Kerryon Johnson declares for NFL Draft
Just one day after Auburn's disappointing loss to UCF in the Peach Bowl, Auburn's most productive offensive player declared for the 2018 NFL Draft. Kerryon Johnson, the SEC's offensive player of the year, stated his intention to leave Auburn one year early and enter the draft.
Auburn's 2017 season was something of a breakout role for Johnson. After Kam Pettway burst onto the scene in 2016, injuries and suspensions forced Pettway to the bench and thrust Johnson into the limelight. In total, the junior running back tallied 1,585 yards from scrimmage and scored 20 touchdowns.
While his season numbers are fantastic, NFL scouts will be concerned about injuries that occurred towards the end of the 2017 season. After unbelievable performances in Jordan-Hare Stadium against Georgia and Alabama, Johnson attempted to play through injuries in the season's final two games. In the rematch against Georgia and the bowl game against UCF, Johnson logged two of his most disappointing performances of the season.
In the SEC title game against Georgia, Johnson ran for a season-low 44 yards, and committed the game's crucial turnover, a fumble at midfield to begin the fourth quarter as Auburn trailed by just six.
Against UCF in the Peach Bowl, Johnson still appeared to be suffering from injuries, rushing for 71 yards and a score, but lacking the burst that made him one of the SEC's most explosive players.
Johnson has a lengthy history of injuries that he'll have to discuss when talking with NFL teams. He missed his senior season of basketball at Madison Academy due to a shoulder injury, which leaked into his offseason development before his first year at Auburn. After a breakout freshman season in 2015, Johnson was forced to undergo shoulder surgery that offseason. In 2016, Johnson injured his ankle early in the Mississippi State game, taking him out of the game and leaving him out the next week against Arkansas as well. Johnson even struggle with injuries in his breakout season. A hamstring injury suffered in the opener versus Georgia Southern forced him to the bench for Auburn's next two games, to go along with the shoulder injury that limited him in the season's final weeks.
Johnson will also have to battle one of the strongest running back classes in recent memory. He joins a class loaded with top of the line talent including Penn State's Saquon Barkley, Stanford's Bryce Love, LSU's Derrius Guice and UGA's dynamic duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
With all that being said, Johnson is still one of the most productive all around backs in the country. His ability to contribute in the passing game, both receiving and blocking, alongside his ability to seamlessly run the wildcat, will make him a valuable target for NFL GMs come April. The biggest question that remains is for Gus Malzahn, who now has to scramble to replace his most productive player.