While many NFL teams are phasing out the fullback, the Packers keep adding to the position.
The Packers used the first of their fifth-round picks on Sunday on LSU’s Quinn Johnson, who was regarded by scouts as the best blocker at the position in this draft class.
The 6-foot, 246-pound Johnson started four games in 2007, when LSU alternated Jacob Hester (now with the San Diego Chargers) between fullback and halfback. Johnson started 10 games in 2008, helping Charles Scott top 1,000 rushing yards.
Johnson is a powerful blocker who loves to hit people. He’s a physical blocker rather than someone who uses his athletic ability to simply shield away the defender. That comes from being recruited to LSU to play linebacker by then-coach Nick Saban. When Saban left to coach the Miami Dolphins, Saban was replaced by Les Miles, who as Oklahoma State’s coach tried to bring in Johnson to play fullback.
“I just love the contact,” Johnson told reporters in a conference call. “It doesn’t matter who it is. If you’re in front of me, that’s my job. I take my job very seriously.”
Johnson joins a position manned by holdovers Korey Hall and John Kuhn. Both have been serviceable players who are decent blockers and receivers. Johnson, assuming his level of play carries over to the NFL, would provide more of a sledgehammer lead blocker who would help the Packers’ power run game.
“The kid shows up with power and strength,” Packers running backs coach Edgar Bennett said, lauding Johnson’s aggressiveness and comparing his toughness to William Henderson.
Johnson didn’t touch the ball very often for the Tigers. He rushed the ball 14 times for 28 yards and three touchdowns, so he does have some short-yardage potential. The Packers used Kuhn in that role occasionally last season. In two seasons, Johnson caught just five passes, though he said he’s got good hands.
“Definitely. That’s no problem,” Johnson said of catching.
“I think he can catch,” Bennett said. “I think he also showed some ability to run the football in certain situations, short yardage, goal line. He’s shown to have all of those attributes.”
With his defensive background, Johnson has the potential to be a major contributor on special teams. The Packers’ fullbacks, regardless of whether they’re the starter, are expected to play special teams.
Johnson played at LSU with Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn and talked to him about the Packers before his pro day because Green Bay had shown strong interest at the Scouting Combine. He said he liked what he heard.
With perhaps more-pressing needs to fill, Bennett was pleased to get another talented player at a position in which the Packers were pretty solid already.
“One thing about it, competition makes your team stronger,” Bennett said. “To get a kid like this certainly will put us in a position to add another guy to the mix and compete.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.