Kansas City Chiefs 2013 NFL Draft Review: The Importance of Nico Johnson


When new General Manager, John Dorsey, was hired this off season fans right away wanted to know what his draft philosophy was all about. As you could almost expect, Dorsey came in saying he believes in the “best player available” approach.  While he stayed true to his philosophy with his first 3 picks, (Fisher, Kelci, Davis) Dorsey chose Nico Johnson, inside line backer from the university of Alabama in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL draft (99th overall).

Mar 13, 2013; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Nico Johnson runs the 40-yard dash during Alabama pro day at the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

The former University of Alabama star stands at 6’2 and weighs 245 pounds.  Known as a “thumper,” Johnson has played the last 4 seasons for the Crimson Tide, helping to earn 3 national titles. Alabama is known for stout defense and, particularly, stout line backers with such names as Rolando McClain and Dont’a Hightower coming out of the first round the last 3 seasons. What separates Johnson from the other two is that he wasn’t an every down linebacker. Often times, Johnson would come off the field on 3rd down and passing situations. Johnson is viewed as more of a run stuffing linebacker, much like what the chiefs had with the late Javon Belcher. Johnson’s career totals with Alabama include 162 tackles (16.5 for loss,) 2 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. Those numbers really aren’t that staggering. But you must take into consideration a few factors, one being that Alabama blew out a lot of their opponents last season causing teams to have to throw the ball, taking Johnson off the field. The crimson tide also had a consistent rotation with linebackers due to the depth of their exceptional talent. Johnson also had to go through an off season surgery to repair a sports hernia, causing him not to participate in the NFL combine. Due to the surgery as well, Johnson didn’t really “wow” his pro day either and all those factors added up to him falling to a mid round prospect. None the less, Kansas City took him not as a “best player available” approach, but rather a position of need.

In a radio interview after the draft, Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid, was asked about whether or not the Chiefs were considering taking USC quarteback Matt Barkley with the 99th overall pick. “Well, we weren’t going there. I actually was on the phone with Nick Saban from Alabama before that day ever started, so that’s just not the direction [we were going],” Reid said, “We had pinpointed Nico [Johnson] and that’s who we were going after. I know how rumors start and how people justify picks and all this other stuff, but I think if you look at our roster, we’ve got Akeem Jordan at middle linebacker; that’s the only player that we have there. So we needed a middle linebacker, we had a good one sitting right there and it fell that way and we were tickled pink to go get Nico and bring him on board.” That was the first time the Chiefs had  said a “position of need” for any prospect in their 2013 draft class.

Nico Johnson is expected to come in right away and be a contributor to the Chiefs new look defense. Reports out of OTA’s (organized team activities) is that the Chiefs are extremely high on this kid and figure him to be a good fit at the mike linebacker spot, opposite All-Pro Derrick Johnson. When Derrick Johnson was asked about Nico in a recent interview, he said “Nico Johnson is a guy that’s competing for a starting job,” he continued, “He and Akeem [Jordan] have been going at it for now. Right now, he probably can’t move up the depth chart right now because we don’t have any pads on – that’s where you really show what people can do. Nico’s a young guy that’s a big guy and looks like a hitter and I can’t wait to get in pads and see all the young guys run around and hit.” Derrick Johnson brings up a good point, Akeem Jordan. The chiefs signed him as a free agent from the Philadelphia Eagles. Jordan is expected to see a good amount of playing time as well as he competes with Johnson for the starting position. I believe this will be one of the best competitions to watch during the pre-season.

Since the tragedy that struck the Chiefs last season with former linebacker, Javon Belcher, the chiefs have needed to fill a huge void at the middle linebacker position. They had limited options with Brandon Siler last season who really struggled against the run and pass. Derrick Johnson has been on a terror ever since he made the switch to mike backer in 2009. DJ has racked up 377 tackles in the last three seasons helping him make the AP (associated press) All Pro team alongside Ray Lewis as the two middle linebackers. DJ is a beast, we know that already, however he isn’t getting younger and his excellent production is slowly being wasted. This is why Nico Johnson is so intriguing and may be crucial to the Chiefs defensive success next season. Obviously the Chiefs realized this.