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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: LB Buddy Johnson

  • The Draft Network
  • February 8, 2021
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PROSPECT SUMMARY – BUDDY JOHNSON

Buddy Johnson is a four-year player that has started in 23 games (played in 47 career games) over the past two seasons. An instinctive and physical player as a MIKE linebacker, he was at the center of the Aggies' attack. A bit of a throwback player at the position, he's a strong run defender. Attacking the first level with plenty of energy and bad intentions, he's been able to accumulate lots of action in that variety. Pass coverage is where his biggest improvements will need to come, as he has lots of stiffness in his hips that negatively affects him in both man and zone coverage. If able to do that, Johnson could be the combination of a standout special teams player who could serve as down-the-line depth at the middle linebacker spot.

Ideal Role: Developmental MIKE or SAM.

Scheme Fit: An attacking four-down defensive front that allows him to play SAM or MIKE.

FILM EVALUATION

Written by Jordan Reid

Games watched: South Carolina (2020), Tennessee (2020), Alabama (2020), Florida (2020), Mississippi State (2020)

Best Game Studied: Mississippi State (2020)

Worst Game Studied: Alabama (2020)

Tackling: Johnson is accurate with attaching his frame on ball-carriers and bringing them down to the ground. An active player in the middle, he lives for action happening in between the tackles. As his most comfortable domain, he’s able to maintain his control and attack downhill during opportune moments to rack up high tackling totals. 

Football IQ/Instincts: In his comfortable neighborhood in the box, Johnson shows high levels of comfort. Pullers immediately trigger radars in his head as he uses them as a GPS to ball locations. Accurate with timing and pathways to the ball, he’s a prospect that often finds himself in positions to make tackles. Johnson has a well-developed understanding of not only how to get to the ball, but finish plays as well. 

Competitive Toughness: A hardcore player that’s extremely physical at the point of attack, Johnson often welcomes contact. Matching and eventually exceeding the physical asking price at the position, the former Aggies second-level defender enjoys the contact portions of the game. No matter the size of roadblocks in front of him, he will attempt to compete with the physical levels that they bring to engagement points.

Pass Coverage Ability: Johnson’s biggest challenges come in coverage as he is below average when forced to occupy lots of grass. Too much space can cause confusion and his eyes can wander in many places when deployed in zone coverage. A linebacker that should be kept out of man coverage responsibilities, he has lots of hip stiffness that causes challenges when forced to keep up with running backs out of the backfield. 

Run Defending: The portion of the game where he brings the most value, Johnson is a well above average run defender. Having a crystal clear view of run concepts, he’s a see ball, get ball type of linebacker. Playing with a little of a reckless manner at times, he loves to bring high levels of intensity. A prospect that lives for contact and making plays in the run game, he would put his face in a blender if that’s what it meant to get to the ball-carrier and successfully tackle him. 

Block Deconstruction: Possessing plenty of stiffness in his hips, Johnson isn’t a linebacker that will attempt to get skinny and avoid incoming blockers. Sometimes, he’d rather attempt to stack and shed them while there are other times where he’ll attempt to run right through their chest. Switching up his plan of attack has often been seen, which has helped him throughout games. Regardless, he’s a prospect that makes blockers bite down on their mouthpiece when coming into contact with him. 

Lateral Mobility: Despite some athleticism limitations in pass coverage, Johnson has good range at the position. On runs that are designed to attack the perimeter, he’s able to turn and run in order to chase them down, but he also can keep his shoulder parallel to the line of scrimmage and attack them in that manner. The problems occur when he is forced to switch directions suddenly as he doesn’t contain the hip mobility in order to constantly continue to change directions quickly. 

Flexibility: A player that doesn’t play the game with much flexibility, Johnson is a stand tall type of player that operates with a high pad level. His high pads are also a reason why he faces troubles with detaching from blocks as he makes himself an easy target. Unable to consistently contort his body, he relegates to taking lots of head-on contact as well. 

Leadership: The clear centerpiece of the Texas A&M defense, Johnson was seen as one of the utmost leaders on the team. A two-year starter and team captain, he was the communicator not only along the front seven, but also relayed calls and audibles to the back end of the unit as well. With lots of intangibles and leadership qualities, his character speaks for itself on and off of the field. 

Versatility: An old-school thumper type of second-level threat, Johnson is a traditional MIKE linebacker that teams chased about 10-15 years ago for defensive schemes. His deficiencies in pass coverage are evident, which is why Texas A&M often utilized him as a blitzer in obvious passing down situations.   

SCOUT GRADES

TDN Consensus: To Be Determined

Jordan Reid: 66/100

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