Though the secondary for the 2019 NFL Draft class is a bit up-in-the-air in terms of playmakers beyond the guys at the top, one player who has the chance to really turn some heads during the draft process is Florida Gators defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who announced on Monday that he will be forgoing his senior season and will declare for the 2019 NFL Draft once the season is over.
CGJ, 6-foot, 205 pounds, has been a contributor for the Gators since his true freshman season. He originally got his work on special teams as both a tackler and a returner, but quickly worked his way into a substitute and rotational role as a safety during the 2016 campaign.
As a starter in 2017, Gardner-Johnson really struggled. As part of a regime that did not get much improvement and development from Jim McElwain's coaching staff, Gardner-Johnson often looked out of place and too reckless to be relied upon, especially as a last line of defense at the safety position. His tackling, which was suppose to be his strength at his size and speed, became one of his worst attributes on tape in 2017.
In 2018, however, things tuned around. Under a new coaching staff, Gardner-Johnson's tape showed much improvement. At a position that really was a hybrid between safety and cornerback, but really looked like what you would call a slot corner, Gardner-Johnson was able to show off his best traits in man coverage and when flying towards the ball. He was able to shut down opposing teams inside weapons, big or small.
CGJ's biggest sell will be his impact on the ball. He recorded three interceptions in his first season at Florida as a freshman, and had two interceptions a year in each of the following two seasons. He has also recorded nine tackles for loss and three sacks in 2018.
The Combine will likely do Gardner-Johnson well, and if people can look past his 2017 tape, his improved 2018 shows a player who could be a mismatch neutralizer with size and athleticism in the slot in the NFL.