Some times, "potential" is a four-letter word.
While every player starts their career with that tag, carrying it over a long period means that a player has failed to make good on their talents. For a few years, Arizona State safety Keelan Johnson was in that category.
Then came 2012, when his impressive skillset converged with a maturing player. The end result was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection from CBS Sports. Johnson will now look to take his talents to the NFL.
Weight: 209 pounds
College Career: After redshirting as a true freshman in 2008, Johnson was a part-time reserve in his first two seasons, totaling 33 tackles and one interception in 23 games (with three starts). He really began to show his talents in 2011 as a key reserve, making starts at both strong and free safety and totaling 48 tackles with two interceptions and a sack. Became a full-time starter as a senior, and was named a team captain. He made 88 tackles, and his five interceptions were 11th most in the nation. Johnson made the game's critical play against rival Arizona, forcing a fumble that helped led an ASU win. Played in the East-West Shrine Game.
Strengths: An incredible athlete, Johnson has the measurables that NFL teams covet. He has good size for the position, and improved his 40 time from the Combine (4.54) to the mid-4.4s at Pro Day. He also had strong agility and explosiveness showings during the workouts, especially in the shuttle drills. He has improved in coverage, helping ASU to become one of the nation's best teams against the pass. He has a good nose for the ball and a knack for making key plays. Johnson has the raw athletic ability to play both safety spots, or, should he bulk up a bit, possibly a linebacker in nickel and dime packages. He also has a top-notch work ethic.
Weaknesses: While great strides were made last year, Johnson still has a long way to go in terms of being NFL-ready as a pass defender. He'll need to work on his recognition skills, and he can be duped on double moves. Johnson will need to ramp up his work against the run, his angles to the ball, and his consistency with his tackling technique. There remains a concern of getting swallowed up by the bigger and more physical blocking at the NFL level. He is still very much a work in progress, and will need continued refinement to his game and impressive tools.
Outlook: Based on his terrific athleticism, Johnson could be an intriguing developmental project at either safety spot while being an immediate contributor on special teams.
Round Projection: 6th - undrafted free agent
Bold Prediction: Indianapolis Colts, 7th round, 230th overall