The Los Angeles Rams could be in the market for a true nose tackle to improve their run defense. Having one who can also provide pressure on quarterbacks by collapsing the pocket is an added bonus. P.J. Johnson can do those things. While not as talked about as guys like Dexter Lawrence, at 6’4″ and 335 pounds, Johnson can do a lot of the same things and likely provides better value. Johnson doesn’t have a lot of film, but the little he does have is impressive.
College stats and honors:
2018: 31 tackles, 22 solo, 8.5 for loss, 3 sacks, 1 pass break up, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble.
Career: 64 tackles, 25+ solo, 21.5 for loss, 8.5 sacks, 1 pass break up, 2 fumble recoveries, 3 forced fumbles.
Honors: All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention (2018), Academic Excellence Award (2018).
Johnson is incredibly athletic for his size. He displays good body control and strength at the point of attack. A stout run defender capable of shooting gaps and controlling the line of scrimmage, Johnson can be a valuable addition to any defense. He’s capable of handling double teams, even being triple teamed at times in 2018. He can push the pocket and shows good awareness. Johnson displays a nice swim move and can extend his arms to control blockers well.
Johnson is a versatile defensive lineman. He is able to play nose tackle or defensive end in a 3-4 or defensive tackle in a 4-3. Amazingly, he even lined up as an edge rusher occasionally for the Arizona Wildcats.
Johnson only has one year of Division I football under his belt. He previously played for Sacramento State and City College of San Francisco. He’s a bit of risky prospect because of the lack of tape. Johnson suffered some freak medical issues prior to playing at Arizona. At times, Johnson will get too high and negate his strength and body control. When he gets tired, he is less active in his rush and footwork can get sloppy.
Expected Draft round:
Johnson displays many traits teams look for in a good nose tackle that can flex out to a defensive end as well. His athleticism and awareness make him a dangerous player on defense. Though there isn’t a lot of film on him at the Division I level, what is out there is good. He can provide stout run defense as well as push the pocket on passing situations. He won’t go as early as Dexter Lawrence due to lack of name recognition, film and other factors. However, Johnson flashes the same talent that makes people love Lawrence and other athletic nose tackles. Johnson should be drafted sometime in the middle rounds, likely doesn’t make it to the sixth round. He provides excellent value for a team in search of an athletic nose tackle.
Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton