The Los Angeles Rams are already getting an idea of who can potentially help Aaron Donald and company in the defensive trenches during this period of scouting and evaluation. But one undersized interior defender described as “unblockable” during one prestigious all-star game revealed he’s on the Rams’ board.
Speaking with Justin Melo of The Draft Network on Friday, February 24, Toledo defensive tackle Desjuan Johnson unveiled that the Rams are among the NFL teams he’s speaking with. The 6-foot-3, 275-pounder first got on some NFL boards during a dominating evening at the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl held in Las Vegas.
“I met with a long list of teams. Since then, I’ve had some conversations with the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, and Philadelphia Eagles,” Johnson told Melo.
Johnson Wanted to Prove Himself & Boost Stock at Shrine Bowl
Johnson may not be a Power 5 prospect anticipated to go between one to 32 in the first round of the April draft. However, his snap explosion and trench disruption from that all-star contest helped win over some scouts and draft experts who attended the event.
Cam Mellor of the College Football Network was one who used the word “unstoppable” to describe Johnson.
But before the draft, Brett Kollman from “The Film Room” on You Tube likened Johnson’s game to Super Bowl winning defensive end Justin Tuck, who also lined up inside for the New York Giants.
Kollman included how Johnson “Wins with quickness and agility against guards, and just overwhelms tight ends in pass pro.”
But again, Johnson faces the dilemma of being an undersized prospect from the Group of 5 realm — often a realm that isn’t the first look for evaluators when it comes to the draft process. But Johnson feels confident about his stock rising following the all-star contest.
“I think I proved that I can play with any level of competition while still dominating. I dominated the MAC conference for several years but people will discredit that because it’s the MAC,” Johnson said to Melo. “I dominated every time we played out of conference teams, too. I just wanted to display my abilities against some of the best seniors in the nation. I believe I did that at the Shrine Bowl.”
He added that he downplays the “small school narrative” because “at the end of the day, we are who we are. We all play football. It doesn’t matter what school you went to. If you can play, you can play. We’ve even seen D-II players do well at the next level. I’m a football player first and foremost. I’ve played against big-school players. I’m training with a few of them right now. I competed against them at the Shrine Bowl and proved that I belonged.”
Johnson Already Has Sack of Ex-Top 5 Pick
If there’s any needed proof of how Johnson fared against NFL talent, then one September 2019 outing is a perfect example.
Facing BYU and future No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson, Johnson became one of the few interior defenders who collected a sack of Wilson. And that game was won by the Rockets on September 19 of that season. Johnson went on to collect 14.5 career college sacks including 10 in his final two seasons for the Rockets.
He additionally delivered five games of producing six tackles, including during a three-week stretch from October 29 to November 15. He went on to earn All-MAC honors from 2020 to 2022.
If he were to step inside the “Rams House,” he would help give the Rams an additional undersized but quick pass rusher in a room with the Super Bowl champ Donald. With Donald nearing 32, plus with Greg Gaines anticipated to leave in free agency, signs are indicating the Rams will need line of scrimmage help next to “A.D.” Now, a Toledo Rocket who went “unblockable” in his all-star game is one on L.A.’s draft radar.