The 2018 NFL Draft Prospect series breaks down draft-eligible players, highlighting their college production as well as their NFL potential. Daily fantasy players should know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
This piece is on Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson, who has declared early for the draft. For the total list of all players leaving school early, see our underclassmen tracker.
For more on all the other backs in the class, see our 2018 NFL draft running back rankings.
Updated as of Mar. 4.
Junior | 5’11″ and 213 Pounds | Born June 30, 1997 (Age: 20) | Projection: Rounds 2-3
Combine numbers: 40-yard: DNP | bench reps: 11 | 3-cone: 7.07 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.29 sec | vertical: 40 in | broad: 126 in
A top-five running back recruit, Johnson led his team to three straight state titles in high school and was Alabama’s Mr. Football as a senior. He played immediately as a true freshman at Auburn, serving as a change-of-pace and passing-down back behind Peyton Barber and Jovon Robinson, and as a sophomore he played the speed back role in a timeshare with between-the-tackles grinder Kamryn Pettway, rushing for 895 yards and 11 touchdowns and adding 17 receptions for 125 yards. In 2017, Pettway was suspended for the season-opener and then he suffered a string of injuries (ankle, heel, shoulder) that cut short his season, so Johnson assumed the role of lead back for the Tigers. Even though he dealt with his own injuries (ribs, shoulder), Johnson rushed for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns in 12 games, adding 24 receptions for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Despite being in a timeshare for large parts of his two final seasons, Johnson averaged 108.5 yards and 1.3 touchdowns from scrimmage per game over that time.
While Johnson was never considered the best back in college football — or even the Southeastern Conference — he was named SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 2017 and was wise to declare early for the draft. Productive SEC backs hardly ever see more than three years of college action, and the extra year probably wouldn’t have helped his draft stock. A young runner, Johnson is poised to join an impressive cohort of 21-year-old rookie backs to enter the league as second- and third-round selections over the past two decades.
- D’Onta Foreman (2017)
- Joe Mixon (2017)
- Tre Mason (2014)
- Le’Veon Bell (2013)
- Ronnie Hillman (2012)
- Dexter McCluster (2010)
- LeSean McCoy (2009)
- Ray Rice (2008)
- Maurice Jones-Drew (2006)
- Musa Smith (2003)
- Clinton Portis (2002)
- Ahman Green (1998)
A Day 2 prospect with good size and feature back potential, Johnson has notable patience, vision, and balance and has been compared by NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah (and others) to a smaller (and less-used) Le’Veon. While Johnson isn’t a prolific receiver, he played well in the passing game last year and didn’t allow a sack on 89 pass-blacking snaps (Pro Football Focus). As long as he doesn’t have a horrible 40 time at his pro day — he opted not to run at the combine, but his jumps were impressive — Johnson has three-down NFL ability.
Matthew Freedman is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs. He has a dog and sometimes a British accent. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he’s known only as The Labyrinthian.