Patriots: Forecasting C.J. Johnson in 2016
This is the 13th installment in a 17-part series in which we are forecasting what 2016 holds in store for each member of the New England Patriots’ rookie class. Today, we’re forecasting former Ole Miss linebacker C.J. Johnson in 2016.
Evaluating roster chances of every Patriots draft pick
The skinny: Johnson is the lone linebacker in the Patriots’ 2016 undrafted free agent class. He joins draft picks Kamu Grugier-Hill and Elandon Roberts as rookie roster hopefuls among the linebacking corps entering training camp. Interestingly, Johnson switched from defensive end to middle linebacker over the course of his college career because. He’s very fast and covers a lot of distance, but that 234-pound frame is head-scratching at a position that requires so much beef.
Pessimistic forecast: The good news for Johnson is that the spots after Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins are pretty much up for grabs. The bad new for the undrafted rookie is that he is but one fish in a large pond of linebacker tryouts. The likes of veterans Shea McClellin, Jonathan Freeny, Kevin Snyder, Rufus Johnson and Ramon Humber as well as rookies Grugier-Hill and Roberts outperform Johnson in training camp, and he is one of the first players cut.
Optimistic forecast: The Patriots find a use for Johnson’s speed and uniqueness as a middle linebacker despite his slim stature and he is one of the stories of training camp. Johnson pole vaults over fellow rookies Grugier-Hill and Roberts on the depth chart, becoming the lone freshman pro in the linebacking corps. Johnson also beats out vets Snyder and Rufus Johnson.
Realistic forecast: Most likely, Johnson will be cut before the end of August. It’s just hard to see a 234-pounder having much success at such a bruising position. NFL middle linebackers are mules (look at Hightower) and Johnson is not that.
Tomorrow, we’re going to forecast another 2016 undrafted rookie, Woodrow Hamilton. Johnson and Hamilton happen to be old high school rivals and then college teammates. Now, they are about to embark on a journey of a lifetime, a training camp in New England.
Next: AFC Power Rankings: Pats top post-draft edition
What do you think 2016 has in store for Johnson?