IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson realized a lifelong dream when he was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings with the second pick in the fourth round Saturday.
Johnson, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 316 pounds, became the 11th Iowa defensive lineman drafted in the Kirk Ferentz era. Johnson started 27 games over his final two seasons and was named first-team All-Big Ten in 2016.
Against No. 3 Michigan, Johnson recorded 10 tackles, including a sack and a safety, in the Hawkeyes’ 14-13 upset. Johnson earned the Big Ten’s defensive player of the week award after that performance. He finished with a team-best 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss in 2016.
Scouts had mixed reviews on Johnson in their draft previews. ESPN’s Mel Kiper rated Johnson as the fourth-best defensive tackle prospect, while ESPN Scouts Inc. ranked Johnson as seventh and 81st overall (third round). CBSSports.com listed Johnson as the 10th-best D-tackle and 99th overall.
In mock drafts, Ourlads Scouting Services national scout and general manager Dan Shonka projected the Jacksonville Jaguars to draft Johnson 110th overall (fourth round) while NFL.com’s Chad Reuter tabbed Johnson 71st overall (third round) to the Los Angeles Chargers. ESPN analyst Todd McShay gave Johnson to the Minnesota Vikings (third round, 79th overall) in his three-round mock draft. Pro Football Focus ranked Johnson 112th overall (11th-best defensive tackle) and had him going 87th overall (third round) to the New York Giants.
Shonka wrote that Johnson “has developed and refined pass rush moves. Can force a blocker off balance and free himself on contact with a swim and rip move. Finished aggressive and hard. Tackles with a purpose. Plays with country strength and power. One of his best attributes is rushing the passer from the inside. … Can get cleared out of his lane by lateral blockers. Lacks the desired length and will get locked on to by quality run blockers.”
ESPN graded Johnson’s pass rush skills as “exceptional.”