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NFL scout on Michigan CB Will Johnson: 'He has all the tools to be special'

clayton-sayfieby:Clayton Sayfie07/10/24


Could Will Johnson play on offense this fall?

Michigan Wolverines football junior cornerback Will Johnson has been a consensus pick as a preseason first-team All-American heading into the 2024 campaign. That comes on the heels of a breakout 2023 season in which Johnson was named first-team All-American by Sports Illustrated and a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection. He made 27 tackles, including 1 for loss and 4 interceptions, while playing most of the season at less than 100-percent health.

A former five-star prospect in the 2022 recruiting class, Johnson has been generating NFL Draft buzz since his freshman season. Before the 2024 draft, Pro Football Focus even listed him as the top cornerback prospect in the country “if everyone in college football was eligible.” But Johnson wasn’t eligible to be selected, of course, with only two seasons of college football under his belt. He could enter the draft after this season, though, and is expected to be a first-round pick.

ESPN draft analyst Jordan Reid wrote about contenders to become the No. 1 overall pick in 2025, listing five players as “serious contenders,” two “potential risers” and several “long shots.” Johnson fell in the “long shot” category, with a two-percent chance to be taken No. 1.

The rarity of cornerbacks going in the top 10, let alone No. 1, is a huge reason why Johnson will likely be chosen later than the first pick.

“We’ve never seen a cornerback being selected at the top of the draft (common draft era, since 1967),” Reid wrote. “So yeah, the odds are extremely stacked against Johnson. But if there were a CB who could challenge for that feat, he’d be a strong contender. In 2022, Derek Stingley Jr. and Sauce Gardner were picked with back-to-back selections at Nos. 3 and 4. Johnson is that caliber of corner prospect.”

Stingley and Gardner became just the 13th and 14th cornerback prospects in the last 32 years to be picked in the top five. In 2023, Devon Witherspoon joined them. There weren’t any cornerbacks picked until No. 22 overall this past spring, with Quinyon Mitchell heading to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Johnson impressed scouts last season at Michigan, making for building excitement heading into 2024.

“At 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds, Johnson has fluid hips, great ball skills and the ability to play a variety of different coverages,” Reid wrote. “Last season, he only allowed 14 catches into his coverage (0 TDs) while also adding four interceptions (7 total over two seasons). Plus, few cornerbacks come more battle-tested, as Johnson matched up against [Ohio State’s] Marvin Harrison Jr. and [Washington’s] Rome Odunze in 2023.”

The comparison one NFL personnel member gave was Patrick Surtain II, the former Alabama unanimous All-American in 2020 and first-team All-Pro selection in 2022 for the Denver Broncos.

“I don’t know if it’s the size, jersey number or what,” an NFC scouting director said, per Reid. “The kid looks like a direct replica of Surtain coming out of Alabama. We’ll see what he runs, but he has all of the tools to be special.”

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