OK, so this is as last-minute as it gets. I have roughly an hour or two to look at Kevin Johnson's film before I need to be back in court (people won't prosecute themselves for some reason).
With that said, there's no time for some fancy "introduction." Let's get down to brass taxes and talk about Kevin Johnson's film.
As always, the film being examined is coming via Draft Breakdown, a wonderful site. There are six videos available of Johnson, with five of them from 2014. I'll be watching those five. What I'm looking for in a corner is smooth hips, speed, quickness, ball skills, awareness, and the ability to mirror receivers as they go through cuts. I'll also keep an eye on tackling ability.
For starters, it's always going to help you when within the first few seconds of the very first video I watch, you show this kind of awareness and break on the ball.
Johnson plays that perfectly. There's really not much else to say. Also, it's a decent grab, which is something the current group of corners in Kansas City could take note of. While good hands are pretty far down the list of traits I look for in defensive backs, it certainly is a nice bonus if they can pick it off instead of simply swatting it down.
It has to be noted that a little later in this same game, Johnson was baited into trying to jump a route in similar fashion and got absolutely torched on a stop and go, which resulted in a pass interference when he simply grabbed the receiver on his way by (the smart play, by the way).
I think the best word that can sum up what it's like watching Johnson play corner is "aggression." I think I wrote it down about 12 times when jotting notes. He's aggressive jumping routes, he's aggressive in press coverage, he's aggressive when he tackles, he's aggressive when he goes for a contested catch. He's just aggressive in general.
And unlike many other corners, that doesn't just extend to when he's going up against wide receivers. Johnson at times lined up on the line of scrimmage (as if he was playing OLB) and showed a willingness to mix it up with the big boys. I'm not sure I'd seen a corner willing to take on an offensive lineman before, and Johnson did it more than once.
Johnson is a plus against the run for a corner. He tackles aggressively, runs toward the pile instead of away from it, and takes good angles to keep from running himself out of the play. Watching him play that aspect of the game was a lot closer to watching a safety than most corners. We all loved this about Brandon Flowers, and Johnson shows a similar attitude toward the run. He clearly understands it's part of the job.
In coverage Johnson's biggest plus is how aggressive he is in press coverage. He takes SHOTS at receivers and loves to keep his hands on them as much as he can get away with (and sometimes more, as demonstrated by the number of flags he drew at times). Receivers are knocked off their routes and slowed down by him pretty consistently, despite his relatively light listed weight.
On the minus side, Johnson is a little more lost when playing off man coverage. I'm not sure he has the speed to keep up with legitimate deep threats down the field (at least, he didn't flash the type of speed you see with a guy like Phillip Gaines), so he compensates by giving a little too much cushion. This results in some short completions that drive you nuts watching the film.
Johnson has more quickness than long speed when I watch him, which matches up with what he did at the combine. It's worth noting that while Johnson's 40 time is extremely underwhelming (4.52), he led all corners in the broad jump, vertical jump, 3 cone, and 20 yard shuffle. That's a great group of drills to be good in when you're a corner.
Johnson has solid hips and had no problems flipping them quickly to run with receivers down the field. Again, his major struggle in that area was pure speed. He's able to compensate with quick recognition and hips (so receivers don't get a jump on him) but he's going to lose a straight footrace down the field. That said, this could largely be compensated for by keeping him in press coverage, where he almost never got beat deep due to disrupting receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Johnson also demonstrates a good back peddle with nice footwork, which makes sense given his shuffle time.
Another very nice bonus for Chiefs fans is Johnson's seeming supernatural ability to sniff out and close on wide receiver screens. He jumps those particular routes better than any corner I've watched, and almost always makes the tackle or disrupts the play so much that it's over before it begins.
That's great news for Chiefs fans, who happen to face teams (especially the Broncos) who love them some wide receiver screens. I wouldn't hate to see Johnson ripping Emannuel Sanders apart on a play like that. I'm just saying.
Johnson isn't without flaws. As stated earlier, he's not particularly fast. You match him up with a speedster and he's in trouble if he doesn't win the battle at the line of scrimmage. Additionally, that aggression will lead to him sometimes jumping routes on fakes. Obviously that's a great way to give up long touchdowns. Finally, it has to be noted that the aggression I'm talking about has resulted in penalties and even an ejection in one game for targeting (yikes).
Overall, though, Johnson's strengths as a corner very much outweigh his weaknesses, and he's a borderline perfect fit for a defense that plays press man coverage as consistently as the Chiefs do. Yes, Johnson lacks speed, but he's certainly quicker and faster than Sean Smith, who has been able to do well precisely BECAUSE he's allowed to get up and manhandle receivers at the line.
Johnson has very good instincts for the game (often looked like the first player on defense to recognize where a play was going), good hips, solid quickness, and a punch when pressing wide receivers. While his technique needs refinement and he has limitations, he's a great fit for Kansas City.
Also, there's this.
You can add Kevin Johnson to the list of players I'd be perfectly happy to see the Chiefs draft tonight. He's a good player who should be able to help the defense immediately by providing solid depth and a guy who could likely step onto the field and play at least decently right away, especially if he's allowed to play to his really, really aggressive strengths.
(Note: ChiefsEnthusiast also has a draft crush piece on Johnson here.)