Coming out of high school, Isaiah Johnson was one of the top players in the state of Georgia and had big things expected out of him in coming to Tech. Those expectations only increased when he got on campus and played in every single game of his freshman season (starting three of them).
In that season, Johnson led all freshman in tackles with 46. His best game of the season came in his first start on Sept. 11 against Kansas, where he had nine tackles and recorded his first career sack. At the end of the season, Johnson was rewarded for his playing time by being named Freshman All-America, Honorable Mention.
The next season, Johnson became a starter and was one of the all-around best players on the team. His three interceptions were tops for the Jackets and good enough for tenth in the ACC, while his 78 tackles ranked second on the team.
Johnson recorded his first career pick-six against NC State that season. He also played a pivotal role against UNC where he recorded an interception and seven tackles. Johnson had another career game vs. Utah in the Sun Bowl, where he matched his career high with nine tackles and had 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Johnson was rewarded for his playing time by being named 2011 Third Team All-ACC.
In his junior season, Johnson started the first 13 games of the season before falling victim to an injury which sidelined him for the bowl game. In spite of missing the bowl game, Johnson still managed to lead the Jackets in tackles with 87. His lone interception of the season was returned for a touchdown. Johnson recorded a career-high 14 tackles against BYU.
Even though Johnson wasn't nationally recognized, he was recognized by the team and was awarded the Team Defensive Effort award.
The injury that sidelined Johnson for the Sun Bowl is the same one that kept him out for the entirity of the 2013 season, so the coaching staff decided to redshirt him.
This season, Johnson made the decision to return and begin work on a master's degree in buidling construction and played the full season, starting 12 of 13 games this season.
Johnson's best game of the season came against uga, where he led the team with 10 tackles, including two for a loss. He also forced a fumble from Nick Chubb at the 1-yard line. He also put a pretty good shot on Marshall Morgan when he faked that field goal. Johnson was again awarded for his efforts by being given the Team Defensive Effort Award.
Pro Day Results
|Height||Weight||40-Yard Dash||Vertical Jump||Broad Jump||3-Cone||Short Shuttle||Long Shuttle||Bench Reps (225 lbs.)|
|6'1"||202 lbs.||4.55||34 inches||10'4"||6.98 sec||4.13 sec||11.70 sec||14|
Had Isaiah Johnson been invited to the NFL Combine, these numbers would have compared very favorably to some of the top performers there. He brings prototypical safety size and with his 4.55 40-time and 124" broad jump, Johnson brings a lot of potential for explosive plays. The size-speed combination projects well at either spot, but something that could potentially hold him back is the 14 bench reps. The number would have been good enough to finish eighth, but personally, I prefer to have my safeties be a little bit stronger. With his speed and size, though, he should still be able to pack a punch with his hits as long as he can focus his force on his target.
Isaiah Johnson is the epitomy of a solid player. Just looking at his stat sheet, he is always there to make plays. It's no secret that Georgia Tech didn't really have a good defense while Johnson was here. The front seven was pretty rough, so the secondary was always forced to make plays that had the front seven done their job, they wouldn't have had to make. But Johnson did a good job of still being there to make the tackle, being towards the top of Tech's tacklers in every one of his seasons on the Jackets' defense.
This is one of my favorite attributes about Johnson. He's not the biggest or the strongest, but he does bring a level of physicality that elevates him to the player he's become. Johnson had two fantastic plays this season that illustrate it perfectly, and they both came against Tech's biggest rival: uga.
In this first clip, Chubb is running straight at the goalline and looks like he's about to score, but Johnson shows off his physicality and jumps over the line to stop Chubb in his tracks and force a fumble.
This one is a thing of beauty by Johnson. uga completely fools the entire defense with this fake kick, but that doesn't stop Johnson from chasing down the play and completely destroying Marhsall Morgan with a fierce hit.
This is always an important trait for safeties. From watching film on Johnson, I've noticed that on interceptions, he will sometimes have a tendency to tip it up in the air before coming down with it. Doing that shows two things: first, he has great instincts to get a hand in the way of the pass; second, he has good enough hand-eye coordination to stay on the ball and make the play. He had one of these plays against Miami this season.
Nothing overly special
The biggest thing I could find wrong with Johnson is that there's nothing overly special about him. He's a solid all-around player, but I don't believe he possesses the skills yet to start immediately. He is a good player, but I don't think he's an NFL starter quite yet, though he could certainly develop into one, albeit one that will be just that: an all-around solid player with nothing overly special, just solid.
It's difficult to find the right fit for Johnson since I don't see him as a starter. The truth is that he is virtually a fit for anyone who needs good safety depth. That being said, here are a few of those teams.
- New York Giants: These guys have virtually zero safety depth. There is need of both starters and back-ups here, so Johnson could be a fit here.
- Buffalo Bills: Aaron Williams will be fine at free safety, but Duke Williams is still pretty young, so Rex Ryan may try to look at Johnson as some solid competition/back-up.
- Chicago Bears: Right now the Bears have a gaping hole at strong safety. Johnson could fit into that spot and even if he doesn't start (which he likely wouldn't), he could still provide solid depth.
Isaiah Johnson is a good safety. He's a guy that will bring a high floor and at the very least be completely solid. The only real question with him is if he will be able to take it to the next level at the NFL. He should defintiely provide a team with solid depth, though, and if given a chance, could be a solid contributor at the next level. He will just have to put in the effort needed to show teams that he is willing to work for it.
Projected Round: 7th-UDFA