Just a few picks after taking Texas’ Caden Sterns, Denver selected Indiana’s Jamar Johnson with the 164th-overall pick.
“Jamar was a case of George sticking to the board,” Head Coach Vic Fangio said Saturday after the draft concluded. “… The next guy down, there was a pretty good separation at any of the other positions, so we drafted him. We all had some good feelings about him.”
Johnson led Indiana in interceptions in 2020 as he recorded four picks in eight games. He was named a first-team All-Big Ten player by the media following the season.
“I take pride in the ball in general,” Johnson said Saturday. “That’s the most important thing as a DB. You’re supposed to go in there and not allow a single catch. If anything touches my hands, I’m trying to come down with a pick.”
His premier game in 2020 came against Ohio State, when he recorded two interceptions of future 11th-overall pick Justin Fields and also added five solo tackles, a sack and a pass breakup.
That game was really important for me and my career,” Johnson said. “I saw the TV views. It was like six or seven million views. I had a chip on my shoulder from the year before. We got beat 51-10. It definitely put a chip on my shoulder. I really wanted to win that game. Another thing that played a part was my birthday was the next day, so I was in that game mode — that takeover mode. I wanted to do whatever I could to help my team get the [win]. We came up a little short, but it definitely helped me a lot.”
The 6-foot, 205-pound player was a one-year starter for the Hoosiers and recorded 70 tackles, eight tackles for loss, four sacks, two forced fumbles, 14 passes defensed and seven interceptions in his career. Johnson allowed just 12 catches and zero touchdowns over the last two seasons, and his 31.7 passer rating allowed since 2019 is best among draft-eligible safeties, according to Pro Football Focus. Johnson was PFF’s 47th-highest ranked player in the draft, but he fell all the way to the fifth round for Denver.
“I’m a ballhawk, but I need to clean up my tackling,” Johnson said. “Everything else is see-ball, get-ball. As a DB, the ball is the most important thing. I’m just going out to get as many picks and to get the ball back for the offense. It gives our team a better chance to win.”
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Despite that, the Broncos believe in Johnson’s ability to improve in that area and fulfill his potential at the next level.
“He’s a guy that played good, didn’t tackle as well as he should have all of the time, which I think he alluded to with you guys,” Fangio said. “But we like his talent and his potential and his ability. We’ll see. It’ll be good competition between those two guys and the other safeties that are already on the roster.”
Johnson joins Sterns as a rookie safety in a room that includes Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson.
“I’ve always watched their games, especially Justin Simmons,” Johnson said. “He is one of my favorites. I’m just going to go in there and learn from those guys as much as I can — take notes and one day hopefully be in their position. It’s exciting to have those two guys. Justin just got [re-signed] and Kareem Jackson is from [Georgia]. It’s a dream come true — a blessing.”