NAME: Isaiah Johnson
JERSEY: No. 14
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
WT: 195 lbs
Man Coverage – Maximizes length and strength to suffocate opponents early in reps. Has sufficient burst and great long speed, so as to attach to the hip and stay in phase on downfield routes. Initiates contact within the contact window and looks to disrupt route stems. Has the fluidity to stay connected through soft and hard breaks; was not often tested by multi-break routes. Can become over-aggressive into head fakes; will panic and resort to grabs to stay connected downfield.
Zone Coverage – Not often tasked with true spot-dropping zone coverage at Houston; often played in a deep third with match responsibilities. Profiles nicely as a kick-step Cover 3 corner in the Seattle mold given length, height, explosive physical traits, and comfort playing with eyes in the backfield and back to the receiver. Has flashed ability to adjust depth/leverage based off of backfield action/QB drop (v. Arizona 2018). Overlapping skills and general spacing ideas remain unproven.
Press Technique – In need of refinement, but illustrates promise. Tasked with two different techniques for the Cougars: two-handed punch and off-hand punch and kick-step. Does not maximize length, often stepping into WR at line of scrimmage and compromising balance with his over-aggressive attack. Must learn how to punch to redirect, not necessarily displace. Shows surprisingly quick and snappy hip flip for player of his size; can work quickly through recovery to phase when his punch doesn’t land. Crosses feet and oversteps often.
Footwork – Greatest point of weakness from a technical perspective. Takes frequent gather steps at the top of drops from off-alignments; issue exacerbated by long strides, which take time to land and length his click/close process. Feet are frantic and overzealous at the snap from a press alignment; in part due to technique deployed by Houston corners. Must dial back aggression and shorten side shuffle step length to remain balanced. Has balance issues in backpedal as well, leaving weight too far behind his ankles, and is accordingly vulnerable to hesitation/double moves.
Functional Athleticism – Wonderfully suited for the Seattle Cover 3 mold. Has arms for days and hands the size of Texas. Well built in the upper half, with the strength to squeeze receivers into the sideline and deliver a shot to force incompletions and make tackles. Hips are oils and feet are generally quick, giving him a full range of play from press and off-alignments alike. Has true long speed and makes admirable pursuit plays with a hot motor. Burst is a touch delayed but still sufficient.
Tackling – Runs hot and cold. Takes poor angles generally to ball-carriers when closing downfield; will surrender the outside and does not win with leverage as a force player. When running the alley, closes quickly into space and looks to deliver a strike. Benefits from a large tackle radius as a product of length. Guilty of coming high into contact, especially given height for the position. Will wait for contact to come his way, looking to catch-and-drag instead of initiate the tackle process in space.
Ball Skills – Surprisingly weak in this area given WR background (first two years of college). Does not have great instincts for the football’s arrival — will get caught with his head still on the receiver in trail position despite evidence the ball is soon to arrive. Too often turns frame into receiver instead of turning to locate and attack. Has not illustrated a high-point vertical contest on available film. Uses length well from zone coverage responsibilities to close down on throwing windows. Saw a decrease in PBUs from 2017 to 2018, but also saw a general decrease in targets.
Physicality – Like tackling, bit of a mixed bag. Generally disappoints in willingness to strike and disengage from WR blocks, despite the fact that he has favorable size at times. Too willing to work to a stalemate and look to catch-and-drag instead of shock blocker, disengage, and present a physical presence. That said, fights well in the contact window from a press alignment and looks to erase wide receivers into the sideline on outside releases. Will not get bullied downfield with size and is not afraid of contact, sometimes to a detriment (penalties).
Versatility – Offers great developmental upside in most techniques, though heavy Cover 2 teams who rely on off-coverage and quick closes from their corners should likely look elsewhere. Will be best for Seattle Cover 3 teams like Atlanta, San Francisco, Jacksonville, and Seattle.
BEST TRAIT – Functional Athleticism
WORST TRAIT – Ball Skills
RED FLAGS – None
PLAYER COMPARISON – Ahkello Witherspoon
VALUATION – Rounds 4-5
Isaiah Johnson is a target for teams looking to develop a starting corner for Year 2 or 3 of his career. Long and physical but impressively fluid, Johnson profiles as a high-ceiling man coverage corner who can win in the press and carry speed down the field. A WR-to-CB convert with only two years of corner play under his belt (22 games), Johnson’s foot discipline, ball tracking instincts, and press technique are all too spotty for NFL play in Year 1, but he has promising eye discipline and recovery quickness to survive in man coverage. At the Senior Bowl, Johnson must prove to coaches he is teachable, as well as test his quickness against college football’s shiftier senior receivers.