As part of theRams.com's coverage leading into this year's NFL Draft, we will be examining each of the Top 100 picks of the Sean McVay era in Los Angeles. The series continues with a look at safety John Johnson III.
Before joining the Rams
According to NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein, Johnson first captured scouts' attention with a strong junior season at Boston College in 2015 when he tallied 63 tackles, 1.5 for loss, plus three interceptions and three pass breakups.
He followed that up with an even better senior season in 2016, posting 77 total tackles, including a team-high 56 solo, plus a team-high three interceptions, one sack, nine pass breakups, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. The Boston College defense finished that season ranked ninth in the nation in total defense (314.2 yards/game), second overall in sacks (3.62 sacks/game) and 10th in the nation in turnovers gained (27).
Johnson's performance during his final collegiate season earned him an invitation to the 2017 Senior Bowl, which also counted future Rams teammates and draft classmates Gerald Everett and Cooper Kupp among its participants.
Like Everett and Kupp, Johnson also received an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine that year. The Rams used the first of their two third-round picks on Kupp at No. 69 overall, then snagged Johnson at No. 91.
"He has decent size but won't be a banger as a tackler, however, his ability in coverage has NFL personnel men buzzing as a potential early starter in the league," Zierlein wrote on Johnson's NFL Draft profile.
It took five games into Johnson's rookie season, but Zierlein's prediction did come to fruition.
Johnson earned his first career start in Week 5 of the 2017 season against the Seahawks, recording three combined tackles, two pass breakups and an interception which he returned 69 yards. He played in all 16 games in his first NFL season, adding 10 more starts to his resume after Week 5.
In 2018, Johnson finished as the Rams' second-leading tackler with 118 combined and posted a team-high four interceptions. His first season as a full-time starter at safety was also highlighted by making the game-clinching interception against Saints in the NFC Championship to send the Rams to the Super Bowl.
Though he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in 2019 – a season in which NFL Media analyst Gil Brandt put him on his preseason list of breakout candidates at defensive back – Johnson is working to bounce back strong entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract in 2020.