Buddy Johnson - Linebacker, Texas A&M
By the numbers:
6'0", 229 pounds per pro day measurements.
2020: 85 tackles (7.5 for loss), four sacks, three passes broken up, two forced fumbles and an interception in 10 games played.
Buddy Johnson does his best work as a pursuit-style linebacker who attacks the line of scrimmage with reckless abandon. He maintains gap integrity and fights through contact, capable of stacking and shedding extremely well for a player his size. Johnson closes quickly on the ballcarrier and is an aggressive finisher. Concerns about his long speed are overstated, evidenced by his sub-4.60 40-yard dash run at Texas A&M's pro day.
Johnson became a MIKE linebacker for the Aggies in 2020 and ran with the opportunity. In that role, he captained one of the nation's best defenses and showcased the ability to lead. Helping arrange formations and communicate with teammates were primary responsibilities that Johnson fully embraced. He's a smart football player who makes those around him better.
While Johnson's aggression helps him more often than not, it can come back to bite him on occasion. He overcommits on some tackling angles and isn't always able to adjust when he miscalculates. Despite being proficient at slipping blocks, he seeks out head-on contact frequently. In order to continue making an impact in the run game, Johnson needs to accept being slithery over forceful.
Coverage is where Johnson needs a lot of work. He does a respectable job over the middle of the field and reads the quarterback's eyes but other than that, he doesn't seem comfortable. His hips are stiff and his feet are heavy until he can get going in man coverage. He's undersized against tight ends and doesn't match up well with running backs. Johnson is a special teams and/or developmental linebacker for the foreseeable future.
How Johnson fits with the Chiefs:
With Anthony Hitchens and Willie Gay Jr. penciled in as the Chiefs' two most important linebackers this season, they need someone to fill the SAM role. While Johnson would likely be fine in shallow zone coverage and is a strong run defender, he probably isn't that player. On the other hand, he does have experience playing SAM in college. He'd be a valuable high-floor depth piece either way, giving the Chiefs someone to develop over time.
Johnson is an intelligent linebacker who plays hard. He's lacking high-end fluidity and athleticism, which limits his ceiling at the NFL level. He should still be able to play meaningful snaps moving forward, whether it be on special teams or defense. Johnson grades out as a sixth-round pick that teams will appreciate because of his intangible traits and willingness to get his hands dirty and work.
April 16 update: After posting some impressive explosion, speed and agility numbers at his pro day, Johnson's stock is rising. He now receives an adjusted fifth-round grade.