Stock Report: Auburn Tigers' Kerryon Johnson catching eye of Heisman voters, NFL scouts

By Dane Brugler,  |  Nov. 13, 2017 at 5:01 PM
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A look at NFL prospects who helped and may have hurt themselves this past weekend:

Who helped themselves?

Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn, JR. (5-11, 212, 4.45, #21)

There is a list of reasons why Auburn knocked off No. 1 ranked Georgia, but Johnson belongs at the top of the list. The junior posted 233 yards of total offense (167 yards rushing, 66 yards receiving) and became the first player this season to rush for over 100 yards against Georgia's defense.

Johnson, who leads the SEC in rushing yards (1,035) and rushing touchdowns (15), is a slippery runner due to his lateral movement skills and quick decision-making skills, making it a chore on defenders to square him up and finish him to the ground. He is high-cut and long-legged for the position, but those strides allow him to accelerate in a hurry, reaching the second level before defenders can react.

Johnson has seen his workload increase since Kamryn Pettway's injury and he has responded well, averaging 30.6 offensive touches in the past five games without any signs of slowing down. Johnson might not be a NFL Combine marvel, but his running back-specific traits are why he has been so productive, including his patience to allow Auburn's dominant offensive line to do its job.

Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State, SR. (6-0, 312, 5.17, #91)

After a few subpar performances this season, Nnadi was at his best against Clemson, showing off a skill-set that might make him a top-50 selection in April. He is a mobile tree trunk in the middle of the field, taking on double-teams and clogging inside run lanes. Nnadi uses his natural leverage and upper-body power to engage, hold his ground and shed, quickly resetting his eyes to find the football and pursue. His smooth hips allows him to break down and quickly redirect in short spaces.

Nnadi finished with six tackles against the Tigers and, although he didn't have any tackles for loss or sacks, backfield penetration is not what he is asked to do. Similar to several of the Seminoles' talented prospects, Nnadi has had an up-and-down senior campaign, but the Clemson game film, which will be a match-up that NFL teams focus on, showcases his strengths for the next level.

James Hearns, DE, Louisville, rSR. (6-2, 249, 4.74, #99)

Against Virginia on Saturday, it was a game of threes for Hearns -- three sacks, three tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. The Cavaliers' offensive tackles had trouble slowing down his motor off the edge and even though several of his pressures could be attributed to the coverage, Hearns deserves credit for having the hustle and speed to get home.

He has the arc speed to get his inside shoulder past the outside shoulder of the edge blocker, but he showed a variety of moves in this contest, including an efficient inside spin move that flushed the quarterback from the pocket. Hearns is more of a straight-line athlete and lacks ideal change-of-direction skills to make tight turns, but his quickness out of his cuts allows him to elude blockers in space.

His strong hands on tackle attempts also stands out, punching the ball out on normal hits. Although he finds himself up-field past the quarterback too often and can be controlled in the run game, Hearns competes with the hunger and play speed that will give him a chance in the NFL.

Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma, rSO. (6-1, 220, 4.54, #24)

With Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon off to the NFL, the Oklahoma running back depth chart had a few question marks entering this season. Anderson missed last season after suffering a neck injury during preseason practice so while there was optimism he could play a role, there was also caution. He touched the ball a total of 15 times over the first five games of the season, but lately, Anderson has proven to be the most valuable member of the offense, aside from the Heisman favorite at quarterback.

Against TCU on Saturday night, Anderson enjoyed a career night with 290 yards of total offense, collecting 151 yards rushing (6.6 average), 139 yards receiving (27.8) and four total touchdowns (two rushing, two receiving). With his combination of size, athleticism and balance, Anderson was quick through the hole with the run strength to shrug off TCU defenders and the agility to make open-field moves at the second level. He also flashed soft hands to catch the ball away from his body with excellent hand-eye coordination to finish.

With 100-plus yards in each of the last four games, Anderson is heating up down the stretch and will have a NFL decision to make after his breakout second half of the season.

Who hurt themselves?

Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame, JR. (6-1, 219, 4.58, #3)

After dominant performances against USC (19-191-3) and N.C. State (27-202-1), Adams missed most of the Wake Forest game due to an illness and was completely ineffective against the athleticism of the Miami defense. He finished with 40 yards on 16 carries for a season-low 2.5 average.

To be fair, the Irish had no passing game and the normally dominant Notre Dame offensive line did him few favors, but Adams struggled to produce with limited opportunities he was given. His lack of speed to the outside really showed vs. the play speed of the Hurricanes' defense and even when the hole was there, Adams doesn't always show the needed urgency to attack expiring run lanes.

Adams has linebacker size and will bounce off defenders, but his lack of grace in short spaces also stands out, bouncing off his own blockers and disrupting the timing of the play.

Other notes:

--Wyoming redshirt junior QB Josh Allen (6-4, 233, 4.76, #17) put together a strong first half against Air Force on Saturday night, completing 8 of 11 passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns. However, he took a hard hit to his shoulder on one of the final plays before halftime and received treatment. Allen attempted to play in the third quarter, but after his first throw, he removed himself from the game. He was diagnosed with a strain to the A/C joint in his right shoulder and is considered a "game-time decision" for Saturday.

--Louisville junior QB Lamar Jackson (6-2, 212, 4.42, #8) had a productive outing in the win over Virginia and, after charting every throw, his accuracy was consistent with what we have seen all season. Against the Cavaliers, he was near perfect on throws 15 yards or less, delivering an accurate ball on 16 of 17 attempts (94.1 percent). On throws over 16 yards, his accuracy rating was only 40 percent (4 of 10), which isn't a terrible number, but scouts want to see that number above 60 percent (remember, those aren't completion percentages, but rather accuracy percentages). Bottom line with Jackson, he has improved with his accuracy and touch this season, but his deep ball is clearly an area that requires more work.

--Another polarizing quarterback prospect, Ohio State redshirt senior QB J.T. Barrett (6-1, 225, 4.52, #16) will be an interesting prospect to track during the process. I reached out to three NFL scouts for their opinion on whether or not the Buckeyes' all-time leader in total offense will be drafted. I received three varied responses: 1. "My gut says no." 2. "Probably, but not by us." 3. "Oh yeah, he's this year's (Joshua) Dobbs."

--Auburn senior RG Braden Smith (6-5, 303, 5.12, #71) had another outstanding performance in the win over Auburn, helping Kerryon Johnson have his big day. If not for Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson, Smith would be receiving much more attention as the draft's top guard prospect.

--UTSA senior DE/OLB Marcus Davenport (6-5, 252, 4.77, #93) continued his impressive 2017 season with 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack against UAB on Saturday. He now has 45 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles on the season and with his impressive tape, Davenport is making a strong case to be a top-50 draft pick. A positive week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl would continue to push his draft value higher and higher.

--Speaking of the Senior Bowl, several SEC prospects have received their invitations like Florida CB Duke Dawson (5-10, 208, 4.57, #7), Arkansas OC Frank Ragnow (6-4, 319, 5.33, #72) and Ole Miss DE/OLB Marquis Haynes (6-2, 225, 4.73, #38). And Haynes will be an interesting player to watch because he is somewhat of a pass-rushing tweener. He will likely play linebacker at the Senior Bowl, giving scouts a chance to see him in space and covering backs and tight ends.

--Another week, another noteworthy performance by Iowa junior CB Joshua Jackson (6-0, 193, 4.48, #15). Although it came in a loss, he accounted for both of the Hawkeyes' touchdowns with a pair of pick-sixes. In the last two weeks, Jackson now has five interceptions, accounting for 117 return yards, and the two touchdowns. His combination of athleticism, length and ball skills are the main reason for his production this season -- and the main reason why NFL teams will consider him in the first round of the NFL Draft.

--A pair of Division-II offensive tackles have garnered plenty of NFL attention: Humboldt State redshirt senior LT Alex Cappa (6-6, 305, 5.27, #71) and West Georgia redshirt senior LT Desmond Harrison (6-7, 292, 5.18, #68). Both have impressive tape, but the all-star game circuit is where they can truly boost their draft value, especially with all 32 NFL teams looking for offensive tackle help.

Dane Brugler is a Senior Analyst for, a collaboration between The Sports Xchange and Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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