Duke Johnson   RB   Miami

TALENT BOARD ROUND 4

STRENGTHS
Duke reminds me of the San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Matthews. He is not as big, but the style is the same. He is a spread offense running back who runs high between the tackles and has the speed to make the corners and sweep the ends. He is a “one cut and go” running back with good hands to catch the pass on check downs out of the backfield on third downs. Duke has the quickness to get up to full speed in a short amount of time, which is his best attribute. Duke is best running in space rather than using him to run through the tackles. He looks to be a hard worker and although he has had some injuries, seems to come back from those injuries with excellent mental strength to produce at a high level.

CONCERNS
Duke has had injury problems through the years that will affect his draft status. Also, his size will make most teams feel that Duke is not an every down back. That, coupled with his injury history will make some teams downgrade him on their draft boards. Duke definitely struggles with the physical stamina to carry the load, but the biggest problem for me is every time Duke is tackled he hits the ground with such force that he gets hurt more from landing than he does from the tackle itself. This alone will cause him to miss a lot of games. Duke also plays with one speed and lacks the bulk and techniques to block bigger players in blitz situations.

BOTTOM LINE
I have never seen a player hit the ground consistently and with more force than Duke does almost every time he is tackled. This is a vision problem. Duke does not see the tackle coming from the sides and does not feel it from behind. Like I said, he reminds me a lot of Chargers Ryan Matthews in this regard and Ryan has only made it through one season without a serious injury. Add to that his lack of bulk to take on this type of hitting and I think Duke will struggle to stay healthy at the next level enough to impact like he has at the college level. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a third down back and as long as Duke learns how to block blitzing linebackers, barring injuries, you could have an impact running back in a zone blocking scheme. For me personally, his lack of vision disturbs me and his ability not to absorb hits bothers me as well. I wouldn’t take him off my board, but I would be looking for higher rated running backs that have better vision and size before I would be looking at drafting Duke. I think you can find a cut and go back at any point in this draft who is bigger (has more bulk), possesses better vision and plays with more than one speed. Duke for the next level is a specialty back or third down back-- at least that’s how I see him based on film.

Drew Boylhart
JAN/2015