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NFL Draft Scouting Report: Austin Johnson, Penn State

Penn State's run stuffing defensive tackle Austin Johnson is profiled and evaluated for the 2016 NFL Draft

Austin Johnson – Penn State Nittany Lions

 

Position: Defensive Tackle
Height: 6'4-3/8"
Weight: 323
Year: RS Junior
Hometown: Galloway, NJ
Experience: 2-year starter

 

Measurables:

40yd dash: 5.32
Broad jump: 99
Vertical: 26
3-cone: 7.84
20yd. Shuttle: 4.75
Bench Press: 25

 

Career Notes:

After redshirting his first year in 2012, Austin Johnson became a fixture on the Penn State defensive line. He appeared in every game the past three seasons and started the final 26 games.  

Austin steadily improved his play and made more impact plays each year. In 2013 he finished with 27 tackles (3 tfl) and in 2014 he made 49 tackles (6 tfl). In 2015 Austin finished third in the nation among defensive tackles with 78 tackles, which also included career highs of 15 tackles for loss and 6 sacks. His most impressive play of the year might have been a 71-yard fumble return for a touchdown against SDSU. Austin scooped up the ball on the run, avoided a diving tackle attempt and took it to the house. That is rare for a nose tackle.

Johnson definitely benefited from being on a strong defensive line, including NCAA sack leader Carl Nassib at end. Most of Austin’s sacks came as a result of pressure off the edges, which forced quarterbacks to step up and then he finished them off. However, you can also say the same for Nassib because he had the benefit of Austin getting push up the middle. So, it is a little bit of a which came first scenario. Austin makes those plays because he does his job and is in the right place to make those plays. He will be one of three Penn State defensive lineman drafted, and most analysts have him rated the highest.

Johnson lines up in multiple locations in the interior of the line from a 0-3 tech.

Injury Report: 

Austin has not had a significant injury and he has started 38 straight games.

 

Career Stats: sports-reference.com

Analysis:

Against the Run: 4.1/5.0 Austin does a nice job of stuffing the run with excellent play strength. One-on-one he is almost impossible to move. He uses his hands well to control the blocker and moves well laterally down the line of scrimmage when pursuing the running back. On plays up the middle, Austin can spend too much time engaged with the blocker trying to wait and see which side the back will choose. I would like to see him be more aggressive and use his strength to move the lineman and remove the option instead of waiting and reacting. He handles double teams well and holds his ground on most plays but can get too high with his hands up on top of the blocker’s shoulder pads. He needs to work on staying lower and splitting some double team blocks.

Pass Rush: 2.9/5.0 Austin finished the year with a good sack total for an interior lineman, but he is not a dynamic pass rusher. His sacks come from hard work, persistence, and his excellent awareness. Typically, Johnson uses a bull rush. A guard and the center usually double-team him because when just one guy tried blocking Austin, he collapsed the pocket. This frees up the outside rushers, and as I mentioned before, Carl Nassib benefited from Johnson playing next to him in the middle.

Agility: 3.0/5.0 Austin carries his weight well. He has good short area quickness and good lateral movement for a man his size. He is able to move laterally while fending off a blocker without losing much speed. He makes a lot of tackles outside the hash marks. His quick play recognition allows him to play faster than his timed speed. He also shows tremendous endurance to run as much as he does.

Impact Play Ability: 4.0/5.0 Austin has an outstanding “Football IQ”. He processes plays quickly and reacts to disrupt the play before it has a chance to develop. He is often the first defender to react to screen passes and miss direction plays. In all the tape I watched, he never got fooled. Austin shows excellent hustle and takes good pursuit angles. 

Summary: Austin Johnson was a rock in the middle of a very strong Penn State defensive line. He knows his job and he does it well. His excellent play recognition allows him to disrupt plays behind the line of scrimmage and record a high tackle count for an interior lineman. He has improved each year, so that’s a good indication he is coachable and the trend should continue at the next level. Johnson shows great hustle for a man his size and he never takes a play off. With his strength and football IQ he should make a solid starter in the NFL.

Overall Grade: 3.5/5.0  

 

If drafted by the Packers:

The Packers have resigned Letroy Guion, but BJ Raji just announced he is retiring, for 2016 anyway. Also, third year pro, Mike Pennel, will be suspended for the first four games of the season, so that makes the Packers depth chart a little thin at nose tackle. Luckily, this is a strong draft for defensive linemen. The Packers will have plenty of options to choose from in the first couple rounds.

Austin Johnson is universally ranked in the mid-30s among all prospects but only the 5th or 6th best nose tackle in a deep draft. He is projected to go somewhere in the second or third round. Because this draft is so deep, it would allow the Packers to pick a player at a position with less depth in the first round and get a great value a round or two later by picking Johnson. Austin is built similarly to Guion, and like Letroy, he is strong against the run. Austin plays fundamentally sound in the middle of the defense. He holds his rush lane and doesn't open up huge holes for the running back to exploit up the middle. He won’t provide a lot of pass rush, but he will eat up blockers and get an inside push which helps the guys on the outside.

 

Video:

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Comments (4)

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dobber's picture

March 23, 2016 at 01:52 pm

Thanks for getting back to the draft pieces and away from the "oh woe is us, TT" pieces.

Really like this guy. The kind of workmanlike player in the trenches you build a team around.

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 23, 2016 at 02:14 pm

possibly a NT replacement for Raji?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 27, 2016 at 03:06 am

He looks good, but I don't see a 1st round talent here. He certainly holds his ground, but is late disengaging. He does not allow himself to be moved out of his gap, but sometimes leaves it voluntarily. Part of that is he does have good recognition skills, but over-pursues at times. Very limited COD. Very good motor. Consistently late off the snap. NT only. He'd be good value at #57, and excellent value if he lasted into the 3rd.

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dobber's picture

March 27, 2016 at 05:45 am

"NT only. He'd be good value at #57, and excellent value if he lasted into the 3rd."

Has the length that some teams might use him in 3-4 as a run-down DE, but I agree with your assessment of his value. A guy who could be a red-chip if used properly, but not likely to ever be more than that. Something about him reminds me of Chester McGlockton...but he was pretty quick for a big guy.

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