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Where Does Texas A&M DB Antonio Johnson Rank Among Early 2023 Draft Prospects?

After finding success in the slot for Texas A&M, Antonio Johnson is expected to be a high draft selection

As the NFL becomes more of a pass-heavy league, the importance of cover safeties near the line of scrimmage has become essential. It's why prospects such as Texas A&M defensive back Antonio Johnson might be one of the top secondary options in the country entering the 2022 season. 

Although the draft just concluded, it's never too early to plan for next season. Pro Football Focus has done its homework on the next crop of young talent and seem to be enamored by the potential Johnson brings to the Aggies' defense. 

In it's first ranking, PFF has Johnson as its highest-graded safety at No. 14. Only South Carolina's Cam Smith (No. 12) ranks higher among all secondary players. 

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In the past two seasons, Johnson has become one of A&M's top defensive players. He predominantly takes snaps in the slot as the team's nickel cornerback. In large part, that was designed by coach Jimbo Fisher to find a role for him on the defense as a freshman. 

Last season in 12 games, the 6-3, 190-pound defensive back tallied 79 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, five pass deflections, a sack and an interception. Of the 799 snaps recorded, 603 came from the nickel while 130 came from the strong safety position. 

For his efforts, Johnson was named to the second-team All-SEC roster. He also caught the attention of PFF, being named a first-team All-America defender. Fisher said this offseason that Johnson would see reps at multiple positions, including free safety for the departed Leon O'Neal. 

Johnson's game is similar to that of former Baylor defensive back Jalen Pitre. Relying heavily on his tackling skills near the line of scrimmage, Pitre led the Big 12 in tackles for loss with 18.5. He also recorded seven passes defended, 3.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions.

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Pitre served as the anchor for the Bears' defense, ranking 31st in yards per game in the nation and second in the Big 12. He was selected by the Houston Texans 37th overall in last month's draft. 

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Once again, the SEC dominated the early rankings heading into the upcoming season. Of the top 25 prospects, eleven hail from the conference that led the draft with 65 prospects selected. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and pass rusher Will Anderson, along with Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter round out the top three. 

LSU defensive lineman Jaquelin Roy (No. 4), Georgia tight end Arik Gilbert (No. 7), LSU receiver Kayshon Boutte (No. 7), Alabama cornerback Eli Ricks (No. 15), Georgia cornerback Keele Ringo (No. 19), Georgia pass rusher Nolan Smith (No. 20) and Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (No. 25) join Smith and Johnson, rounding out the top half. 

The Aggies open the season at Kyle Field on Sept. 3 against Sam Houston State  


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