INDIANAPOLIS — Jermaine Johnson II credited his study of film from some of the top NFL edge rushers as a reason why he was able to become a top edge prospect at Florida State.
One of the players Johnson, a top DE prospect of the 2022 NFL draft class, watched most?
"Myles Garrett, Khalil Mack, I like Aaron Donald, obviously," Johnson said Friday at the NFL Combine when he was asked who his favorite pass rushers were. "People fear them, and that's what I want to be at the next level. I want to be feared."
Garrett was the first player that came to Johnson's mind because he understands how much preparation an opposing offense has to complete to stop him. Garrett broke the franchise single-season sack record in 2021 with 16 sacks and has lived up to the hype he received as the first overall pick in 2017. He's just four sacks away from breaking Clay Matthews' all-time sack record of 62 sacks.
Johnson wants to start his career on a similar note as Garrett. He's not projected to be picked first overall and isn't ranked by draft analysts in the same tier as Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux, the two edge prospects likely to be drafted before him, but Johnson could be off the board shortly thereafter.
He doesn't pay attention to rankings or projections, though. In his mind, he's always the best player on the field, and his 70 tackles, 12 sacks and abundance of quality film from last season with the Seminoles certainly provided a strong argument.
"I'm vicious, physical, and I will be on you the entire game," he said. "I don't give up, and I remind myself that I am the best player on that football field."
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Johnson believes his draft stock would be higher had it not been for his winding college career.
He originally started it at the junior college level at Independence Community College, a school that was featured on the popular documentary "Last Chance U" in 2019. Johnson wasn't a player featured on the documentary — he specifically avoided the cameras to ensure his focus stayed on football — but his 12.5-sack season helped him take a big jump to his next school, Georgia.
The Bulldogs, however, weren't the fit Johnson was looking for. His 6.5 sacks during his first two seasons weren't up to his standards, so he transferred again to Florida State and was able to thrive with the Seminoles as a senior because "they stuck me outside the tackle and told me to go get 'em."
Johnson believes the two transfers and having only one standout FBS season are why he's not quite as high on draft boards as the other top prospects.
"It's a bad stigma to go from the SEC to another conference," he said. "I knew what the stigma was and I knew what the perception was. I controlled what I can control."
Johnson can't control where he'll land in the draft, but he figures to be drafted early and has a shot of teaming up with Garrett, a player who shares Johnson's mentality as always being the best on the field. The Browns might need another edge rusher since Garrett is the only defensive end on the roster under contract through 2022, and they could look for one with their 13th overall pick.
Most mock drafts have Johnson landing in the middle of the first round, and both Ryan Wilson and Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports mocked Johnson to the Browns in their most recent versions.
So a team-up with Garrett is certainly possible for Johnson. It'd be the perfect scenario for him after watching the tape of the three-time Pro Bowler as he grew at the college level, and he'd welcome the chance to grow even more by watching Garrett in-person.
"It'd be awesome," Johnson said. "You guys have all seen what he did his first few years in the league. He left his mark, and he still is leaving his mark. To sit under a guy like that and learn from him, that'd be awesome."