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Johnson II Provides Great Value for Jets

By Dave Holcomb
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Dave Holcomb talks the New York Jets drafting Jermaine Johnson II late in the first round.

There’s no denying seeing your name remain on draft boards longer than expected is frustrating.

At best, it’s disheartening. At worst, it’s embarrassing.

Arguably, no one went through that process longer than Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II. The draft experts at ESPN ranked Johnson the No. 14 overall player in the 2022 NFL Draft, but he fell all the way to the bottom third of the first round.

Johnson’s wait finally ended when the New York Jets traded back into the first round to select him at 26th overall.

While the wait was certainly longer than he wanted, dropping to become a late pick on Day 1 should take pressure off Johnson. The Jets could also be receiving a player with a chip on his shoulder from the fact other teams chose other pass rushers and defenders instead.

Johnson could prove to provide the most value of any selection in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

“He fell down the board a lot further than most people thought,” wrote NFL draft analyst Pete Prisco of CBS Sports.

“He is a late bloomer, but he will continue to get better.”

Because he developed into a star later in his college career, draft night was not the first time Johnson could have felt unwanted.

Coming out of high school, Johnson didn’t qualify academically. So by default, no top football program could want the Twins Cities metro area prospect even if they did secretly desire his football skills.

At Independence Community College, Johnson recorded 12.5 sacks and worked on his academics. As one of the top JUCO prospects, he transferred to Georgia, where he played very well as a reserve pass rusher in 2020.

But Johnson wanted more playing time, so he transferred again to Florida State. Tallahassee was the perfect location, as the Seminoles provided him the opportunity to shine.

In 2021, Johnson posted 70 total tackles, including 17.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hurries, two pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He led the Seminoles in sacks and tackles for loss while also finishing second on the team in total tackles.

With speed and power, Johnson projects to be an impactful player at the next level as well.

“Johnson is a long pass-rusher with good first-step quickness and outstanding closing speed,” draft analyst Steve Muench of ESPN wrote. “His feet and hands – and how he uses them in unison – stand out on tape.

“He’s a stout run defender who plays with good leverage and has the upper body strength to keep blockers off his frame.”

Muench added that Johnson continued to play hard towards the end of last season despite the fact Florida State players had little motivation to win.

There should be plenty of motivation for Johnson as he enters the NFL. He’s in an interesting situation as a player who fell in the first round but to a team that traded up to acquire a third first-round pick to get him.

The Jets would love a motivated Johnson. New York finished tied for 25th with 33 sacks last season. Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers were tied for the team lead with six sacks each.

If Johnson does continue to get better, he will be that elite pass rusher the Jets have been lacking over the last few years. The Jets haven’t had a rusher reach a double-digit sack total since Muhammad Wilkerson in 2015.

Johnson has the potential to be not only the best pass rusher for the Jets but the top edge player from the 2022 draft class. Not bad for the No. 26 overall selection.