2013 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Nico Johnson

Career Recap: Johnson has been a rotational player for the Crimson Tide the past three seasons. He was a backup during his freshman season, but saw some playing time for the eventual National Champions. Johnson recorded 28 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and one forced fumble.

Teammate Rolando McClain moved on to the NFL in 2011, and Johnson was one of the players that filled the void in his second season. The sophomore recorded 33 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and a pick in 2010.

Johnson had his best collegiate season as a junior, playing mainly in obvious running situations. He had 47 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, one sack, one interception and a forced fumble in 2011. Johnson caused an interception against Tennessee via a deflected pass and was in on his forced fumble as well. He played well against LSU’s rushing attack, making 11 tackles in the first game and five tackles with a tackle for a loss in the rematch

Johnson’s numbers suffered last year because he was part of a linebacker rotation and came out of the game on a lot of passing downs. Considering Alabama blew out most of its opponents, teams were throwing a lot in the second half, and Johnson was on the sidelines for a lot of plays. He has also been a good special teams contributor.

2012 Season Outlook: With Dont’a Hightower in the NFL, Johnson should take on a bigger role for Alabama in 2012. He is currently a starting linebacker who could make the case to be a three-down player. Johnson has some blitzing ability and the Crimson Tide likes to take its linebackers and place them as edge-rushers in passing situations. It wouldn’t be surprising if he has a big increase in playing time in passing situations.

It will be huge red flag if Johnson doesn’t produce his best season yet as senior.

Skill-Set Summary: The biggest strength for Johnson as a defender is his run defense. He is tough and physical at the point of attack. Johnson has no issues wrapping big backs and bringing them to the ground. He flows pretty well in the direction of plays and is able to get on some perimeter runs. There is no hesitation in taking on blockers and Johnson does well holding his ground.

Johnson does not look like the best of athletes. He is not a fast linebacker that can cover a lot of ground. His instincts and awareness seem to be a little slow as well. If he improves his ability to read his keys and shows better instincts that could help make up for a lack of foot speed.

In pass defense Johnson does not cover a lot of ground. He also looks like a mismatch in man coverage versus backs or tight ends. The best route to go with Johnson as a pass defender is to have him blitz the quarterback. He’s looked pretty good as a blitzer in limited opportunities, but he should see many more opportunities in 2012.

In the NFL, Johnson looks like he would best used as a rotational linebacker in obvious running situations. That probably means Johnson is just a backup because the NFL is based in the passing attack and nickel defenses. He would fit best on the inside of a 3-4 defense and doesn’t have the speed to be a middle linebacker in a 4-3. Johnson should be a good special teams contributor.

2013 Draft Expectations: Johnson looks like a mid-round pick entering the 2012 season. If the senior has a big year as Hightower’s replacement, Johnson could move into day two of the 2013 NFL Draft.


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