Seahawks 2021 Rookie Analytics Deep Dive, Part 3: Josh Johnson

Matty F. Brown finishes his miniseries, looking at the Seahawks' 2021 rookie class from an analytics perspective. Sports Info Solutions' numbers highlight some exciting names to keep an eye on in Seattle.
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While tape analysis on the Seahawks’ 2021 draft class and newcomers will arrive throughout the offseason at Seahawk Maven, looking at the data also provides enlightening detail. Opening up the Sports Info Solutions Football Rookie Handbook 2021 highlights three analytically-speaking standouts from Seattle’s 2021 rookie class. Blending this data with initial tape observations leads to some interesting conclusions. Here is part three of this three-part miniseries.

RB Josh Johnson

Given that part one looked at D’Wayne Eskridge and part two covered Tre Brown, you are forgiven if you assumed that part three would study Stone Forsythe, who the Seahawks took with their third and last draft pick. In this miniseries, however, the final feature is actually undrafted free agent running back Josh Johnson out of Louisiana Monroe. The 23-year old Sun Belt product is the last Seahawks rookie to have featured in the top-10 of SIS’ various charting categories for each position, cropping up twice.

  • 23 broken tackles per 100 touches, tied ninth among running backs 

All but one of the running backs ahead of Johnson in the broken tackles per 100 touches metric were drafted, the exception being Washington UDFA Jaret Patterson, who finished fifth. It makes sense that Seattle was looking for a physical runner in Johnson, a back who, despite being 5-foot-9 and 208 pounds, runs physically and benefits from a thick lower body.

However, Johnson’s 2020 broken tackles per 100 touches number comes with the caveat of his senior season being a small sample size as a runner. Dealing with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and an eventual hamstring injury, he carried the ball just 88 times for 321 yards, averaging 3.6 yards per attempt and 2.3 yards after contact per attempt.

Thankfully, Johnson received more of the load in 2019 and performed even better. On 200 carries, he rushed for 1,298 yards at 6.5 yards per attempt and 3.9 yards after contact per attempt. His 27 broken tackles per 100 attempts would have placed seventh among running backs in 2020.

The tape shows a high effort, tough inside runner. Johnson waits for available creases and can access them with a jump cut move. He hits openings hard without hesitation and has very good pad level at contact, regularly falling forward in short yardage situations. In the open field he lacks breakaway speed and is forced to slash, where he lacks genuine open field moves with his feet - like a spin or a juke - but does look to swat tacklers down with an active off-hand.

Johnson’s decreased usage in 2020 as a runner was also due to him growing into a passing down role for the Warhawks.

  • 2.1 receptions per game, eight among running backs

Johnson’s reception total turns less impressive when you see that, of the 204 routes he ran in 2020, he registered 0.3 yards per route run and 2.7 yards per target on 20 total targets. This is because he was largely a checkdown option for Louisiana Monroe, running check-and-release outlet routes, swing routes, or chute routes.

The tape suggests there is more to be unlocked in Johnson’s pass-catching game, with him adjusting to balls well, catching with his hands, and comfortable with over-the-shoulder grabs. The year to watch for these traits is 2019, where Johnson ran more routes downfield. His total of 98 routes run saw him put up 1.4 yards per route run and seven yards per target on 19 targets.

What doesn’t show up in SIS’ charting is Johnson’s pass protection, where he was equally willing and effective. Not only does the film show him regularly picking up the right assignment, he is nasty in his blocks and features a strong anchor. ULM also utilized him in more pass protection schemes than you would expect from a typical college offense.

Johnson serves as a timely reminder ahead of the preseason. The spot each prospect is taken becomes less and less important. This is especially true for the Seahawks where, under the guidance of Pete Carroll and John Schneider, they've enjoyed great success with late-round and undrafted prospects. Their 2021 cycle of just three picks only accentuated this further, with greater importance placed on the Seahawks’ UDFA recruiting. Whoever stands out from the entire rookie crop, not just draft picks, will make the team.

Part 1: D'Wayne Eskridge | Part 2: Tre Brown

Permission to use the Sports Info Solutions data was granted by the SIS Vice President of Football & Research and Rookie Handbook Editor Matt Manocherian on May 22, 2021. You can purchase “The SIS Football Rookie Handbook 2021” here. It’s a fantastic read full of data, articles, and NFL-level scouting reports. Follow SIS on Twitter here and Matt here.