He is more of a fit for what teams are looking for the safety position in today's league. He has the versatility to play in the slot, inside the box, and can play back as a deep safety. He will have more confidence lining up in the slot because that's where he played the most in his last season. His athleticism will allow him to come in and play right away as he has the speed to keep up with players and has the agility to adjust in open space. He has a chance to be a pocket knife in the NFL.
Even though he can play as a deep safety he didn't get the playing time that would help him be comfortable if teams sent him back often. He will need time to adjust to the change and for the speed at the next level. He does have his mental lapses in games which shows because he will misread plays or be undisciplined in zone coverage which leads to him leaving his area. He will also need more work on his ball skills as he needs to get around the ball more when thrown at.
2017: Ankle (No Missed Time) No Major Injury History
2018: Michigan, LSU, Kentucky, Missouri
Gardner-Johnson has the athletic ability to come in and be an immediate contributor in a team's defense as a rookie. He fits the mold of today's defensive backs that defensive coordinators are looking for to combat against the passing attack in the league. He will be more effective if team's ask him to play in the slot or inside the box while lining him up as a deep safety from time to time. He does a great job in man coverage because he can jam in press coverage while being able to move and flip his hips to run with his man. He does a great job at attaching to hips and mimicking routes. In off man coverage or zone, he does an outstanding reacting to out or slant routes then using his speed to his advantage to jump the route to get in passing lanes which can disrupt where the quarterback wanted to go with the ball. He also can be used in blitz packages or to help clog lanes against runs. He will explode up the field to break up screen plays and isn't easily blocked by receivers. During his first season he will experience ups and downs as he learns the defensive scheme. He will need some coaching up on the field and in the film room to help cut down his mental mistakes. If he can develop in that area of his game and if a team uses him to his skill set, then he can be a long-time contributor to a team’s defense. He might not end up as a star but can be a productive player.
Very agile in open space which allows him to flow freely around the field to stick his man. He can keep a nice bend around blocker and will stay on his feet when blockers go to cut. He does have the ability to keep up with his man on deep routes. He can make up space. He can explode in the direction that he wants to go and close space quickly to make a play. He stays on his feet and can run while looking back at the quarterback while adjusting his body.
Big Play Ability
He will get up under receiver's pads, jam them, then he can attach to their hips on the routes. He is fluid in his back peddle while being light on his feet to make adjustments on the route. He is undisciplined in his zone coverage and leave his area too early which opens up lanes. He will battle at the LOS when jamming but not much as the play develops when in coverage. He is great at adjusting his body and flipping his hips so he doesn't lose his man in space.
He can close space very quick which allows him to break on routes to get in passing lanes. He will deflect balls or make the pick if the ball hits his hands but needs more production. He is outstanding when he can jump routes but has his mental lapses at reading plays.
His speed in space is impressive as he can explode where he wants to go for the tackle. He does a good job at using his arms to shed blockers but doesn't show consistent effort. He will explode through the ball carrier's body's and will wrap up to bring them down.
Engage with blocks
He loves to hit and will look to bring the thud on plays but has times where he lays off. 35 games, 161 tackles (92 solo), 15.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 9 int, 12 PD, 0 FF, 0 FR. He needs to show more of a consistent effort when plays aren't involving him.
He reads players bodies well so he can mimic their routes, go through or get around blocks. Whether it is coaching on the field or film, he can misread plays at times and could improve. Good communicator in the secondary at getting calls across the unit prior to the snap.