence is another undersized playmaker at linebacker. He’s even smaller than David is unfortunately, and at the beginning of the week there was talk of moving him to safety, but I think he has to stay at linebacker personally. He’s got good instincts, is a reliable tackler and shows some ability in coverage. Play him at weak-side linebacker and he should be fine.

5- James-Michael Johnson, ILB, Nevada: JMJ is one of the more athletic middle linebacker prospects in the draft this year. Like Brown, the practices this week were a chance for him to put on a show thanks to his athletic ability. I’m much more interested to see how he tackles today.

Cornerbacks:

1- Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: Jenkins looked like a 1st round pick the entire week. He’s an impressive athlete  with the ability to play press-man, off-man or zone coverage in my opinion. Some were not high on him coming into the week, but I knew I was watching a special corner when I saw him at Florida. He’s got off-field concerns that will hurt his stock, but I still see him ending up in round 1. I feel more comfortable with him on the field than I do with Dre Kirkpatrick.

2- Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia: Boykin is an undersized corner but he presents plenty of upside as a starter at corner as well as a return man. He won a college football award for versatility this year, and I think he may end up in the 2nd or 3rd round range once all is said and done.

3- Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt: Hayward has been underrated for the last two years but he’s finally starting to catch some people’s eyes. He told me he thought part of that was that not a lot of people watch Vanderbilt, which I definitely think has some merit. But he put his skills on display this week and I think he’s a top 100 player without a doubt.

4- Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma: Fleming is a guy that not a lot of people have been high on, but I like his upside as a man or zone coverage corner. He’s a quality cover man, and I think he has starter potential in the NFL.

5- Leonard Johnson, CB, Iowa State: Leonard Johnson came into the week with a little hype and I think he lived up to it. He’s not a very good off-man corner, though he does have the ability to mirror receivers which impressed me, but his value comes as a press-man corner or perhaps in zone. I think he’s a top 100 player as well.

6- Ryan Steed, CB, Furman: Steed isn’t a big corner but he has pretty good change of direction ability which he showed this week. He looked better in press-man than off-man, but struggled a bit when asked to locate the ball and make a play on it at times. I haven’t seen much tape on him, but I think he has upside and would like to see more of him if I get the chance.

Safeties:

1- George Iloka, S, Boise State: Iloka is one of the more physically impressive players here thanks to his impressive size, length and athletic ability. He didn’t impress me in man coverage this week, but he’s got pretty good range and his size will help him deep against big, physically imposing receivers at the next level.

2- Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State: Martin didn’t stick out to me a lot this week, but he’s always looked reliable on film and in a weak safety class he may go earlier than he should. I’m interested to see how he does when he’s asked to play deep in pretty vanilla coverages today.

3- Brandon Taylor, S, LSU: Taylor was a playmaker at safety this year for LSU but I didn’t quite see the playmaking ability here this week. He’s definitely a draftable prospect in the 4th round range, but I’m not sure how much upside he has.

4- Antonio Allen, S, South Carolina: Allen is a player that has a good feel for finding the ball and seems to be a pretty reliable tackler. I’m not sure how he is in coverage though, so I’m looking forward to seeing him more today.

5- Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame: Smith has had a solid week but he hasn’t been great. He’s not a flashy player and seems like a pretty reliable guy, but I’m not sure he has starter upside at the next level.

Kickers/Punters:

1- Randy Bullock, K, Texas A&M: Bullock was the Lou Groza award winner this year and he was a great kid to talk to when I had the chance. He’s got a strong leg and he’s obviously very accurate, so I’ll be rooting for him in the NFL. He may even have a chance to get drafted, which isn’t a given for kickers.

2- Drew Butler, P, Georgia: Butler has a very strong leg, I noticed it last year when I was scouting Justin Houston. He can really punt that ball a long way, and has a shot at getting drafted even though he had a pretty inconsistent year kicking for Georgia when I watched him.

3- Brad Nortman, P, Wisconsin: Nortman is a very good punter with a strong leg as well. He, Butler and Anger from the Shrine Game all showed draftable ability to me which is pretty rare for punters.

Austin Davis has had an impressive career at Southern Mississippi but he is an average NFL Draft prospect in my opinion.

Austin Davis, QB, Southern Miss: Austin Davis is a solid college quarterback that has been productive throughout his career but I just don’t see him being a future NFL starter without something considerable changing. His arm strength is average, his accuracy is average, he has not impressed me with his poise in the face of pressure, and while he does have mobility I don’t think it makes up for some of his shortcomings as a passer. He spends the vast amount of his time in a shotgun, has solid mechanics, but there is nothing spectacular about him. He may be draftable but if he is then he is going to be a late round pick in the 7th round range but I would not be surprised if he went undrafted.

Tracy Lampley, RB/WR, Southern Miss: Lampley is a junior playmaker on Southern Miss and has consistently made plays when they really need them most. He is only a junior so he should be back next year, but he absolutely dominated against Houston with 71 yards rushing and 125 yards receiving with two touchdowns. He has also demonstrated some potential as a punt returner this year with 350 yards and 1 touchdown on the season as well as an average of 12.07 yards per return. He is a smaller player at only 5’9”, 168 pounds according to the listing I have but he definitely has 4.45-ish speed. He’s very explosive and just has a knack for making big plays. He is definitely an under the radar guy to watch for his senior year next year for the 2013 NFL Draft.

Dominique Sullivan, WR, Southern Miss: Sullivan is a sophomore wide receiver on Southern Miss that I think has significant potential. He has impressive size at 6’4”, 208 pounds and even though he was behind two seniors on the depth chart he produced 27 receptions, 386 yards and 2 TD’s this year after barely contributing anything as a freshman. He is ready to step up into a go-to guy role in my opinion and will be one to watch as a junior next year. I don’t know how good his hands are yet because he had a solid catch in traffic on one hand but also dropped a pass he let get into his pads once and let a quick slant that was high but hit him right in the hands bounce off them and fall incomplete. He’s got upside but all his physical ability is worthless without quality hands.

Cordarro Law absolutely took this game over in the second half. He is a very consistently disruptive player, the only question about him is his lack of size.

Cordarro Law, DT, Southern Miss: Cordarro Law is an undersized defensive lineman as he is listed at 6’2”, 261 pounds but may weigh more than that. He is a pretty athletic defensive lineman, he flashed a nice spin move in this game, solid hand usage, and has been an absolute TFL machine this year. After this game I believe he will have 20 if not more on the year which is very impressive. He is very consistently disruptive due to his athletic ability, burst and quickness. I like his potential as a DT in a 4-3 scheme but if he is lighter than 280 pounds he is going to need to gain some weight because even 280 pounds is pretty undersized for a 4-3 DT. He has legitimate upside and while I’m not sure he will be a very high draft pick I have a gut feeling that he will be involved in a NFL rotation sooner rather than later. He’s got a good motor, solid technique and good athleticism. He can contribute at DT if he can add weight without losing the quickness that has made him so disruptive.

Lampford Mark, RB, Nevada: Mark is a player that I had never watched before tonight but he has impressed me. Is he the next Adrian Peterson? No, but I think he can contribute at the next level. He might not be a starting back, and he might not get drafted early, but I think he has NFL talent. He’s a 6’1”, 200 pound running back but so few people are talking about him that I can’t even find a listed 40 yard dash time for him. He was Nevada’s leading rusher this year and will finish with 900+ rushing yards on the season after another huge rushing game against Southern Miss. I really hope he gets an invite to an All Star game but even if he doesn’t I think he warrants some consideration as a UDFA. Maybe he won’t get drafted, but I saw enough from him tonight to think that he at least has a shot at the next level.

Rishard Matthews, WR, Nevada: Unfortunately Matthews did not play in this game but he is probably the top rated prospect that could have played in this game. He is listed at 6’2”, 215 pounds and produced 91 receptions, 1,364 yards and 8 touchdowns as well as 307 yards and a punt return touchdown (13.35 average per return). It’s too bad he wasn’t able to play in this game and he clearly had an impact because Nevada’s passing game really struggled to get going even with Mark’s fantastic first half.

Brett Roy isn't the biggest defensive tackle but he is strong, has a great motor and has such a good work ethic it's hard to doubt him.

Brett Roy, DT, Nevada: Roy is not a highly rated defensive tackle prospect but I think his combination of size (6’3”, 280 pounds), strength, hand usage and a very obvious intensity and motor will make him a draftable prospect. He wasn’t as disruptive as Cordarro Law was in this game, but he definitely had a significant impact. He seems to have strong hands and pursues well because of his motor. He could stand to add some more weight to get up to 285+ but I don’t think that will be an issue as it was announced during the game that he came to the Wolfpack as a 200+ pound safety and is leaving as a 280+ pound defensive tackle. Roy strikes me as a guy that isn’t the most athletically gifted player but his work ethic, motor and sheer effort level will lead him to a NFL defensive tackle rotation. He’s probably in the 5th-6th round range right now, but maybe he will move up if he performs well in an All-Star Game.

James-Michael Johnson, LB, Nevada: I haven’t seen much of Johnson but he has been invited to the Senior Bowl so assuming my credentials are good to go I will be able to see him in person in just a few weeks. He didn’t have a mind-blowing stat line this year as the 6’2”, 240 pound linebacker had 88 total tackles (44 solo), 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble and 3 pass break-ups. He’s a pretty solid player that is a mid-round prospect at this point but Dontay Moch was a mid-round guy at this point in the season also but shot up draft boards because of his athleticism. I’d be surprised if Johnson did the same, but his stock can still be boosted.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

1- Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
Analysis: Kuechly emerged out of Mark Herzlich’s heroic shadow this year thanks to an extremely impressive season statistically. Standing at 6’3″, 235 pounds Kuechly produced an astonishing 183 total tackles (11o solo), 10.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 3 INT’s, 2 FF’s and 3 pass deflections. He was hugely productive and he deserves this ranking as the top linebacker in the country despite only being a junior this season. The fact that he had 183 total tackles and 110 solo tackles as a sophomore is mind-blowing, especially considering that his 110 solo tackles would have tied him for 48th place in the country if every other players assisted tackles were included in their total. He also produced 158 tackles the year before as a freshman, demonstrating remarkable consistency from the start that makes me believe he will probably leave after his junior season. It also leads me to believe that if Kuechly stays healthy for his junior season it’s a safe bet he will end up with 150 tackles for a third year in a row.
2- Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
Analysis: Te’o has impressed me every single time I have watched Notre Dame and he has impressed me so much that it has led me to ranking him as the #2 ILB in the entire country. A lot of people may be surprised that Burfict or Hightower aren’t in this spot, but I think Te’o is a more cerebral player than any of those guys and that, combined with his 6’2″, 245 pound frame, 4.59 listed 40 yard dash time and 129 total tackles (64 solo), 8.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks, 1 FF and 3 pass deflections makes him quite the linebacker prospect. I can’t wait to watch more of him this year to see if he lives up to the hype I am giving him before the season starts.
3- Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
Analysis: Vontaze Burfict is an absolute beast at 6’3, 245 pounds and plays an extremely physical style of football. He produced 90 total tackles this year (54 solo), 8.5 TFL, 2 FF’s and 3 pass break-ups. I’m not sure he has the mental capacity to be a great player at this point, so while he is a great athletic specimen I don’t know that he will ever be a true student of the game. He has more than enough athletic ability to warrant 1st round consideration though.
4- Jerry Franklin, ILB, Arkansas
Analysis: Franklin has always impressed me when I have watched Arkansas and he has a pretty nice combination of size and athletic ability at 6’1″, 245 pounds with a listed 4.66 40 yard dash time. He produced 95 total tackles (58 solo), 13.0 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 1 FF and 2 pass break-ups last season as a junior. He is one of the best linebackers in the SEC which says a lot considering the great tradition of producing defensive players the SEC has. I am very excited to see how he looks as a senior this season.
5- Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Analysis: Dont’a Hightower first and foremost is a pretty impressive athlete. He is 6’4″, 260 pounds and he has great speed and strength to go with his impressive size. He is a very versatile player than can line up at middle linebacker on one play and then put his hand down and rush the passer in nickel packages the next. I don’t think he is very good in pass coverage, but he does support the run quite well. This season he managed 69 total tackles (30 solo), 3.5 TFL and 3 pass break-ups. I tend to think he is a bit overrated because of his lack of production both as an overall linebacker but especially as a pass rusher because he frequently rushes the passer as a blitzer or when he puts his hand in the dirt. He does get some hits on quarterbacks, but while he is an impressive athlete I just don’t know if he is cerebral enough to maximize his ability. We will have to see how he develops as a junior.
6- James-Michael Johnson, ILB, Nevada
Analysis: I will admit that I don’t know a whole lot about James-Michael Johnson and I haven’t seen him play much, but I do know that he has pretty good size at 6’2″, 240 pounds and a listed 4.68 40 yard dash time. Plus, he produced 88 total tackles (51 solo), 8.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 3 FF’s, 1 FR and 2 pass break-ups. I didn’t see him much last year when I was watching Dontay Moch or Colin Kaepernick, so I am looking forward to evaluating him for the first time this season.
7- Korey Williams, ILB, Southern Mississippi
Analysis: Williams is a guy I have not seen play yet but he has pretty impressive size for a linebacker at 6’2″, 243 pounds and has a listed 40 yard dash time of 4.65 seconds. As a junior last year he produced 92 total tackles (52 solo), 14.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 1 INT and 1 FF. I am looking forward to seeing him play this upcoming season.
8- Chris Marve, ILB, Vanderbilt
Analysis:
Marve is one of the best prospects Vanderbilt has had in recent years from what I can remember. Marve doesn’t have elite size, but at 6’0″, 230 pounds he has enough size for the inside linebacker spot. Last season as a sophomore Marve managed to produce 80 total tackles (45 solo), 8.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks and 2 pass break-ups. I am excited to watch Vanderbilt this year because I haven’t had much reason to watch them in recent years.
9- Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina
Analysis: Reddick is another talented player on North Carolina’s defense, and it seems that UNC has a chance to replicate the dominant defense they were supposed to have this past season prior to the suspensions doled out by the NCAA. Reddick has good size at 6’3″, 240 pounds and a listed 4.67 40 yard dash time. As a sophomore last season Reddick produced 74 total tackles (48 solo), 6.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 2 INT’s (1 TD), and 5 pass deflections. I am really looking forward to seeing what he can do with an entire season starting inside at middle linebacker.
10- Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford
Analysis: Skov may only be a junior but I think he could be one of the better linebackers in the country. He has impressive size at 6’3″, 243 pounds and a listed 4.65 40 yard dash time, plus he produced 83 total tackles (50 solo), 10.0 TFL, 7.0 sacks, 2 FF’s and 5 pass deflections. I am very much looking forward to seeing him play at Stanford this year as all eyes will be on Andrew Luck, but I’m sure Skov will draw some attention to himself with quality play.

Thanks for reading my pre-season inside linebacker rankings! Just two more rankings posts left before I get to some film break-down. The end is in sight! I’m excited to get a lot of film study underway, so hopefully either tomorrow night or Monday at some point I will be able to polish those last two rankings lists off. Thanks again!

–Tom