2021 NFL Draft Profile: San Diego State S Dwayne Johnson Jr.
The Aztecs safety is one of three SDSU defensive backs in the running to be picked in this year’s NFL Draft.
How does Johnson Jr. stack up?
Dwayne Johnson Jr. signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent.
San Diego State safety Dwayne Johnson Jr. leaves the Mesa after two straight years as an all-Mountain West defender and as someone whom offensive players did not look forward to meeting on the field of play.
His physicality in the Aztecs’ 3-3-5 defense set him apart from his peers in the conference, but will that be enough for Johnson Jr. to get his shot at the NFL?
Height – 6′ and 1 3/8″
Weight – 207 pounds
40-yard time – 4.65 seconds
10-yard split time – 1.65 seconds
Arm length – 32 1/4″
Hand size – 9 7/8″
Wingspan – 78 3/4″
Vertical jump – 32 1/2″
Broad jump – 10′ (or 120″)
Shuttle time – 4.63 seconds
3-cone drill time – 7.35 seconds
Bench press – 17 reps
— Molly McManimie (@MolllyMack) January 11, 2021
Though he only spent two years as a starter in San Diego State’s five-man secondary, Johnson Jr. built a reputation for physical play which should translate pretty easily to the NFL. He led the Aztecs with 92 tackles in 2019, including 54 solo takedowns, which seems to gel with the consensus outlook that he plays like a “mini-linebacker”, according to The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, and does his best work, as Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline notes, when coming downhill toward the box.
To that point, Pro Football Focus also graded Johnson Jr. as college football’s second-best box safety in 2019. And before ascending to the starting lineup, Johnson Jr. also got plenty of work on special teams, which is a net plus for his chances to score a roster spot.
For all of the promise in his ability to defend the run, there are a few lingering questions about Johnson Jr. and coverage responsibilities. He has good but not great speed at the safety position and NFLDraftBuzz.com points out that could make him vulnerable in man-to-man and against double moves.
In the same vein, the NFL Draft Bible notes that “heavy feet” could be a culprit that coaching could iron out, while Brugler’s main concern regards what he deems “inconsistent coverage reads”. All in all, that could limit Johnson Jr. to being more of a role player than an every down one.
A strong safety/linebacker-type player existing in an NFL that increasingly relies on the passing game make Dwayne Johnson Jr.’s prospects a little dicier overall than they might have been a decade ago. On the other hand, safety isn’t particularly deep relative to other positions in this year’s draft, which could make him attractive to teams more concerned with putting him in a position to do what he does best.
Altogether, he’s on that razor thin margin between being a late-round selection and an undrafted free agent. If I had to guess, I think he gets scooped up as a UDFA in short order and gets his shot to impress over the summer.