Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Get to Know 'Em: Trumaine Johnson

It’s pretty clear that the Vikings are either going to pick Matt Kalil, Morris Claiborne or trade down in the first round. So let’s take the draft analysis a step further and preview players the Vikings might take with their second pick. In case you’re wondering, I’m using my own instincts and the various mock drafts to select players to preview. So for all I know, these guys will all be gone in the first round, or will still be available when the Vikings draft in the third round. If it's the latter, let's all pretend this was a third round preview, ok? Thanks.
Previous Entries in the Get to Know ‘Em SeriesHarrison Smith; Stephen Hill; Alshon Jeffery; Rueben Randle

And the run of comparisons continues—this time, we’re looking at a defensive back playing at a small school in a rural state. After that description, I’d bet your first thought is—didn’t we see this movie already in 2008?  Yes, Trumaine Johnson has an uncommon first name starting with “T” and the last name Johnson, just like Tyrell Johnson.** Unlike Tyrell, however, Trumaine played cornerback in college and what that implies might make all the difference.  

**Where else are you going to get hard hitting analysis like that? That’s right—nowhere.

Standing 6’2 and weighing in at 204lbs, Trumaine Johnson is likely going to need some time to develop. Even though it’ll be a big adjustment going from 1-AA (or FCS) to the NFL, he possesses the natural talent and athleticism that should allow him to make the transition. Johnson started at cornerback for the Montana Grizzlies all four years he was in college and set a school record for the most pass deflections and interceptions in a career. Those stats help demonstrate Johnson’s instincts for the ball and ability to read and react to receivers’ breaks, especially in the zone the Grizzlies utilized. Also, his height and strength would be an especially useful asset in the NFC North where he’d be covering receivers like Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall. And while he’ll need to improve his ability to press at the line, he had success disrupting receivers routes while in college.

Putting aside the fact that it’s a large leap from 1-AA to the NFL, there are some other question marks that could cause Trumaine to wash out like Tyrell did. First, Trumaine might not have the speed to play corner in the NFL. He ran the forty in an official time of 4.60, although some scouts had him as fast as 4.48. If the former is more reflective of his speed than the latter, he won’t be able to keep up with NFL receivers. Secondly, Trumaine struggled shedding blocks in college. While he is strong against the run and finished fourth on the team in tackles, many of those tackles came from avoiding the blocker, rather than defeating the blocker. Finally, Trumaine had some character issues, including missing games due to eligibility issues and a run in with the police. While the former is more troubling than the latter because of the questions it raises about Johnson’s willingness to put in the work necessary to be successful, I hate raising these kinds of issues, since they are over emphasized and nowhere near as important as people make them out to be.

So is Trumaine going to be a sequel to Tyrell? A lot depends on whether he’s fast enough to play cornerback. It seems like he has the football instincts needed to be successful in the Vikings’ Cover-2 scheme, which Tyrell lacked, but he might not have the speed to be an impact player in the NFL. Good instincts can help compensate for a lack of speed and, if he gets into camp and can’t handle cornerback, Trumaine could move from cornerback to safety, where his speed won’t be as much of an issue. 


  1. There is never any perfect prospect, is there? I wonder what Ced Griffin's 40 time was at the 2006 combine? I'm not comparing Johnson to Griffin, but the knock on him was always that he wasn't the fleetest of foot. But he turned out to be a pretty good player until his knees failed him.

  2. Griffin ran a 4.51. The forty time is a proxy for speed (and how good a proxy is debatable) but a 4.6 is pretty slow when you consider that Calvin Johnson ran a 4.35, Johnny Knox ran a 4.34 and Greg Jennings ran a 4.42 (and most receivers are b/w 4.3 and 4.5)

    One thing I should have mentioned when talking about Johnson's size is how it'll be a big help covering the new breed of Tight Ends. I focused on how that helps him w/ Calvin Johnson, but it also counters the advantage of TE like Finley, Pettigrew and Gronkowski. That will be even more important as the rest of the NFL tries to copy that type of TE.

    1. We may also see a new rise of LB built to cover Gronkowski-like players. That would be a great thing to get ahead of the curve on.