The Eagles offense is all about speed and mismatches. At his core, Chip Kelly always wants to find an advantage over a defense. With a running back like Northern Iowa's David Johnson, Kelly could create some serious issues for opposing defensive coordinators. Johnson is a multipurpose back with a lot of size and experience.
A three-year starter at Northern Iowa, Johnson proved to be a terrific big play threat and excelled as a receiver out of the backfield. In four seasons, Johnson compiled an impressive 4,682 rushing yards (on 5.4 YPC) and 49 rushing touchdowns to go along with 1,734 receiving yards and another 14 receiving scores. As if that wasn't enough, Johnson took up kick returning as a senior, averaging 36.5 yards per attempt and even took one back for a touchdown.
The impressive running back showed excellent vision and speed during his performance at the Senior Bowl. The small school product made a strong impression on several draftniks with an all-around positive outing against talent from superior conferences.
John Barchard: Coming from a smaller school, what made you go to Northern Iowa as opposed to Iowa or Iowa State?
David Johnson: Going in for a visit, I felt that UNI was a great fit for me. I talked to a guy that was on my high school team and he introduced me to a lot of guys [on the team]. I went for an official visit and it just felt like a good atmosphere. Just meeting some of the players and meeting some of the coaches and just interacting with those guys. I talked to one of the group leaders in our Christian bible study and he was just a great guy.
I just felt like it was a 'home away from home' so to speak. That was probably one of my biggest choices and I believe I made the right choice.
Mike Kaye: David, your running style is very unique. You're basically like a wide receiver playing running back. You've got phenomenal hands, played running back and defensive back in high school and also played basketball. How have those added elements [of your experience and skill] helped you play at such a high level?
DJ: It's definitely made me a more versatile player, especially as a running back, being able to catch. It keeps the defense on their toes, especially on third down. They have another receiver to worry about essentially, with me coming out of the backfield. They just can't put a linebacker on me, [so they end up] putting another safety on me, which allows for more room for other receivers for the quarterback to throw to.
JB: You had a midseason quarterback change. How did that affect your running style this year?
DJ: It didn't affect it that much. The read-option is more of a thing with a fast running back and keeping the defense, especially defensive backs, on their toes. But [it didn't] affect me much because we had a similar thing in high school with our quarterback using the read option. I was kind of use to it coming out of high school and [both quarterbacks] played well. They both had their strengths in our offense. It was just fun playing with both of them. It was a good experience.
MK: John and I have watched your tape and you're proficient in pretty much everything. As we mentioned before you have good hands, you ran for over 4,500 yards, score 49 rushing touchdowns and you even took on kick returning as a senior and excelled. Is there anything you won't do?
DJ: [Laughs] I just try to do anything to my best [ability]. Whatever coach asks me to do, and whenever I can be on the field as many times as I can and where ever I can help [I will]. [I will do] whatever I can to help the team. It's fun being versatile and having the ability to do so many other things. It's a fun thing to just have more experience at everything, especially if I make the league. A lot of teams actually talked to me [at the Senior Bowl] about being more versatile and they can ask me to do more stuff on the field. I mean, [any] way that I can get on to the field, I'd love to try it. If I do good at it, it helps me a lot just being on the field and just being effective for the team.
JB: A lot of people think this is a great running back class and you're a part of it. Do you think that versatility helps you stand out a little bit? Do you think there is anything more you need to do leading up in the draft process to stick out a little more?
DJ: Versatility definitely helps me out. A lot of coaches have been telling me that is one of my strengths, being versatile, especially on third downs. A lot of these NFL teams are [utilizing pass-catching] running backs, so it definitely helps me out a lot, especially in this era of the NFL with some of the running backs being more able to catch better and doing pass [protection] and everything.
It's definitely helped me out and I think that one of the things I get talked to a lot [about] is my level of competition that I played playing at UNI, a small school. Playing in the Senior Bowl, I definitely feel like I have risen my draft stock because I was able to play with those guys and compete. I'm just trying to get better day-by-day and hopefully a team calls me on draft day.
For the entire interview with Johnson, check out BGN Radio's post-Senior Bowl episode. Johnson discusses talking with NFL coaches, his Senior Bowl weigh in process and his outlook on playing for the Eagles.