It's easy to prejudge Ohio State safety Orhian Johnson because of both cynicism amongst his home fans and underwhelming grades heading into the draft. Sure, he struggled to keep a starting job with now unquestioned starter C.J. Barnett constantly knocking him from his poach during the last two years. But to be perfectly honest, the two would take terms alternating who was the better fit then and there for the team on an almost week by week basis. No shame in seasonally "losing" a battle of two high level college football starting caliber free safeties.
Some scouts have gone as far to say that Barnett is the #2 free safety for the 2014 NFL Draft; can the guy that for the better part of two seasons elbowed for positioning to try and get the lion's share of playing time with that player really be considered a virtual lock to go undrafted?
Whether your favorite team lands Johnson late in the draft or as an undrafted free agent, you're getting a hungry, smart player more than capable of stepping in and playing special teams on day one. He's got NFL size, and solid strength as far as secondary members go. At 6-2 with the sort of wingspan you expect from someone of that height, he also has the ability to wrap opposing offenders be it on kick/punt coverage or if he's your defense's safety valve.
Johnson has the sort of speed that allows him to match slot receivers, and with the physique to body up NFL types, he'll be swatting and defending passes when you need him to – and not at a measurable decline from your starter so long as your favorite team doesn't employ a Pro Bowl/All-NFL type. His build also makes 50/50's accessible, and explain in part how he managed to finish with 5 INTs over the past two seasons.
In addition to the five picks, Johnson was responsible for 50 tackles in 2010, 32 tackles in 2011, and racked up 23 starts over his final three seasons in Columbus; nothing to frown about given the sort of talent routinely populating the Buckeyes' secondary during that time. His physicality screams NFL, and if all that means for his first season or so (or even if your team's depth allows him to settle into a role on the practice squad), they're doing something right.
Now if you want someone who can turn on a dime and try to mark some of the best deep threats in the NFL when they blow past their initial man, you might not be getting a world beater, at least not on day one. Johnson could use to improve his backpedal, and it's probably safe to conclude his junior year saw him fail to permanently lock down the starting role for a reason. He improved his senior season (and got the playing time he deserved), but unfairly or not, it was still thought by the majority of fans that Barnett was "the guy", even when he wasn't. If Johnson gets a tiny bit more aggressive and keeps improving under NFL tutelage, he'll get there. And given what we already mentioned with respect to Barnett's ceiling, that's a good thing.
If you're expecting a starting safety out of a late round/undrafted free agent, what the heck is wrong with you? If you're just hoping for a guy who can compete relentlessly, making your special teams/practice squad better, and has real potential to develop into an aggressive, lengthy weapon in your secondary, Orhian Johnson is your guy.