Greg Cosell Says Kevin Johnson Might Be The Best Zone Corner In The Draft

The 2015 NFL Draft will get underway one week from today and that means NFL Films draft analyst Greg Cosell is beginning to wind down his interviews. On Thursday, Cosell was a guest on the Ross Tucker Football Podcast, and he talked extensively about the top cornerbacks in this year’s draft class.

After first naming Trae Waynes, Marcus Peters and Jalen Collins as his top three cornerbacks in this year’s class, Cosell was asked to discuss Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson.

“Kevin Johnson I like,” said Cosell. “Kevin Johnson, to me, is maybe the best zone corner, in the sense of understanding route concepts. He’s very, very smart. Very rarely do you see college corners come into the NFL with an understanding of pattern reading, formations, carrying routes and then passing them on – those kinds of things. He’s really, really good at that. He certainly has the skill to be a press-man corner. He’s not quite as comfortable at that right now, he needs to be taught, but he certainly has the athletic ability to do that. But I like Kevin Johnson as well.”

One of the knocks on Johnson is his size and more specifically, the weight that he played at in college, and Cosell was asked to talk about that.

“He’s not short, he just doesn’t have a lot of girth, he’s slight,” said Cosell. “But it’s funny, when he played boundary corner, and he predominantly played the boundary corner in Wake Forest defense, which means he played to the short side of the field, and in college, that’s a very short side of the field. And there’s really three main responsibilities when you play boundary corner in college. You’ve got to be able to play man, you’ve got to be able to play the run with toughness and you’ve got to be able to blitz. He did all of those things, so its not that he’s unwilling to play a physical game, in fact, he’s very willing to play a physical game, it’s just that he’s not 205 pounds.”

At the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, Johnson measured in at 6-0, 188-pounds, so his weight is certainly going in the right direction. While his 40-yard dash time wasn’t eye-popping at the combine, Johnson did register impressive numbers in the 20-yard shuttle, three-cone drill, vertical jump and broad jump.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had plenty of representation at Johnson’s March pro-day, so it’s obvious that they’re interested in him. Should they ultimately wind up drafting Johnson in the first-round, or any other cornerback, it will mark the first time that position has been addressed that early since Chad Scott was selected with the 24th overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft.

  • Paddy

    Could he be the one?

  • Runner1967

    Cosell also said Jesse Williams would be the 2nd coming of Haloti Ngata. Like everyone else when it comes to the draft he is projecting what he believes and as usual that doesnt mean much. To many experts these days and to much noise. Even ones I resoect somewhat, for example; I listened to Mayock’s conf call. He was sloppy, sounded disinterested and frankly like he is going on his rep.

  • Yes, I like him too, just not more than Peters and not necessarily enough for the 22nd pick. That said, if Peters is gone, if Dupree is gone, and if OL guys like Collins and Scherff are gone, all of which looks to be quite likely, KJ could very well be the pick. As we saw with David Todd’s recent mock, there doesn’t appear to be much left for the Steelers if all those guys are gone, and indeed KJ may be gone too by the time the Steelers are up.

  • LucasY59

    I think Carter is also a Very good zone Corner and will only cost a 2nd rd pick (or possibly later?) I still hope they can get Dupree in the 1st and Carter and IEO 2nd and 3rd

  • steelburg

    Did you read the article above at all? What did he say that was a projection? He basically said that he liked Johnson and based off his college tape that he maybe the best zone corner in the draft. He also highlighted what he was asked to do in college and he spoke about his size. He actually never said he would be a good or a great player in the league. But I believe he will be pretty good he fits our system perfect. Like Cosell said he was asked to play some man coverage, play the run with toughness, and blitz all things we ask of our corners in Pittsburgh.

  • Rick M

    I place a lot of emphasis on games against quality opposition as that’s what he’ll be facing in the NFL. I just wasn’t impressed with his tackling and his possible tendency to grab (9 penalties in two years for 132 yards). His 2014 stat of 6 passes defended and 11 completions also seems like a bit of a flag, as does his refusal to do bench presses at the combine and his Pro Day. But like everyone else, I’m guessing and the draftniks know far more than I ever will. There are several people on this site who really like him, so if we go with him fine.

    On the flip side of the coin, I really liked what I saw when Orchard played Stanford and against a quality player like Peat. That certainly caught my attention and if he’s available in the second round, I sure wouldn’t argue against his selection.

  • kev4heels

    LOL…if you don’t think Mayock knows what he is talking about, I can’t help you. He is disineterested b/c he has done 95 conference calls in the last 2 months on the draft. He is the best in the business.
    No one bats 100% in the draft. However, Johnson is a very good prospect who is a film junkie, great click and close, smart, good zone and off-man CB with ball skills. His ONLY issue is his weight…which he has up to 190 lbs. I like him and would be fine with the pick.

  • kev4heels

    I like Peters too Michael. I do think Byron Jones is very similar to Peters w/out the character issues. And you are right – if the draft goes down like David Todd’s, we better look to trade down. lol….that is WORST case scenario for sure.

  • Ike Evans

    Kj, Alex Carter, and jacoby Glenn are the best taller zone scheme corners.. I think darby will be good in zone too… Senquez and stevie Nelson ball in zone also but they’re shorter cats…….. Trae and Marcus Peters ironically struggle in off coverage they are far better in press man… I think Peters would be better in zone quicker than trae because all of his issues in zone are technique…. Trae may not have the hips or the quickness to play zone right away

  • Runner1967

    Sure I read it and unliek some folks just because a draftnik posts something I dont blindly accept it. have you actually watched Johnson play the run? I suggest you do it is ugly. He played one, I repeat one decent WR going in this season’s draft and that a 3rd/4th rounder he struggled with. In the world of draft analysis it is very rare you find any of the draftniks that will come right out and speak honestly about players. They have a vested interest to maintain good relationships with teams they come from for the future. Cosell is no different. Johnson has weak as putty hands and will struggle with strong WRs in the NFL, so unless you believe he mirrors routes really well yes I dont see him as a first rounder at all.

  • Runner1967

    Yes sometimes I do believe Mayock doesnt know what he is talking about and gets plenty wrong. If you want to start a cult for him go ahead, I prefer critical thinking and actually taking a hard look at what he has said about this draft, and other drafts before making a judgment.

  • Rick M

    I was just reading that Wake Forest’s CB coach Derrick Jackson was an intern under Tomlin during his Tampa Bay days, so that probably seals the deal as far as Johnson being chosen at #22. Shazier was chosen partly because the Steelers have O.S. coaches at their facility in the off-season and they said he was a really good one. Richardson was chosen partly because Carnell Lake recruited him to UCLA and Lake felt he was a good one.

    Jackson was also the D-line coach for Shawn Lemon at Akron, and we signed Lemon in the off-season. If Johnson is drafted and he doesn’t work out, this is type of drafting where (biased) coaches that the Steelers know say their player is a good one had better stop. If Johnson is drafted and he turns out to be a good one, it can continue.

  • steelburg

    Do you not know that he played against Rashad Green, Martavies Bryant, Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins. If that isn’t top NFL talent I don’t know what is. Every Top corner in this draft doesn’t play the run well. When I watch film on corners I look for willingness to go after a ball carrier and not shy away from contact. For a player with a slight frame like him he definitely isn’t afraid to hit people and his body holds up to the punishment evident by him not missing games because of injury. He does need to get stronger and he does need to to get more consistent at tackling. He is a good fit for the teams system and other than Marcus Peters I don’t think there is another corner better than him.

  • JNick

    I enjoy this stuff, but I’m not listening to a conference call from a talking head about the draft. Yikes, how much free time do you have?

  • mokhkw

    I think the problem is that readers look at a college CB and compare them to a NFL star like Revis or Sherman.

    No NCAA player comes out ready for the NFL – everything is a projection. Revis had faults coming out and so do all of the CBs in this years draft.

    Question is not what they are now but what will they become.

  • Rick M

    I agree that all players have faults, and the analysis done by teams and experts seems really challenging. Gilbert was a top 10 corner on probably every board last year and he was ‘overwhelmed’ by NFL receivers. Meanwhile Kyle Fuller steps in and shines from Day 1.

    As for Johnson, if I had access to the film I wouldn’t spend a ton of time on the tackling issues as he’s 10-12 pounds heavier now and tackling techniques can be improved. But to have 9 penalties in two years when teams don’t challenge you all that much bothers me with how tight the game is called in the pros. That’s easily the biggest issue for me as we saw Allen be flagged 9 times in 8 games last year. If Johnson shows a tendency to clutch and grab too much in college, that will be amplified when he plays NFL receivers. Hopefully the Steelers have objectively looked at extensive tape and ruled this out as a concern if they take him.

  • steelburg

    I couldn’t agree more.

  • steelburg

    I understand your concern with the penalties if they are all PI calls I share your same concerns. But I would like to know what kind of penalties they are. Are they all PI calls or are some face masking, targeting etc.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    No he isn’t. Alex Carter is.

  • pittfan

    I agree!!! Wtf is this ?
    This is the type of nepotism you see in government. And we all see how well that works

  • Name

    At this time, the first round is over. Steelers now have Bud Dupree. The passed on Randy Gregory and so did the other 31 teams. Green Bay moved up to grab Shane Ray. The best CB left is Ronald Darby. Then the quality drops to Jalen Collins LSU and PJ Williams Fla St. Some one will grab Eric Rowe and the above probably before the Steelers. If none of these are left, When you get this far down the list you come to the 5’8″ and so on. Free Safety has the bigger men.Most of them will be available deep into the draft. Ditto For Strong Safetys. Landon Collins will be picked in round 2. I am writing in this post because there is no where else to comment. All the sports writers are Posting how good the Steelers did with their pick.None want any comments.