NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
Orhian Johnson is not a conventional NFL draft prospect. Although he was a contributing player on the Ohio State defense for each year of his four-year career, he never became a full-time starter, spending the past two seasons as the third safety behind C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant.
Given that Johnson was a role player for the Buckeyes, he won’t be targeted by NFL teams as a potential starting safety, but he could draw interest as a potential late-round pick as a backup safety who can be a role player and has the experience, skill and athletic ability to contribute on special teams.
I asked Johnson about his confidence on whether he will be selected on Day 3 of the draft.
“I feel confident because I went out there (at Ohio State’s pro day) and I weighed in at what I wanted to weigh in,” Johnson said. “I feel like I did everything that the scouts wanted to know from me and wanted to see from me, and I feel pretty confident in what I showed them.”
Johnson proved at Ohio State’s pro day that he has very solid measurables. Johnson has very good size at 6’3” and 215 pounds, ran a solid 40-yard dash in the 4.5-second range, and excelled in the jumps with a 38.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-10 broad jump.
Johnson looks the part of a strong safety, which would be his best position at the next level. He is a good athlete and solid tackler who can make plays on the ball.
Johnson said he doesn’t necessarily see himself in one specific position, but in his own evaluation, he believes he does many things well.
“I love roaming in the back end, and just reading the quarterback, playing on the ball, I feel like I track the ball well,” Johnson said. “And then I enjoy sometimes being down there in the box, in those clutch situations where it’s, you know, fighting for those first downs and you need to get a stop on third down. And I enjoy covering in man-to-man coverage.
“Regardless of where you put me, I’ll go out there and try to make a play,” Johnson said.
Given that he had to fight for playing time throughout his OSU career, Johnson said that helped him prepare for what life will be like at the next level, where he will have to be willing to accept any role and consistently fight for a roster spot, at least until he can establish himself as a key role player on an NFL team.
“I think just playing at Ohio State, you kind of learn to be a program guy and getting you ready to go into that, but I definitely just want to let (NFL teams) know that this is something that I love … something that I’ve been blessed with,” Johnson said.
Johnson did not receive an invitation to the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, but in addition to participating in OSU’s pro day, he also participated in the NFLPA Bowl. Johnson said that between those two events, two of the teams whose interest in him stood out were the Houston Texans and New England Patriots.
The Patriots appear to be set personnel-wise at safety following the signing of strong safety Adrian Wilson, as they also have Devin McCourty, Tavon Wilson, Steve Gregory and Nate Ebner at the position. Ebner, also a former Buckeye and a player whose primary role is special teams, may stand most in Johnson’s way of becoming a Patriot, as Johnson will likely play a similar role to Ebner if he makes it in the NFL.
Nonetheless, Johnson said he would love to be a Patriot.
“The closest thing I could see to it is kind of like one of those Ohio State programs but at the professional level,” Johnson said. “To be able to go out there and put on the jersey for those guys would definitely be an honor.”
Interestingly, Johnson said one of the players he tries to model his game after is Adrian Wilson, given their similar measurables (Wilson is listed at 6’3”, 230 pounds).
“I try to relate to all the great safeties who play, and then, I try to look at those guys who are closer to my height and my weight,” Johnson said. “I really feel like I try to take a little bit of everything from a lot of the top players in the league at my position so I really try to watch how Ed Reed plays the ball, I really like to try to watch how Donte Whitner fills in on the run … I just try to take bits of pieces from just one of those safeties and try to incorporate it into my own game, ‘cause I never really want to go out there and try to be somebody that I’m not.”
Johnson’s case with the Patriots as a potential seventh-round draft choice could be furthered by his connections, as OSU head coach Urban Meyer has a noted friendship with Bill Belichick and OSU defensive line coach Mike Vrabel formerly played as a Patriot under Belichick. That said, the signing of Adrian Wilson makes a Patriots selection of Johnson seem unlikely, but being signed by them as a priority free agent is a possibility.
If Johnson were to be drafted, he said it would “mean the world” to him.
“It’s something that I’ve worked on for so long,” Johnson said. “Putting all the extra time in and then trying to get to the next level, just accomplishing that goal would mean a whole lot to me.”