UNI's David Johnson parlayed a stellar 2014 season into a trip to the coveted Senior Bowl. After rushing for 1,553 yards and 17 touchdowns as Northern Iowa's lone threat on offense, playing against heightened competition wouldn't faze the 6'1" tailback. He entered the draft conversation with his breakthrough performance rushing for the only TD for the South team in a 34-13 losing effort to the North.
Scouts and analysts took notice.
Very nice vision and patience from David Johnson. Would not be surprised to see him be used as a passing down HB/RB early, which is uncommon— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 24, 2015
Coming off the Senior Bowl, his performance at the Combine boosted Johnson's stock to an all-time high. Finishing in the top two in 3 of 7 combine drills for RBs, his athletic tools were evident.
McShay thinks NoIowa RB David Johnson could move from the 5th to 4th round following his impressive combine.— Dan Kadar (@MockingTheDraft) February 23, 2015
With the statistical data at UNI and combine results available, Johnson has several positives on his resume.
Let's break down what Johnson offers as an emerging RB prospect.
A running back predicated on speed, Johnson showcased a 4.50 40-yard dash at the Combine. The shifty scatback consistently finds holes and his second level speed creates substantial runs. With a fluid motion, Johnson is a challenge to bring down at 229 lbs. The enticing caveat that separates Johnson from other RB prospects is his versatility. Serving as the primary kick returner for the Wildcats, Johnson averaged 36.5 yards per return and a TD. He also finished second on the team with 38 receptions for 536 yards.
Johnson doesn't fully utilize his ideal build as a RB. He will occasionally break a tackle in space, but relies heavily on shiftiness and speed to evade would-be tacklers. In the trenches, Johnson is bottled up easily by the first wave of defenders. In an interview with Dane Brugler of cbssports.com, he referred to his pass protection as an area of improvement. Level of competition will also be a factor evaluating Johnson as the senior rarely faced FBS opponents. He struggled mightily in his two games facing FBS schools in 2014.
Johnson's ceiling resembles a bigger Shane Vereen of the Patriots. He will have to sell teams in the draft on his versatility as an every-down back, or a situational one, and a plus receiver out of the backfield. Currently, the notion in the NFL is being able to find RB talent later in the draft and David Johnson could be that gem fans recognize for years to come.