UF’s Johnson tries honest approach with NFL teams

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Former Florida offensive lineman Fred Johnson ready for next step. [Lauren Bacho/Staff Photographer]

By Hal Habib, GateHouse Florida

If former Florida Gators guard Fred Johnson wants to make it in the NFL, he has to knock off the inconsistency.

Says who?

NFL scouts have been telling Johnson that. And when Johnson hears it, he thinks …

“That makes sense,” he said. “My consistency has been varied throughout my college career.”

You don’t often hear such blunt honesty this time of year. Prospects are coached by agents to tell NFL teams exactly what they want to hear leading up to the draft, regardless of whether it’s true. Everybody loves football. Everybody is aggressive. Et cetera.

Johnson, who attended Royal Palm Beach High, isn’t trying to sell himself as the perfect prospect, only one who recognized his shortcomings and is trying to put them in his rearview mirror.

“Just something I knew I lacked then,” Johnson said, thinking back over his Gators career. “I knew I wasn’t an every-play type of guy and I’m trying to go from like one play out of four, to two plays out of four, to four plays out of four. Then I’ll go to five plays, then six — just gradually improving every day.”

The NFL projects Johnson as a Day 3 selection with the potential to be a backup. He’s caught in unusual territory, having been the Gators’ starting right guard the past two seasons despite being 6-feet-7 and 326 pounds.

“Some teams won’t touch really tall guards, but I think that’s all relative to how tall your quarterback is,” one AFC personnel man told NFL.com.

Among the guards on the 2018 Dolphins, Ted Larsen (who has since been released) and Isaac Asiata are 6-3 but Jesse Davis is 6-6. Should, for example, Oklahoma’s 5-10 1/8 Kyler Murray somehow fall to the Dolphins in the draft, exceptionally tall guards could become an issue.

Johnson said he received honest and often positive feedback when he met with teams, including the Dolphins, at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

“They really like my aggressiveness,” he said of those meetings in general. “They like my flashes of plays that I’ve made. They really enjoy my aggression with run blocking and how intelligent I am when it comes to the playbook and they really want me to work on my consistency.”

Being honest with himself was an important first step toward outperforming draftniks’ projections for him.

“It just comes from me just not wanting to take the back burner and just be a backup guy,” Johnson said. “I want to be a star player.”

hhabib@pbpost.com