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Cover me: Johnson protects Texans in QB-loaded division

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The Sports Xchange

HOUSTON — Kevin Johnson: Meet Johnathan Joseph.

Johnson, a 6-foot, 188-pound Wake Forest cornerback, was selected by the Houston Texans as the No. 16 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft in Chicago on Thursday.

“I was just sitting in the green room and there was pick 16 up on the screen,” Johnson said. “The Houston Texans called me and told me they were going to draft me. I was just overwhelmed with joy and extremely excited.”

The fifth-year senior didn’t know he was highly valued by the Texans. He only met with them twice — both times at the NFL Scouting Combine February in Indianapolis — and has never been to Houston.

But the Texans were always high on Johnson. The team spoke with his position coach on Wednesday for last-minute research, while general manager Rick Smith long believed Johnson was the best overall corner in a draft loaded with talented defensive backs.

“He was by far my favorite corner in the draft,” said Smith, who had Johnson rated above Michigan State corner Trae Waynes, who went to Minnesota at No. 11. “When you talk about just a complete football player in our opinion, this guy is just an intelligent guy – he’s smart, he’s tough. He can cover, he’s versatile, he plays on, he plays off, he’s got great instincts, great play on the ball.”

Wide receiver DeVante Parker (No. 14, Miami) and running back Melvin Gordon (No. 15, San Diego) preceded Johnson in the draft. The Chargers traded up to take Gordon before the Texans made their choice. Smith declined to discuss whether he would have taken Gordon if the Wisconsin running back was still available.

“We got our guy,” Smith said. “We’re happy with our guy.”

Johnson’s selection follows the 2014 decision to make linebacker Jadeveon Clowney the No. 1 overall pick. The Texans have selected a defender during the first round in six of the past seven drafts.

Coach Bill O’Brien deflected a question about whether the Texans were going defense-first while they search for their franchise quarterback. The AFC South has become loaded with young, promising signal-callers. Indianapolis has Pro Bowler Andrew Luck. Jacksonville took Blake Bortles No. 3 overall last season. Tennessee added Marcus Mariota with No. 2 pick Thursday.

Johnson, a native of Clarksville, Md., is set to eventually replace Joseph, 31, in the secondary. The 10-year veteran is entering the final year of his contract, while the Texans re-signed Kareem Jackson to a four-year deal this offseason.

Johnson started 41 of 47 games played at Wake Forest, but he was forced to redshirt his initial sophomore year due to being academically ineligible.

“It hurt me not to play. I couldn’t battle with my teammates,” Johnson said. “I definitely matured as a man and it helped shaped me into the person I am today. I bounced back from that.”

Smith acknowledged that Johnson’s response to his lost year made a positive impression on the Texans.

“He’s from a great family,” Smith said. “He’s a young man who made some mistakes early in his college career and I don’t know he took things as seriously as he needed to. … And then of all a sudden he realizes what’s at stake.

“I like those kind of situations, where a young guy may not be as mature as he needs to be. Then he turns around and he did it. … He represents what we like our players to look like. He’s a Houston Texan.”


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