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A two-year starter at Iowa, Johnson often lined up over the A-gap or nose-to-nose with the guard, developing into one of the Big Tens best defensive linemen in 2016 became the first defensive tackle to lead the Hawkeyes in sacks in a season since Mike Daniels in 2011. After redshirting in 2012 and seeing limited snaps in 2013, Johnson was a key reserve behind Carl Davis as a sophomore and posted 11 tackles and 1.0 sack in 2014. He became a starter as a junior (14 starts) and recorded 45 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks, earning All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors. Johnson again started every game as a senior (13 starts) and led the team in tackles for loss (10.0) and sacks (7.5), adding 55 tackles to earn First Team All-Big Ten honors. He accepted his invitation to the 2017 Senior Bowl.
Johnson competes with the flexible body control and heavy hands to jar blockers off balance and be a homewrecker on the interior. His disruptive energy leads to unblockable stretches when the fire is roaring, but also takes him out of plays at times and he lacks the base strength to consistently hold the point of attack. With his active play style and fluid movements, Johnson projects as a three-technique with starting potential.
STRENGTHS: Looks the part with wide shoulders and thick hips/legs. Fluid movements skills and hip flexibility to work tight spaces. Extends into blockers with shock in his hands to push, pull and work off contact. Understands timing, length and leverage and his high school wrestling background shows on film. Generates force and works his way through bodies, driving his legs. Quick to find the football. Crowds gaps to close run lanes and force runners outside. Keeps his feet underneath him and stays off the ground. Rarely shuts it down, competing with a full tank to endure. Durable and plays through minor bumps and bruises, starting all 27 games the past two seasons.
WEAKNESSES: Gets himself out of control and loses sight of the ball. Allows his pads to rise once engaged with blockers, standing up and staying glued at first contact. Too easily moved by doubles and his base narrows, negating his anchor strength. Rush plan stalls out and needs to develop his counter measures. Shows a GPS for the football, but late to anticipate. Overaggressive in his mirror, making him late to pursue the backside. Needs to get better protecting his lower body vs. cut blocks. Might not have the scheme versatility that will appeal to every team.