Houston Texans: Lonnie Johnson is the team’s most intriguing pick so far

Houston Texans cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Houston Texans cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Houston Texans have selected CB Lonnie Johnson Jr. 54th overall in the second round. His performance reeks average but does have an upside. What’s up?

The Houston Texans hit the ground running in the second round of the NFL Draft, addressing the needs that we all knew were dire for the team.  After selecting Tytus Howard in the first round last night, the team decided to address the void at cornerback by selecting University of Kentucky cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. 54th overall.

Johnson is one of the more talented defensive backs in this draft but I don’t see him making an immediate impact on the field.  I think over time, he could be a deadly weapon for the Houston Texans.  He wasn’t necessarily categorized as a first-down back — which he’ll eventually need to be — during his time with the Wildcats.  But let’s dig in further.


Johnson is a 6-foot-1, 213-pound back with 32.63-inch arms and 9.13-inch hands that carries a ton of talent and athleticism like none other.  How it will translate to the pro level remains to be seen but I like the potential that Johnson has to excel with the Houston Texans.

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Johnson had a 72.6 overall grade through 649 snaps at cornerback back in 2018.  Through those snaps, Johnson was targeted 35 times — 18 receptions he allowed total — and quarterbacks had a 88.5 rating when throwing to him.

His assignments had a 51.4 percent catch rate when in his path and he finished the season with just five missed tackles and five run stops amid 22 total tackles.  He gave up three touchdowns, had one interception and one pass defended.

PFF has him graded out as an average cornerback among those in this draft class but slightly above-average in run defense when the situation warrants.  I certainly wish the passer rating for QBs was lower for a guy like Johnson but that could improve at the pro level.

He’s rated above-average in completion percentage allowed as well as cover snaps per target and yards per cover snap.  He’s graded below-average in his ability to make plays which is surprising for a guy of his stature.  We’ll have to see though.

Johnson was ranked 10th among cornerbacks in cover snaps per target (9.31) which goes to show he wasn’t targeted that much because of his talent and allowed a paltry 0.69 yards per cover snap (ranked 19th).  That’s a positive stat that I can stand behind!

What the experts are saying

SportsRadio 610’s John Harris:

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com:

Jacksonville Jaguars’ cornerback Jalen Ramsey:

The Bottom Line

Johnson has an incredible story of how he rose through the ranks to get to the NFL.  He hails from

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Gary, Ind. which is a city that has seen tremendous decline since steel production started to slowly phase out from the U.S. to overseas since the 1970s.  He wasn’t pedigreed — was a transfer from the junior college circuit — and fought his way out of what I could imagine to be a horrible environment to thrive.  He’s truly an underdog and it’s the kind of story I like to ensure that he succeed in this league.  I truly love his story and you can check out the column Chase Goodbread took out on him recently here.

All in all, I’m sure if Trayvon Mullen and Byron Murphy were still available, the Houston Texans would’ve taken them instead.  However, Lonnie Johnson was and it may prove to be quite fruitful for the Houston Texans.  He’s every sense of the word of being an amazing athlete and I’m positive he’ll do anything that he asked to ensure that he succeeds.  He doesn’t want to go back to what he went through while growing up so I expect to see great things out of him.

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Although my emotions are mixed on this pick of the draft, he clearly is one of the most intriguing that the Houston Texans have had in quite some time.  He’s definitely going to be a guy to watch in terms of early impact, especially how much run will he get depending on the depth of the position going into this season.

Welcome to Houston Lonnie.

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