The comparison of San Francisco 49ers rookie Dontae Johnson and Richard Sherman is unfair at this point, but when looking at the two as rookies it makes sense in a way.
The scouting report on Johnson and Sherman entering the NFL is very similar. Most reports noted that both players had great size, adequate speed and they could possibly be contributors at the cornerback position. Nothing about the pros mentioned arm length, height and intangibles, and the cons noted that they lack top end speed to compete with upper echelon wide receivers and lose focus, which results in mediocre ball skills.
Sherman is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL, and Johnson has yet to take a NFL snap. Johnson’s situation is similar to Sherman’s as he was selected in the later rounds of the NFL Draft, which means there is a gigantic chip on his shoulder like Sherman had when the Seahawks selected him. Johnson was selected in the fourth round and Sherman was selected in the fifth round, respectively, which goes to show it’s not where you start it’s just about the chance of receiving an opportunity. Like Sherman, Johnson isn’t a heralded prospect coming into the NFL, and many expect him to make an impact as a special teamer rather than at cornerback.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio know a thing or two about Sherman as they both coached him while he was a member of the Stanford Cardinal. Harbaugh and Fangio saw Sherman closely for several years, and they have a great deal of knowledge about Sherman the player.
Harbaugh and Fangio have been with Johnson for a short period of time, but I am sure they see a little of Sherman in the rookie CB. It is unknown what Johnson will be to the 49ers, and the same could have been said in 2011 with Sherman. Three years later he is the top at his position, but who could have predicted that? The sky is the limit for Johnson if he puts the time in to be a great player. If he applies himself he can become the 49ers’ version of Sherman.
Only time will tell how Johnson will end up as a player, but if he becomes the next Richard Sherman, I hate to say I told you so.