In last weeks small school sleeper profile, we talked about WR Cooper Kupp from Eastern Washington. Kupp has seen his reputation as a sure handed receiver take off in a “meteoric rise”, and for good reason. His fit on the outside and inside for the Eagles offense is an obvious one, therefore making it easy to envision him in Philadelphia.
This week, we decided to do something different. We really dug deep into our giant bag of prospects and found a true “diamond in the rough”. Linebacker Dontaye Johnson, of little known Robert Morris University in Chicago.
Over the past four years, Johnson, has served as the preverbal big man on campus, on and off the field. This 6’0, 230lbs, monster, has the ability be a true difference maker in the NFL. Blessed with the speed to go sideline to sideline in a twitch, the athleticism to cover wideouts and the strength and vision to stop the run dead in its tracks..Johnson may be our most prolific sleeper yet.
We sat down with Johnson, in an attempt to get to know the prospect a little better. Needless to say, we only walked away more in love with the idea of this kid playing in Midnight Green.
We asked the Germantown, MD Native about his size and how some may see him as a “Tweener”. Combine that with his small school reputation..and it’s fair to say he plays with a pretty hefty chip on his shoulder.
“First of all, coming from a small school, you need to work even harder. You need to out-work everyone in the league. People have this idea about small school players, guys from lesser known teams, that scouts aren’t out here looking at us play, but we see them every week, and I learned quickly that someone is always watching you, so you have to outplay, out-work everyone, no matter where they play.
Most of the discussions I’ve had up until now with different scouts, have been about special teams. That they expect me to work my way on to a roster that way. I have had talks with scouts saying I could be a special teams stand out and work my up to a starting role. I think with my speed, and my willingness to thump, I fit well, in any special teams. I don’t care really, I will play anywhere! As a small school guy, this is what we expect, we want it this way, to earn our way on, we haven’t been given anything ,and so we are used to this. We’re used to being the guys fighting and scratching for the opportunities that some of the other Draft guys are getting.
As far as my fit in the NFL, I have been told because of my size and my athletic ability, that I could play any Linebacker position or even the Safety role.”
In a conversation with an NFL scout, We asked about Dontaye. What they saw was very reminiscent of Deone Bucannon. Pointing out his speed and coverage ability, as “Something that would get him on a roster, and keep him there for 10 years.”
Johnson continued to talk on his leaner frame and how it could actually be one of his greatest strengths.
“I know being a “tweener”, or considered a “tweener” guy, I will have to use my strengths to their fullest and so if I am asked to cover wideouts, tight ends, running backs, or whomever they want me to cover, I’ll do it. My ability is what has gotten me to this point, so why no? I need to get it done. If I need to use more finesse at the safety position and then be a lot more physical as a Linebacker, I will do it all. I think that is my fit, that I will out work and have the athletic build, ability to learn and put myself in the best situation to succeed.”
One thing that really stood out to us, about his skill set, was his ability to cover wide receivers. Not only did he cover them, he shut them down on most occasions. Johnson spoke on his coverage abilty one more time.
“I am very comfortable covering wideouts, any time they need me too I will. I spent most of my career, being that guy, always keep your eyes on the run, but understanding my job in coverage, reading offenses and what the receiver wants to do, I pride myself in my ability to read, understand and react to what the offense wants to do. No matter what it is and if it’s me one on one with their star WR, then so be it, I can handle the job.”
With the NFL becoming more of a pass heavy league every year, Johnson’s skill set comes in handy. His height, weight and speed may remind some of you of another Philadelphia Linebacker, Mychal Kendricks. Kendricks’ speed stands out, and it’s something that Johnson has a lot of.
The rumors have been spread about Kendricks and his possible departure. If they are true, this would leave another hole in need of filling. With his ability his football smarts and his willingness to sacrifice his body in the run game, Dontaye Johnson is definitely a small school gem, that could end up being a playmaker for the Eagles defense.