I believe the Detroit Lions plan is to come away with the best player available with every pick in the 2021 draft and that approach led me to select WR Ja’Marr Chase (LSU) in the first round and IOL Landon Dickerson (Alabama) in the second. Now that we are into the third round, my strategy hasn’t changed, and this time it’s finally led me to the defensive side of the ball.
In yesterday’s fan poll of best available options, the overwhelming choice—more than double the votes of any other player—was Indiana safety Jamar Johnson.
Despite making my selection ahead of the fan vote, my view of the best available player lined up perfectly with the fan base and I also connected the Lions with Johnson at pick No. 72 in the draft.
This was an easy selection for me, as he was one of the players I considered taking at the top of Round 2 due to his ability to contribute at multiple spots in the secondary as a day one starter.
Understanding Johnson’s value in the secondary
The Lions have said they plan to model their secondary after the one defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn ran with the New Orleans Saints last year, and that means they need safeties who can play a heavy mix of Cover-1, Cover-2, and Split-zone concepts.
Here’s how the Saints split up their coverages last season:
#Saints— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) January 16, 2021
• Cover 1 — 31.2% (24th)
• 2-Man — 22.2% (1st)
• Cover 3 — 12.8% (30th)
• Cover 2 — 12.6% (27th)
• Quarters — 11.7% (12th)
Blitz rate — 29.2% (15th)
Here’s an example of the Saints running Cover-1 man with three safeties on the field in their Dime set:
If the Lions are looking to replicate the Saints secondary, they will need safeties capable of playing in Single-high (Cover-1), deep free (Cover-2), man-coverage in the slot, and in the box.
Tracy Walker is capable of playing the box but has said he feels more comfortable away from the line of scrimmage at single-high and free. Unfortunately, he struggled in man-coverage last season, which could be an issue moving forward. Will Harris has flashed playing in the box but struggled in man and deep coverage. Dean Marlowe has shown the ability to play free and in the box, but like the rest of the group, lacks the necessary man coverage skills.
Enter Jamar Johnson.
One of Lions’ general manager Brad Holmes’ favorite players he identified and pushed for the L.A. Rams to draft was John Johnson, who just signed a big deal with the Cleveland Browns. The first-team All-Big Ten safety from Indiana in this year’s draft is basically his clone.
Jamar Johnson is capable of lining up at single-high, deep free, man coverage in the slot, and is very comfortable in split-zone:
#Indiana safety Jamar Johnson (6-foot-1, 197) —— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) April 8, 2021
Has the traits to play multiple roles in a pro secondary.
Split-field range (below) — with ball production. Ability to cover down/match in space.
Can see the urgent play-style on tape. @NFLMatchup pic.twitter.com/3aN8HZtBNK
Johnson’s range and instincts allow him to make plays on the ball, regardless of where he lines up on defense. Last season, he had four interceptions in the eight games Indiana played.
Showed off some blitzing that game too! I first noticed Jamar Johnson in bowl game last year vs Tennessee— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) February 19, 2021
Tough player. Reminds me a bit of Desmond King pic.twitter.com/e9j0oqrvJM
Johnson’s talent level combined with the Lions' desperate need for a safety who can cover makes him a viable option for Detroit at pick No. 41. The fact that he is still on the board at pick No. 72 makes him a steal.
So how’d I do this round? Let me know by voting in the poll and commenting below:
What grade do you give the Lions for drafting S Jamar Johnson with pick No. 72?
This poll is closed