NT #99 Austin Johnson, Penn St.*

6’4” – 323 lbs. – 5.20e

Redshirted in 2012, then started two of twelve games the following season before taking over a full-time starting role as a sophomore, one which he reprised as a junior. Lines up at both defensive tackle spots in the Nittany Lions’ even defensive front; projects best as a nose tackle in a four-man front. Rotates off the field pretty regularly, although the team did leave him on the field for some obvious passing downs. Tall with a thick build which should allow him to hold up at the pro level sooner rather than later; however, overall length looks a bit shorter than what some teams with odd defensive fronts will be looking for. Despite his height, can get low and create congestion on rushing downs; has a good anchor to avoid being driven off the line of scrimmage. Draws double-team blocks, freeing teammates to make a play; at his best, can even create some movement when engaged by a pair of offensive linemen. Has very active hands and sheds blocks effectively; would be a good fit in a two-gap “read-and-react” scheme. However, negates much of his physical advantages because he isn’t a particularly instinctive player; ends up on the wrong side of the field too often, having guessed wrong or having been fooled by misdirection. Top-end speed is above-average given his size; gives good effort in pursuit and can be seen ten yards downfield at times, although he’s rarely in position to actually make a tackle in these situations. Will pursue tosses and sweeps to the sidelines. Primary value as a player is as a run defender; not a very consistent penetrator on passing downs. Generates plenty of power with his bull-rush, walking back some opponents into the pocket; however, lets his legs go dead at times, limiting his effectiveness. Rarely slips between two linemen; when he’s not relying on his power, works on some stunts without much success. Will get his hands up to bat down the occasional pass. A gargantuan nose tackle who would be well-suited to an even front which calls for two-gapping responsibilities, Johnson’s rare size and strength should make him an attractive choice for a team picking in the second round, even if he must improve his play recognition in order to put himself in position to make a play. While he’s not a particularly disruptive penetrator, he has enough strength and athleticism to stay on the field in some passing situations. Some teams may consider him a bit too tall to serve as a nose tackle in an odd defensive front, although he could get some looks for teams which favor bigger five-technique ends.

Games watched: Indiana (’14), Maryland (’14), Ohio St. (’15)

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