To say that the Oakland Raiders came away with the “steal of the draft” is certainly getting redundant. It appears that the number of “draft steals” the team has come away with in the last two years would need more than one hand to count.
Fans and analysts alike can be very quick to label a player a steal. For example, the Raiders are considered to have multiple steals from the 2019 NFL Draft. The only issue is that these “steals” have not even seen the field during a preseason game.
To reiterate, the Oakland Raiders have drafted and signed many players that possess incredible talent, but for whatever reason, did not receive the attention they might have deserved. Some players are overlooked due to frequent injuries or off-field issues, but it is very rare to see a player overlooked due to lack of experience.
Teams overlooked Isaiah Johnson due to inexperience. The former University of Houston wide receiver turned cornerback stands 6’2” (taller than the average corner) and weighs in at 208 pounds (heavier than the average corner).
So, we’ll stop right there. Johnson is taller and heavier than the average NFL cornerback. If higher weight and height typically slow players down, how can he be a steal?
Not only is Johnson taller and heavier than the NFL average for his position, his NFL Combine stats follow suit in being better than the NFL average. Plus, Johnson ran a 4.40 40-yard dash, which is almost one-tenth of a second better than the average. In addition, Johnson’s three cone (6.81s) and 20-yard shuttle (4.06) both came in higher than the average. On top of that, Johnson’s vertical (36”) checked in at almost exactly average. Meanwhile, his broad jump performance (a drill used to test a player’s explosive leg power) seemed impeccable. The NFL average is 122 inches and Johnson recorded a 133-inch broad jump, proving his explosiveness.
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If Isaiah Johnson has this much talent, why was he available in the fourth round?
Thankfully, there is a very reasonable explanation for this: Johnson has only played cornerback for two years. Johnson entered Houston as a wide receiver with a track and field background and even used his redshirt year to workout with the team’s wide receivers. After finding little success as a receiver, someone had the idea to try Johnson on the other side of the ball. It worked out splendidly as Johnson would record 4 interceptions and 14 pass breakups in his first two years as a corner.
Pros and Cons
Johnson certainly has an impressive “football IQ” as he appeared to thrive at cornerback, due to his previous experience as the player trying to get past cornerbacks.
Players obviously have their negative aspects as well, and Johnson’s are exactly what one might expect. Johnson owns all the basics of being a cornerback locked down. However, advanced skillsets, like spacing or keeping speed with receivers, are still missing. Again, Isaiah Johnson has played two seasons at cornerback above the high school level in his entire life.
If all situations go according to plan, Johnson will not see much of the cornerback position during his rookie year. Expect him to be working out in specialized segments to get him ready. Also, do not be surprised if he spends more time on the sideline studying film on a tablet than watching what is happening in front of him.
Isaiah Johnson is a work in progress. Furthermore, if he can progress in his work, the Raiders have found their steal.