In terms of all of the things casual fans believe the NFL combine to be about, Kansas University linebacker Steven Johnson had a pretty uneventful Monday in Indianapolis.
In terms of all the things NFL scouts and coaches look for, it was pretty solid.
Johnson, who Monday wrapped up a four-day stay at this year’s combine, performed well in most of the agility tests and turned in average showings in the drills that have transformed the combine from an industry-only meat market into a fan-friendly extravaganza watched by thousands and scrutinized by even more.
In the three most popular events — 40-yard dash, bench press and vertical jump — Johnson impressed in just one of them. His leap of 36 inches in the vertical test placed him ninth among all linebackers at this year’s combine. In the 40, which he ran twice, he finished with reported times of 4.65 seconds and 4.78 seconds. None of the results available Monday night were official, but both times were slower than the 4.5-second range Johnson had targeted.
In the bench press, Johnson also fell shy of his goal, finishing with 16 reps at 225 pounds, at least four short of the 20-plus mark he was hoping to hit.
Although Johnson’s performance in those areas did little to improve his draft status, he likely helped himself tremendously on the field. Johnson excelled in most of the agility drills, finishing with the second-fastest reported time among linebackers in the three-cone drill (7.32 seconds), and the third-fastest times at his position in the 20-yard shuttle drill (4.38) and 60-yard shuttle drill (11.93).
Although NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock was not speaking specifically about Johnson during the broadcast, it’s clear that times like those helped Johnson’s standing.
“I don’t really care how many reps at 225 you do or how big and strong you think you are,” Mayock said. “The whole game today is movement skills. If you can open your hips and change direction, you can get on the field.”
During one drill, in which lateral movement was put to the test, Johnson lost one of his shoes while making an early cut but continued through the drill and finished strong by catching a simulated interception and running hard through the finish line.
“He’s running out of his shoes, fellas,” Mayock said at the time. “I think we’ll give him a pass on that one. Even Secretariat threw a shoe once in a while.”
Johnson, who was measured at 6-foot, 239 pounds, will return to Arizona to continue training and will be in Lawrence the week of March 11 for KU’s pro timing day, which is slated for 9:30 a.m. on March 14, when Johnson and a handful of KU’s other NFL hopefuls will go through similar drills in front of NFL scouts at KU’s football complex.