Because there are so many talented defensive tackles in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys will benefit tremendously by having a top pick in most rounds in the draft. Picking fourth overall, the Cowboys will likely target a cornerback or an outside linebacker, but with the 34th overall pick, there will be a ton of defensive tackles available for the Cowboys' choosing and one player who seems to fit what the Cowboys look for in a defensive tackle is Penn State's Austin Johnson.
A redshirt junior, Penn State has been one of the more disappointing programs in college football over the past few seasons. However, that hasn't stopped them from pumping out talented defensive lineman. Jordan Hill, Daquan Jones, and Devon Still are just a few defensive tackles that have gone pro in the past few years. The next of that bunch is Johnson, a 6'4, 325-pound physical specimen from New Jersey.
At first glance, it's impressive how well built Johnson is. He displays broad shoulders, long arms, and strong legs that allow him to hold his ground in the interior part of the defensive line. The Cowboys are in the market for a 1-technique defensive tackle to insert next to 3-technique defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford. The 1-technique position is interesting. Its main responsibility is to stop the run. It's not often to see a 1-technique on the field on 3rd & 10s. In 2015, when it was a passing down, Nick Hayden came off the field, which gave the Cowboys the ability to get quicker along the defensive line.
Hayden is a little misunderstood in Dallas. In terms of a rotational defensive line, he's a guy who can play multiple positions. But because he was the primary starter at the position after Terrell McClain had season-ending toe surgery after Week 2, fans criticize Hayden. Nevertheless, the Cowboys need to add beef upfront and Johnson not only fits the bill for the job, but he also seems to be an ideal target with the 34th overall pick if the Cowboys stay there. Let's take a look at some clips of Johnson and see what makes him the perfect guy for the job:
Going back to his natural strength, Johnson does an excellent job at anchoring on the defensive line. Take a look at how he comes off the football. He looks a little lethargic in terms of his get-off, but his core strength allows him to stand his ground and make a play at the line of scrimmage.
The next clip is pretty impressive. In this clip, Johnson recognizes the screen. Instead of going after the quarterback, Johnson realizes that he isn't fast enough to get home. He runs after the intended receiver and then is there to make a play.
Despite his strength, Johnson is quick enough to shoot gaps and create havoc in the backfield. This clip shows his hand placement and how he leverages himself to push the offensive lineman in front of him to the side.
The last clip I'm going to put in here is an example of Johnson's ability to take on double teams. By getting just a little bit of pressure by occupying two offensive lineman, Johnson gives his other defensive lineman a better chance at getting to the quarterback as they're going one-on-one against the opposing lineman.
From watching Johnson on tape, it should be said that he doesn't necessarily make a ton of splash plays. I've done film reviews on a few defensive lineman, and Johnson is the guy that has made the least splash plays. However, that doesn't necessarily mean his evaluation is the worst. Johnson is a guy that coaches love. He's extremely unselfish and extremely intelligent as well. Johnson is a player that would fit well in either the 3-4 or the 4-3.
In Dallas, Johnson would be an immediate upgrade at the 1-technique. Next to Crawford, who should be much more impactful now that he's healthy and not playing with shoulder and arm injuries, the Cowboys would have quite the formidable duo in the center of their defensive line. If Johnson performs well at the NFL Scouting Combine and he measures well too, there's a chance he could go in the back-end of the first round. But if he falls to 34, the Cowboys should have Roger Goodell running to the podium with the card in his hands.