Storm Johnson was an exciting, playmaking runner that worked really well with Blake Bortles at Central Florida. Johnson only had this season to make a big impression before opting to declare and he showed impressive speed in the open field. He found ways to make a splash in just about every game that either set up points or scored them. Along with Bortles, Johnson entered the NFL Draft after the best season in UCF history.
For the NFL, Johnson has some exciting potential as an open field runner and receiver. The problem is he is really inconsistent working between the tackles, blocking and protecting the football. Johnson looks the part that can be a nice player at the next level, but he also has some fundamentals he has to improve to do it. As a result, Johnson warrants a late round pick and could end up going undrafted. The skillset is incomplete but he does have some ability that makes a good third back or a practice squad addition.
Vitals & Build
Johnson measured 6’ 209lbs at the scouting combine with 9 ½” hands. He has a strong build and impressive burst and speed. Johnson also has great feet, body control and agility. His strength is decent but he gets the most out of it with good habits as a runner. There is a good amount of physical upside as he could add a good amount of strength and weight to his frame that should not impact his athleticism going forward.
Storm Johnson is an incredibly inconsistent runner, because he is so special in some areas and really has some problems in others. As an open field runner, Johnson is really impressive and his sense of running to daylight is impressive. When he can go anywhere on a given play, he is so difficult to corral as he is simply not afraid to go anywhere on the field. He will cut back across the field, cut back, and anything else based on what he thinks is there and his track record supports him. Johnson has been outstanding in this area and improvised some runs into big, big plays and touchdowns.
Johnson has a number of issues when it comes to running between the tackles when it comes to vision and decisiveness. In the open field, Johnson is in the flow and is incredibly confident. Behind the line and trying to find a hole, he is uncomfortable, unsure and hesitates. The result is he ends up looking like he cannot see the hole and dances as a result, causing him to get hit for losses or fail to maximize plays.
Johnson has not developed enough of that mentality to understand he can get three tough yards enough. There are times he will do it, get behind his pads and drive, but far too often, he stops, waits for something bigger or goes against the grain of the plays. And as a result, he has too many negative plays, missed opportunity and leaves yards on the field.
Johnson is far better when he is able to take a stretch play, catch a pitch or get a pass to the outlet. He is far more aggressive and confident.
Purely as a runner, Johnson is terrific when it comes to pad level and natural lean as a runner. While his strength is relatively average, he gets everything out of it and can keep his balance and fight through contact at times. He also runs low despite being tall and is able to sink his hips when he makes cuts, showing the ability to make people miss as well as keep them off balance enough to run with power.
From a pure athletic standpoint, Johnson is impressive and he showcases a great deal of talent with the ability to take a few big runs per game. The problem facing Johnson now is he might break two carries over twenty yards, but he may have a half dozen for no gain or a loss because of his issues in the backfield.
Route Running & Technique
Johnson does a good job running routes that ask him to go straight into the route. Swings, out routes and some corner type routes, Johnson does a nice job and looks pretty good.
When it comes to release routes that ask Johnson to chip, it is a struggle. He has a really difficult time with knowing how to help really set a blocker up for success. Too often, Johnson simply struggles to hit the mark because he puts his head down and lunges. In addition to that not being effective in general for a blocking technique, it is more work than he needs to do. If he just gives a good chuck to help his teammate lock the guy down, he can release easily. It just never looks comfortable and is far more difficult than it needs to be.
In terms of catching the ball, Johnson is not afraid to the catch the ball with his hands, frames it well and is comfortable in that area. He makes a lot of short passes look like an extension of the pitch.
When it comes to Johnson’s hands, the issue is ball security. He leaves the ball exposed too much and there are simply too many times where he puts the ball on the ground. For all of his speed and explosiveness, he has to find a way to hold onto the football in order to get on the field.
Johnson struggles as a blocker. His technique is poor and the results range from bad to mediocre. The biggest issue Johnson has is that he puts his head down and lunges at the opponent. By not seeing the target, he makes it so they can simply throw him aside, but there are times when he lunges with his head down and misses the target completely because his timing is off.
Occasionally, he would sit down and just to press the block, but he needs to gain more ground to give the quarterback more room to operate in the pocket. Johnson does not seem to trust himself to do the job and far too often, it feels like he is guessing.
He almost needs to start from scratch in this part of his game. At this point, it is not worth leaving him in to block and he should always be sent on a route. The problem is that could be tough to do, because the defense can pick up on it and get to the passer. Johnson has a lot of work to do in order for teams to trust him back there.
The best setup for Johnson might be to have a lead blocker. By taking away the option, it might help him be more decisive and just have him attack the hole first and if an opportunity to improvise shows itself, he can do it at the second level. Beyond that, Johnson is best utilized going out wide whether it be handing him the ball or throwing it to him. There is some genuine potential in his ability to get the ball out in space, but it could take some time.
Johnson is best served to be the third back on a depth chart and at least initially, be a player that gets a few touches per game. If he can get better with his blocking and at least get better with his decisiveness and vision, there is some upside to be far more.
Johnson has some similarities to Isaiah Pead of the St. Louis Rams. Pead was drafted in the second round as an electric runner and athlete out of Cincinnati who could help on special teams as well. Like with Johnson, he has had some inconsistencies that have hurt him in his career, but the playmaking potential is there.
Storm Johnson has shown he can make plays and potentially change games with his open field ability and physical ability. He also can make plays as a pass catcher and really works well on the outside. Johnson has to improve as a blocker, has to eliminate the fumbles, and get more confident in between the tackles. The potential is there, but the fact he is he incomplete could see him be a late round pick or go undrafted. Someone will give him a shot and he will have an opportunity to shine, but he has a lot of ground to make up while learning a playbook.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com