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Who the hell will they draft 2008: East Carolina RB Chris Johnson

I never want it said that I don't listen to my readers and contributors. This profile one is for shake n bake, a man so obsessed with East Carolina RB Chris Johnson it makes my Adam Vinatieri man crush look tame. Speaking of Adam:

Ok, there. I posted it again. Don't tell me you didn't miss it. I rarely got the chance to post it last year.

Anyway, back to the reason I'm writing this: East Carolina's Chris Johnson. It's easy to see why shake n bake wants to bare Chris Johnson's children. Johnson is a very interesting prospect, and certainly fills two positions of need for the Colts: Return specialist and back-up running back. I'll elaborate further on the back-up RB role: What's needed is not just someone who can spell Joseph Addai, but who has a totally different running style. Dominic Rhodes ran the ball very differently in Indy than Addai did. Addai is a finisher with excellent vision and fluid movement. He's very similar to Edgerrin James, but has better speed and quickness than Edge. Rhodes was a "shifter," and looked more to dodge tacklers than run through them. Dom and Addai complimented each other well, more so than Kenton Keith did last year. Keith runs with a similar style to Addai, and I'm not sure they complimented each other as well.

With Chris Johnson, you get a very different back than Dom, K2, or Addai. What is immediately eye-popping about Johnson is his 40 time: 4.25. He was the fastest player at the NFL Combine, and his clocked time raised more than a few eyebrows. But fast 40 times can often be misleading. Troy Williamson is one fast mutha. But he can't catch to save his life, and that's not good for a WR. Johnson is a running back, and when I hear him referred to as a "poor man's Reggie Bush," I get a little nervous. Why?

Because Reggie Bush stinks, and I shudder to think of what a "poor man's" version of this loser would play like.

Running backs who cannot run the football are crappy running backs. I don't care about their 40 times, their hands, or their ability to make people miss. Running backs must be able to run through, around, over, and one top of other people. They must continue moving forward after first contact. It's like a QB who can't throw the ball accurately (Vince Young). Sure, he can run, throw deep, and has a "winner's" mentality. If he can't throw accurately from the pocket, he's garbage. But, I digress.

The question here is Chris Johnson a "bitch back" like Reggie Bush? Does he go down after first contact? Does he dance rather than run? Does he play better in space rather than in the alley? These are all legit questions, and the doubts surrounding these questions are likely to knock Johnson down to the late second round despite his tremendous physical gifts.

Is Chris Johnson tough enough?

Ok, I've spent the first few paragraphs comparing Johnson to Bush (and those of you with dirty minds, we are kindred spirits). The comparisons end when discussing their character. Reggie Bush is a whiny bitch who likely cheated NCAA rules and is hated by his teammates in New Orleans. His toughness is often questioned as is his desire to get better. This guy was supposed to be the best player since Barry Sanders or Gayle Sayers, and the Houston Texans were thrown under the bus for passing on him in 2006 in favor of Mario Williams. Today, Williams is the foundation for a very promising Houston defense and Reggie Bush is starting to look like the Ryan Leaf of running backs. To look at what kind of player Chris Johnson is, we turn to our friends at New Era Scouting. With Chris Johnson, you have someone who might not be a leader, but is most certainly a high character individual:

Character / Leadership Ability: A standup individual on and off the field. Not a trash talker. Not necessarily a team captain, but he did serve as a mentor to younger players during his senior year.
Ok, Johnson passes the first Bill Polian test: He's not a jackhole. But nice guys can also have a tendency to loaf a little bit, and when talking Reggie Bush, his laziness is always brought up. Is Chris Johnson lazy? Hellz no!
Competitive Nature / Work Ethic: Johnson has worked hard to learn multiple positions. He's clearly committed to the weight and film rooms. Known as a hard worker in practice.

Power: A lack of size hurts Johnson here. He shows the passion to keep his legs going. Johnson helps himself by staying low in his pads when he runs.

Ok, Johnson passes Polian test number 2: He isn't a dead beat. When you play for the Colts, you damn well better work hard, or a large man with a large forehead will walk over to your locker and eat you for lunch. Johnson's desire to get better has never been questioned, and he has the body type to add more muscle mass to his frame without losing his insane speed. He's very much in the mold of Brian Westbrook, and like Westbrook early in his career, Johnson can develop into a deadly weapon returning punts and kicks.

The 3rd Bill Polian test is versatility: RBs in the Colts' system must run, catch, block, and sometimes play special teams. Johnson passes this with flying colors. In terms of catching the football, he has WR-like speed and hands. He is actually a threat deep. He runs good routes and has the football intelligence to recognize and pick up blitzes. His lack of size hurts him in pass protection, but he (at the very least) understands how to pick up a stunt or blitz.

The only issue I can really see with Johnson is his hands. Some say they are too small, and will results in FUMBLES once he makes the transition to the NFL. If there is anything that Tony Dungy hates in this green world, it's fumbles. Now, Johnson did not fumble much in college, but as I love saying to Vince Young apologists: College is not the pros. Johnson will need to prove that he will not fumble when he's on the gridiron with players like Brian Urlacher, Justin Tuck, and Champ Bailey.

When all the reports are put together, and you get a total picture of Chris Johnson, it's understandable why people like shake n bake think the Colts should draft him:

Johnson is one of the top offensive weapons in this year's class. He has as a running back, wide receiver and returning kicks and punts. Runs with a good lean. A good character player but not really a team leader. Could possibly be converted to wide receiver. There is some concern because his only stellar year came his final year. He always flashed potential, though.
If he's there in the late second round, which several mock drafts think he will, the Colts will likely make a play for him. He has all the marks of a Dungy guy, and he would fill two big needs for the 2008 off-season.