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The Vikings added more value in the third round of the NFL Draft by selecting Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson. Daniel House thinks he could be one of the most underrated players the Vikings selected in the 2017 draft class.
Updated: May 15, 2016 11:15 a.m.
By: Daniel House
video .gifs used courtesy of Draft Breakdown
By: Daniel House
The Vikings added more value in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by selecting Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson. Johnson, an Iowa product, will provide more depth in the interior of the Vikings' defensive line. Despite testing poorly at the combine, Johnson has displayed his strength and power in his playing style. He is light on his feet and can change direction quickly to get inside position on the offensive linemen. Johnson had the tendency to take some plays off at Iowa, but when his motor consistently ran, he was tough to defend.
He can play three-technique for the Vikings and provide stability alongside Linval Joseph. Jaleel will rotate with Tom Johnson inside and could eventually be more of a three-down player next to Joseph. There are a few aspects of Johnson's game he must clean up. First, it starts with his tendency to lunge. I saw him lunge forward, losing all of his ability to get leverage up front. In two games I watched, Johnson had trouble getting off of double teams in the running game. It appears it could be attributed to this lunging that crept into his skill-set. Johnson is light on his feet, but doesn't get a strong jump off the snap because he has a small flaw in his technique. He needs to stay low, but upright enough to fully maximize his light feet and power. I think this can be fixed with some work on his starts in training camp.
When Johnson can get a head of steam by using his superior hand technique and strong inside arm to get position, he's tough to stop. In the clip below, Johnson uses his inside arm and power to barrel through the offensive linemen for a sack. This is an example of Johnson using all of his strengths including, hand technique, light feet, power, and strength. There are certain portions of his tape where he is simply dominant like this. In other situations, his motor isn't constant and the lunging problem in his technique causes him to lose battles. However, it's something that can be fixed with coaching.
I love the way Johnson's hands and feet work in sync because it allows him to get the offensive linemen off balance almost immediately. When he establishes inside position, he wins the battle almost 100% of the time because of his athleticism and strength. If he can become more refined as a pass rusher and develop more consistent moves/footwork, the sky is really the limit for him.
He is entering the perfect situation to grow as a player with defensive line coach Andre Patterson as his mentor. Patterson has proven he can consistently develop young players into polished products (see Danielle Hunter). He has to be salivating at the chance to coach a player like Jaleel Johnson who has so much potential to be disruptive inside. Right now, Johnson hasn't really developed a plethora of moves. In the clip below, he wins off a bull rush with shear strength, speed, and inside hand placement. He didn't allow the offensive linemen to get leverage and got him off balance at the point of attack. When Johnson becomes a more complete player from a fundamental standpoint, I'm very curious to see his skill-set evolve.
Many people want to know how Johnson fares against the run. I would say fairly well because of his ability to peel off of blocks with his power and hand position. However, in the running game he struggles to take on double teams because of the inconsistent leverage issue I discussed above. He doesn't get a strong first step at times and it leads to an off balance base. He has the strength to fix this with an improvement in his technique. The clip below shows his ability to peel off a block and get into the gap to stop the rushing attack. He has a strong first step and gets inside to the point where his power can take over. This is the type of consistency he needs to provide in the running game. Johnson can change direction well with fluid hips and it allows him to shake off of blocks when he gets off the ball quick. His quick feet and violent hands are incredible to have in his skill-set. Now, it comes down to polishing his start, the footwork that comes along with it, and his lunging habit.
Overall, Jaleel Johnson has incredible potential to be a run-stuffer inside and a pass rusher out of the three-technique. The Vikings needed to find a player that could do both of those things consistently well next to Linval Joseph. I think they may have it with Johnson. However, in Johnson's first year, he needs coaching and will likely rotate inside to get reps until the coaches are confident he has mastered the technique. Rotating inside will keep him fresh and allow the Vikings to use his strength and power to gain interior pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The idea of having Johnson, Datone Jones, and Tom Johnson rushing inside is very enticing.
Johnson has the potential to be a three-down player next to Linval Joseph, which would be huge to get from a fourth round pick.
Looking back in a few months, I feel Johnson might be an under-the-radar player who is making an impact quicker than anyone would have anticipated.