Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson (I don't have the energy to make a Dan Majerle joke today) says he’s the best CB in the draft. The 6’, 190 lb senior isn’t so far off, as he’s generally listed top 5 positionally and almost always in the first or second round. He didn’t lose much in the combine at all, throwing in a 4.52 40, and having been a top performer in each of the vertical (41.5), broad jump, 3 cone, 20 yard shuttles.
He has 3 years’ starting experience in the ACC, 41 starts, and never missing a game due to injury. That’s key, as is his 190 lbs, as it appears he bulked up a bit for workouts. His slight frame is fine for coverage, but he can be more physical downfield. He gets a lower mark for his run defense, where he’s able. I don’t worry that a CB isn’t a heavy hitter or a crushing tackler, but he’s a leg-wrapper and you have to be OK with that. He's not going to beat blockers at this level. But, he's willing and that still gets you a certain ways in the NFL. Most times, you're not going to see a cornerback beat a lead blocker square in the hole. That's unrealstic.
As well, he does show an acumen for the third phase, possibly being a gunner or core coverage player on special teams.
In coverage, he can do man, off-man/trail in cover 3, and shows awareness in zone. He can press and stay with his man. He’s a likely day 1 starter for most needy teams. Here in Carolina, he might be a guy who plays the outside in nickel, as I’d prefer Bene Benwikere to start (and I’m fine with him in the slot for nickel).
So, there's a fit and a need - the team can use some help at CB. It's also not critical - in my mind, once Melvin White regains his confidence, there's a legitimate 3 corners there. With two starters in place and one backup with a year's experience, it's not so crucial that I'd drop a first if Johnson isn't the best available, but that's the pick no matter what - best available.
To that end, it's certain that there's been so little stability at CB over Ron Rivera's tenure, and while 2015 looks to be like 2014, I thought that of 2013. You never know. And you see what good CB play does for a good defense, it really tightened things up.