Coming into the 2013 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs had an obvious need at inside line backer. The Chiefs needed to get another thumper to make Derrick Johnson a pro bowler again this year. In this round, Nico Johnson was the best value pick to try and fill that role. At 6’2 248, he certainly looks the part. He will be more of a rotational player and be more of a first and second down guy.
Coming out of high school in Alabama, Johnson was rated as a five star recruit. He earned all-state honors three consecutive years and was a finalist in the High School Butkus Award. His mother suffers from diabetes and was one of the reason that Nico decided to attend Alabama for college.
He backed up Dont’a Hightower his freshmen year in college, but appeared in 12 games due to Hightower’s injury. Although he was not a starter at Alabama most of his career, he played well in the action he did see. Obviously, Alabama is always deep at linebacker and defense in general. He did start a total of 18 games and has some very good skills. For one, he is a great tackler and an excellent blitzer. He will bring pressure a lot more from this position than we have seen in the past. Nico is excellent against the run and getting into the backfield. Johnson will never shy away from a blocker. Whether it be a fullback lead blocking or the big guys up front, he will take them on full force and has the physical size to do so.
The biggest knock on Nico was definitely his pass coverage. The coaching staff will not be asking him to drop back in coverage often, but by lining him up next to Tamba Hali, the Chiefs have a very weak side when it comes to pass coverage. When you watch him move on the field, it’s not very smooth at all. He looks uncomfortable when dropping back to cover even slow tight-ends. From the little bit I saw of him, he took very bad angles and really needs to be coached up in this area. Although he ran a 4.73 at Alabama’s pro day, he doesn’t look that fast in pads. He didn’t work out at the combine due to injury.
Looking at his college career, it’s interesting to note that when his mother passed away, the entire team attended a funeral over three hours away. Obviously, he was a part of the family in Alabama! It is really tough to judge the kid since he was playing in a rotation with some very talented players. I think that he will be a great contributor to the defense, but is not the 3 down linebacker I was hoping would come from this draft.