Mar/24/15 09:25 PM Filed in: Duke Johnson
Simply put, Miami running back Duke Johnson questions those who question him.
Johnson (5-foot-9, 207 pounds) left UM after his junior season, already holding the school's career rushing mark with 3,519 yards. He also had 14 career 100-yard games, tying him with Edgerrin James and Clinton Portis for the most in school history. Despite his production and high-level receiving ability, Johnson has been knocked because of his size and durability.
He often has said he is short, not small. But the durability thing? That irritates him.
"I think it's a joke," Johnson told the Charlotte Observer. "I had a freak injury. I broke my ankle once, and that was the only time I missed a game (he missed five games as a sophomore in 2013). That was an accident that could have happened to anybody. I don't see the durability thing. Somebody will always have something to say."
Johnson played in all 13 games in 2014, when he rushed for 1,652 yards and 10 TDs and also caught 38 passes.
"I didn't have an injury that caused me to miss a game last year," Johnson told the Observer. "I think that goes to show that it's not a durability thing. It was a freak accident. If I am hurt and can play, I will play."
Depending on the evaluator, Johnson is at or near the top of the second tier of backs available in this draft. Georgia's Todd Gurley and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon are the top tier and both are expected to go in the first round. Johnson, Boise State's Jay Ajayi, Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, Indiana's Tevin Coleman and maybe Alabama's T.J. Yeldon are in the second tier, with their ranking a "beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder" thing.
NFL Media analysts Bucky Brooks and Mike Mayock have Johnson fourth among running backs, while fellow analyst Lance Zierlein has Johnson fifth.
Johnson seems likely to be drafted somewhere in the second round; teams that could be looking for running back help in the second round include Baltimore, Dallas, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New England and St. Louis. Johnson seems confident he can help as a rookie.
"I think my game translates because I'm versatile," he told the Observer. "It's a passing league. I'm able to create mismatches in the slot and out of the backfield to help my team move the ball and put points on the board."