Antonio Johnson (S)

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/11/23

With many rookie minicamps set to start tomorrow, teams were busy today inking draft picks to contracts. We’ve compiled those signings below:

Cleveland Browns

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

  • DT Cameron Young (fourth round, Mississippi State)
  • C Olusegun Oluwatimi (fifth round, Michigan)
  • S Jerrick Reed II (sixth round, New Mexico)

Tennessee Titans

  • TE Josh Whyle (fifth round, Cincinnati)
  • OT Jaelyn Duncan (sixth round, Maryland)
  • WR Colton Dowell (seventh round, Tennessee-Martin)

Texas A&M S Antonio Johnson Declares For Draft

Texas A&M junior safety Antonio Johnson announced on Twitter this week that he will forgo his senior season to declare for the 2023 NFL Draft. Since the Aggies finished this year at 5-7, there is no bowl game to skip so Johnson has played his last game in maroon and white.

Johnson joined the Aggies’ 2020 recruiting class as a consensus top-100 prospect in the country out of East St. Louis HS in Illinois. Some recruiting websites had Johnson as the second-best safety in the class, behind only his teammate in College Station, Jaylon Jones. Johnson appeared in seven games as a true freshman, making one start. By his sophomore year, Johnson was a full-time starter, a role he continued this season despite missing the last couple games of the season with injury.

Johnson’s play at safety is not exactly based in coverage skills. The big-bodied defensive back can be compared physically to Ravens rookie Kyle Hamilton. Listed at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Johnson’s size grants him physical abilities akin to an outside linebacker from the safety position. Playing often in the slot, Johnson tallied two sacks, 13.0 tackles for a loss, four quarterback hurries, and four forced fumbles in his three years calling Kyle Field home. Missing three games, is the only thing that kept Johnson from leading his team in tackles, as well, though he ended the season second on the team. He’s a sure tackler with strength and range.

There isn’t much that draft pundits tend to agree on, but there seems to be a consensus with this year’s top draft-eligible safeties. From a group of evaluators at ESPN to Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus to Dane Brugler of The Athletic, there is a clearcut 1-2 duo at the top of each of the safety rankings. Everyone slots Alabama safety Brian Branch as the draft’s top draftable safety. Behind only Branch, Johnson is the next name on everyone’s board. Branch plays a much more complete safety, being much more active in coverage and even returning a punt for a touchdown this season, but Johnson has more length and size and can go toe-to-toe with Branch in run defense and pass rush.

Johnson is projected to be a late-first-round selection. With safety Jordan Poyer likely headed to free agency and Micah Hyde missing all but two games this year before next season’s contract year, the Bills are a likely playoff team who could end up with a need at safety around the time when Johnson may be coming off the board. The Bengals, who are currently pushing the Ravens for the division lead in the AFC North, will see both safeties Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates hit free agency, unless they can extend or franchise tag Bates before he gets there. Johnson may find stripes on his helmet if the Bengals find themselves making their selection among other playoff teams.

Johnson should find himself a favorable home this coming April. Whether drafted by a playoff team picking near the end of the first round or having a team at the top of the second round trade up because he fits their system perfectly, Johnson should be set up well for success at the NFL-level.