Over the past couple of decades, the NFL Draft has become big business, particularly with the move a few years ago to a three-day draft with Round One in prime time. The draft has become an event conducive to big parties and large celebrations.
It's safe to say that most teams conduct a draft party for their fans at their stadium or a local venue of some sort, and in turn, it's also safe to say that most of those events are flush with "jersey fans" and people hoping their team makes a big splash with a big name. The more recognizable the name, the bigger the cheer at the party. That's the rule of thumb.
As we learned four years ago, the fans' collective knowledge about (and subsequent reaction to) a player, though, is not a barometer for future success. Hell, Texans fans booed the pick of J.J. Watt. That's all you really need to know.
I feel comfortable assuming that the average Texans fan watched very little Wake Forest football last season, so when the 16th pick was announced last night, and it was the Texans selecting Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson, the reaction ranged predictably somewhere between boredom and frustration. (There was some booing, too.)
The average fan wants something he or she knows. Familiarity equates to sizzle. However, the Watt selection should've taught us all a lesson, and that is to wait and see a player, y'know, actually play before deeming him a failed pick. Instead, let's be the genteel Southerners we all know we can be, and let's get to know the newest Houston Texan, Kevin Johnson.
Here are ten things that will help you become familiar with him:
10. First and foremost, Kevin Johnson is NOT THIS Kevin Johnson, nor is he related to him...
This is super-important, because we all agree that we hate THAT Kevin Johnson. We now have a Kevin Johnson we can all root for!
9. Kevin Johnson was REALLY small in high school. According to reports, Johnson was tiny throughout his high school years. A self-proclaimed late bloomer, Johnson was all of five feet tall and weighed 96 pounds when he was a freshman in high school. He topped out at 155 pounds his senior year in high school, but was still a good enough football player to get offered a scholarship by a handful of big schools.
8. Kevin Johnson was actually a pretty good running back in high school. Johnson's high school résumé includes a senior year in which he rushed for 1,220 yards and 15 touchdowns on 137 carries, averaging nearly nine yards per carry. He led the county in rushing that season, and his high school team was 47-3 during his four variety seasons. It's not unusual for a star collegiate defender to have gotten his start in high school as a ball carrier, since generally speaking, the best athletes on high school teams spend time at running back. (Getting the ball to playmakers, and all that.)
7. Still, Kevin Johnson was only a two-star recruit to Wake Forest. For those of you who don't speak fluent "Rivals.com star ratings," a two star rating generally projects as a guy who will barely see the field at a big school and may be a contributor at a school in a lesser conference. Showing how imperfect these ratings actually are, J.J. Watt was also a two star recruit coming out of high school. (Also, Kevin Johnson looks like he's 11 years old in his Rivals.com picture. Late bloomer, indeed.)
6. Kevin Johnson missed the 2011 season because he was academically ineligible. In an odd way, this probably ended up helping Johnson overall. For one thing, it essentially functioned as a redshirt year, allowing him to stay on a fifth year through the 2014 season and grow for one more year physically. Plus, the whole "whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" thing. Johnson spoke about the year in academic exile on a media conference call last night:
"It was a time in my life where it hurt me not to play and go out and battle with my teammates. It definitely helped me mature as a man and helped shaped me to the person I'm trying to be today. Luckily, I bounced back from that, not luckily, but I bounced back from that and I'm just excited that the Texans drafted me."
5. Kevin Johnson's new teammate DeAndre Hopkins likes him a LOT.
@KevJr9 the best DB I played against in college and he was only a freshman
— Deandre Hopkins (@Nukdabomb) May 1, 2015
So, that's good news!
4. Kevin Johnson appears to have nailed down an endorsement from Tide!
— Kevin Johnson (@KevJr9) May 1, 2015
So add that to the list of "things in common with J.J. Watt" -- two star on Rivals, booed by Texans fans on draft night, and already loading up the endorsement machine!
3. Kevin Johnson fits Romeo Crennel's scheme really, really well. I'll leave this evaluation up to Greg Cosell of NFL Films, who talked about Johnson's skill set on a podcast recently:
"Kevin Johnson, to me, is maybe the best zone corner, in the sense of understanding route concepts. He's very, very smart. Very rarely do you see college corners come into the NFL with an understanding of pattern reading, formations, carrying routes and then passing them on -- those kind of things. He's really, really good at that. He certainly as the skill to be a press-man corner. He's not quite as comfortable at that right now, he needs to be taught, but he certainly has the athletic ability to do that."
2. The Texans LOVE Kevin Johnson's versatility. While on the surface it appears the Texans used a first-round pick on a player who isn't going to start for them this season (Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson are one of the top pairings of cornerbacks in the NFL), with so many teams in nickel-and-dime coverages for 70 percent or more of the snaps, Johnson will play even more snaps than many starters on the team. Texans GM Rick Smith mentioned Johnson's versatility as a huge selling point in their post-Day 1 press conference last night:
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"He was by far my favorite corner in the draft. When you talk about just a complete football player in our opinion, this guy is an intelligent guy, he's smart, he's tough, he can cover, he's versatile, he plays on, he plays off, he's got great instincts, and great play on the ball. In Indy, we really liked him in the room. We thought he was a good man and just enjoyed his career. He's another guy that has a career there. He's a three-year starter there. I just really like the way he plays football. He's got good instincts, so we just really liked him. He's a guy that we had targeted and were just really happy he was there."
1. Kevin Johnson's introductory press conference is at 1:30 p.m. today, and this will be his first trip to Houston! I'm always amazed how many players get selected by teams that outwardly had fleeting interest in them during the evaluation process. Johnson indicated last night that his only interaction with the Texans the past couple of months was a couple of meetings at the combine. They never flew him in for a meeting here in Houston. In fact, Johnson's never even been to Houston before in his whole life!
So if you see Johnson at the airport today, Houston, please be nice to him. Welcome him! Do NOT boo him. Just remember, you probably once booed J.J. Watt!