Derrick Johnson is a player who brings the kind of athleticism to the linebacker position that the Chiefs have lacked since the departure of Donnie Edwards. In fact, when talking to a member of the Chiefs scouting department earlier in the week, they compared Johnson to a larger version of that same Donnie Edwards. With all of the accomplishments of his stellar college career, Johnson deserves that kind of comparison and he’ll be counted on to make the kind of plays he did at Texas. He is one of the most fluid linebackers to be drafted in quite sometime and he’s the purest linebacker in this draft.
During last Wednesday’s pre-draft press conference Carl Peterson stated that they anticipated the acquisition of an instant contributor with the 15th pick. Luckily Johnson seems ready to accept that responsibility. In his first contact with the Kansas City media minutes after he was drafted, Johnson fully expects to be an instant contributor on defense.
The Chiefs will need him to step up with so many injuries at the linebacker position. Last year for Texas he had 130 tackles (73 solo), two sacks and forced nine fumbles. When training camp starts in August, Johnson will be working at left outside linebacker, a position currently held by Scott Fujita. Though Fujita has become a fan favorite it will be very difficult for him to hold off a player of Derrick Johnson’s caliber. But first Fujita has to recover from minor ankle surgery.
As the 2004 winner of the Butkus and the Nagurski awards, Johnson was rated by most NFL scouts as the best true linebacker in this years draft. By the way the last Butkus winner drafted by the Chiefs was the late Derrick Thomas. In this years draft, the only pure linebacker prospect that came close to rating as high Johnson was Maryland’s Shawne Merriman, a player who was drafted by the San Diego Chargers at #12; three spots ahead of the Chiefs. However, Merriman has been looked at as a pass rushing specialistby NFL scouts who think he fits better into a 3-4 defensive scheme.
Still Johnson is not without his flaws. The knock from those same scouts that love Johnson are concerned that he tends to play more of a finesse style and could be a little more stout at the point of attack. When asked about that by the Chiefs media, Johnson made it clear that he is fully prepared to play a more physical role in the NFL. Coach Vermeil also reiterated that point in saying that Johnson had been coached to play passive and had little concern of his ability to play a more physical game at the next level.
Outside of his pure athleticism; Johnson’s ability to create turnovers was another major selling point for the Chiefs. Coach Vermeil is big on stats, especially when it comes to turn over ratios and the role they play in winning or losing a football game. That means he surely took notice of Johnson’s nine career interceptions, 12 forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries.
It would have been hard for the Chiefs to pass him up considering he’s been a human highlight reel for takeaways. This would be especially true when you look at Johnson’s 2004 season. As mentioned his nine turnovers last season broke a record by none other than Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney.
When putting his career in perspective his stats at Texas were awe-inspiring. He recorded 458 tackles; 65 of those behind the line of scrimmage, recorded 10.5 sacks, 39 quarterback pressures, nine interceptions, 12 forced fumbles, 30 pass deflections and five career fumble recoveries.
That means the Chiefs found themselves another playmaker for their revamped defense.