Oct 26, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes running back Duke Johnson (8) runs the ball against Wake Forest Demon Deacons linebacker Mike Olson (41) in the second quarter at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
This draft is stacked at the running back position. This year’s draft has every type of running back you would want, from 3-down backs to pass catching specialists. Duke Johnson from the University of Miami is a running back that can do a little bit of everything. He is a player that you will have to monitor during the draft.
Duke Johnson was productive right out of the gate by rushing for 947 yards and 10 TDs, while catching 27 passes for 221 yards and 1 TD during his freshman year (age 19). Johnson continued his productivity during his sophomore season (age 20) by rushing for 920 yards and 6 TDs. Johnson’s sophomore season ended early when he broke his ankle playing against rival Florida St. on 11/2/2013. Johnson was on pace to rush for 1,495 yards before he broke his ankle.
Duke healed up and came back strong during his junior season (age 21) by rushing for 1,652 yards and 10 TDs and catching 38 passes for 421 yards and 3 TDs. Johnson had a fantastic junior season. The impressive thing about Johnson’s college statistics is that he has 3 years of solid production, where most prospects have either one or two years of productions. When it comes to college production, Johnson stands tall amongst a lot of his peers in this year’s draft.
Duke is a smaller back at 5’9 207 pounds, which suggests that he may not be capable of handling a 3-down role in the NFL. Duke’s athletic profile is almost dead on with Cincinnati Bengals RB Giovanni Bernard. Both backs weigh in at the low 200’s, and they both run in the low 4.5’s. Duke’s 40-time suggests that he doesn’t have elite speed, but he is fast enough to be dangerous in open space.
Johnson does a lot of things well. He’s great at catching the ball. He’s going to be a valuable asset to an NFL team on passing downs. He is dangerous in the open field, and he has the ability bust out long gains if he gets the ball in the open field. He has is a very patient runner with great vision. He can make cuts on a dime. He has the ability to quickly move laterally while making his cuts, and he has the ability to regain his speed quickly after making his cut. Due to his superb vision, he can run between the tackles if he has to. He’s a hard runner, he runs behind his pads, and he initiates contact at the end of a lot of his runs. Johnson doesn’t have the build to be a 3-down back, and may face durability issues due to his size.
Johnson is currently being undervalued. There is a major possibility that he can jump draft boards in rookie drafts if he is drafted by a team that would use him appropriately in the passing game. Johnson is a mirror image of Giovanni Bernard, and he is going to get his bread buttered in the passing game. That being said, Johnson is going to have more value in PPR leagues. Johnson is currently valued as a late-1st round pick to an early 2nd round pick in rookie drafts. I like Johnson a lot, and if you are in need of a running back, and you are drafting in the back half of the 1st round, then Johnson could be a suitable option for you.
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