Rookie Spotlight: Roschon Johnson
By Dustin Ludke
Everyone is talking about Texas running back Bijan Robinson and rightfully so but there is another rusher from the Longhorns that you should know about. Roschon Johnson. As the backup to Bijan Johnson put up 554 yards on 93 carries and 5 touchdowns. He also added 14 receptions for 128 yards and 1 touchdown in his senior season. He comes into the NFL draft garnering some buzz and could be a late-round flyer in rookie drafts. He measured in at 6'0 and 219 lbs at the combine and is talked about as a sleeper in many rookie circles.
Johnson showed the ability to control his body and stay up and running even after contact. At 217 lbs. you would assume he is a downhill rusher and falls forward when hit. What we see in his game film is him breaking through arm tackles and continuing his run. He showed some great footwork on the sidelines in games. He was tough to bring down which led to him averaging 6.0 yards per carry last season and 5.6 yards per carry over his college career. He most likely won't see that level of efficiency in the NFL, especially if his workload increases.
Texas doesn't name permanent captains but it was clear that Roschon Johnson was a leader on the Longhorn's team. He even said so during his press conference at the combine. He talked about how he was a leader both in the locker room and on the field and was the only running back I talked to that added in that verbal leadership component to his answer. He was a four-year player at Texas which helped him win over that locker room. He should be able to do the same in the NFL. He is a selfless player willing to be a lesser star to help the team succeed.
Johnson came to Texas as a quarterback and switched to running back before his freshman season. Having the quarterback skill set allowed Texas to line him up and take direct snaps. He didn't throw the ball from that formation but ran option plays and often kept the ball himself and was able to pick up yards on the ground. He could provide that wrinkle for NFL offenses. He also played all phases of special teams while in college. That will secure him a roster spot for sure and lets him continue to impress coaches and earn his running back snaps.
Watching the film there were times that Roschon Johnson seemed to not have the best awareness of what was happening around him. While he is a good blocker he at times seems indecisive on whether he should stay in and help block or release and run a route. He did well with interior blocking and picking up blitzing linebackers but at times struggled to see edge rushers and pick them up in time putting himself out of position. He also at times didn't see players around him when running and ran into tackles that could have been avoided. He
Roschon is a big back yet at times he doesn't play like it. He often dances around and tries to juke defenders instead of running over them. Even when he does dance and try to juke he often just ends up either getting tackled or crashing through them. On inside the tackle runs he often waits too long for holes to develop instead of using his size to create space and his balance to break tackles. He tested well at the combine with a 10-yard split on his 40 time at 1.52 which was the same as Bijan. His weight adjusted 40 time was good as well coming in .04 faster than expected. The issue is he doesn't use that quick burst often and needs to hit the hole with a sense of urgency and pick up yards versus trying to make a big play every time.
Being the back up he didn't see a ton of work. He only had 93 carries last season and 392 total through his four-year college career. While he was very efficient on those snaps he just wasn't out there a ton. This could be a positive as he has less wear and tear but it more than likely means he didn't show the coaches that he could carry the load. He had plenty of opportunities to transfer but choose not to. Is that a sign he wasn't getting the vibe he would have a workhorse role at another university?
Player Comparisons: Alexander Mattison
This is more of a once in the NFL comp. Alexander Mattison is the guy that we all are still waiting on getting the lead role somewhere. He has played well behind a great back in Dalvin Cook during his time in Minnesota and when given the starting role has produced. For whatever reason Mattison can't get that role full-time for either the Vikings or another team. I expect the same for Roschon. He will probably go to a team that doesn't need him to be THE guy but rather one of the guys. Johnson should be able to carve out a slightly bigger role due to his versatility and he will then have to produce on the opportunities he has. He will be talked about as one of the best handcuffs and a possible future starter for the next five years.
Playing for Texas there are games against some top-level college teams. My favorite game from Roschon is probably against the lowest competition he faced in Texas-San Antonio. It's not the stat line that I liked. While he posed 11 carries for 81 yards and 3 receptions for 23 yards and a touchdown. In that game, he got 2 direct snaps showing his versatility. He showed balance on runs down the sidelines, once scoring a touchdown and the other he was able to pick up another 20+ yards. He made some quick decisions with chip blocks and others where he choose to go out for a pass. His pass-catching still left something to be desired but it was a decent showing. He also showed some good awareness in blocking setting up the key block on a Bijan touchdown run. It was his best statistical game of the year but more showed his different abilities and what he can do as part of an offense.
Los Angles Chargers
The Chargers have a great offense led by quarterback Justin Herbert. They have done well the past few years with Austin Ekeler at running back but that era is quickly coming to an end. It has been rumored that Ekeler would like to be traded. The Chargers have no real incentive to do so. They have been looking for that complimentary back behind Ekeler for some time. They have drafted rushers in the past but have failed to find that guy. With Ekeler being a pass-catching specialist they could use Johnson as the bigger back much like he was used at Texas.
The Cowboys let Ezekiel Elliot go and tagged Tony Pollard. Pollard did great last year both rushing and catching the ball. While I believe in the talent of Malik Davis he got very little playing time as a rookie. Roschon could slide onto this team and be effective. The Cowboys ran some plays with Zeke and Pollard taking direct snaps which could benefit Johnson. He would benefit from being behind a great offensive line that could open bigger holes for him. He would have a mobile quarterback who can get out of situations if he misses a block or two.
Kansas City Chiefs
First off who wouldn't be good on the Chiefs? They are a dynasty at this point. They have struggled to find that lead rusher in the past few years. After the failed Clyde Edwards-Helaire experience they seemed to have a good one in Isiah Pacheco. Head Coach Andy Reid has drawn up some great plays and different formations using players like Jerick McKinnon and Mecole Hardman. He could design plays that would capitalize on Johnson's skill set. Johnson would provide the Chiefs solid depth behind Pacheco and a great locker room presence.
Playing fantasy football for over 25 years. Dynasty player for 4 years. Always digging for those diamonds in the rough players. First guy on Isaiah Hodgins.