The Fleet had the option of protecting one of the three quarterbacks on their roster or picking an unprotected quarterback from one of the league’s other seven teams. They opted to protect the 32-year-old Johnson, who led the Toreros to Pioneer Football League championships in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
“We watched all the quarterbacks pretty closely, we were paying close attention to some more than others but some stood out and caught our attention and did some nice things,” Fleet general manager Dave Boller said.
“With Josh we thought the decision-making was good, his experience playing at a high level and equally important his roots in San Diego having played locally at USD. For us he checked all the boxes that we were looking for in the leader of our team.”
Fleet coach Mike Martz said “there are a few things that stood out when I watched Josh.”
“He has shown an ability to move well in the pocket and isn’t afraid to try and fit the ball into tight windows,” Martz said. “He also has shown the ability to push the ball down the field with accuracy and timing. Those are just some of the aspects that I felt made Josh the right fit for the San Diego Fleet”
Johnson played 29 NFL games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, starting five, completing 96 of 177 passes for 1,042 yards and 10 touchdowns between 2009 and 2013.
Johnson also spent time with the San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills, New York Giants and Houston Texans from 2014-17, but never played in a regular-season game.
Johnson was the first USD player to be selected in the NFL draft, chosen by the Buccaneers in the fifth round of the 2008 draft.
“SD I*m back!!!!!!!” Johnson tweeted. “Juiced to go #1 to the @AAFFleet return to familiar stopping grounds and start building to win ASAP.”
Johnson was joined at the draft at Esports Arena Las Vegas at The Luxor by Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, a cousin and teammate of Johnson’s at Oakland Technical High School.
Each of the three teams drafting after the Fleet opted to protect quarterbacks on their rosters instead of picking a quarterback from another team.
The Fleet received the first selection from a random draw. They will also pick first in the third round and eighth in the second and fourth rounds of the four-round draft.
“Our regional allocation system and the `Protect or Pick’ draft format were designed to strike a competitive balance across the league and fuel local market interest,” said Bill Polian, a co-founder of the league and its head of football.
“The quarterback position is critical to a team’s success, so we knew the importance of making sure each Alliance team had a top-tier quarterback at the helm.”
The Fleet will begin play Feb. 9 at San Antonio and play its first game at SDCCU Stadium Feb. 17 against the Atlanta Legends.
Updated Nov. 27, 2018 at 8:23 p.m.
–City News Service