2013 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Nico Johnson - ILB, Alabama

Matthew Stockman

At this point, is it ever a bad idea to take a player from Alabama, especially in the middle rounds?

Each season, every college football player sets out to win the National Championship game, and doing it once can be the pinnacle of their career, especially for the majority of players who don't have a chance to play in the NFL. So what does it say about a player that won the BCS Title game three times? That's what Nico Johnson of Alabama experienced in his four years in Tuscaloosa.

Johnson played in 51 career games for the Crimson Tide, starting in 21 of them, which is a bit misleading. Alabama used different personnel groupings based on what the Offense was doing, so there were times that Johnson, a run-stopping specialist, would see the field first, rather than someone else, who was the passing game specialist. That's what happens when you have the talent that Alabama has (we won't get into oversigning here, but that's the reason). Johnson finished his career with 163 tackles, 16.5 for a loss, two sacks, two interceptions, and four forced fumbles. Johnson was good enough as a Freshman to see the field in 12 games, starting 3, and earning a spot on the Al-SEC Freshman team.

In reading about Johnson, he seems like the kind of player that will show up in each game, do his job even if it means eating up blockers (which he did often for Alabama's Defense), and, to use a cliche, he is who he is. He isn't a flashy guy or a guy that could come from nowhere to have a monster game, but he's a consistent guy who isn't afraid to fly into the line to either clear out a blocker or hit the ball carrier, something any team would gladly take to add depth to a Linebacking group. He's pretty limited in pass coverage, mostly because he didn't play much of it, so at this point he's a run-stopper only.

Since Johnson played in a 3-4 in college he wouldn't have the same transition as many ILB would have to the next level, learning how to play the position. For the Colts, he seems like a clone of Kavell Conner, who is entering the last year of his rookie deal. He played a decent amount last season, but he is a holdover from the previous regime, so it's unclear at this point whether he'll be around after this season. If they plan to keep Conner, I don't see the need for a guy like Johnson, who is being projected as a 4th round selection. I like consistency from depth players, and Johnson has that. I think he'll turn out to be a solid pro.

Scouting Profile from NFL.com:

Strengths

Assignment-sure pounder between the tackles who plays with attitude. Usually responsible for taking on fullback and lineman blocks in the middle to free up teammates, but can use his hands to hold them off (when not sliding under) and shed to make plays. Shows enough speed to test guards’ quickness on blitzes.

Weaknesses

Lunch-pail player who hasn’t yet shown great playmaking ability. Lacks straight-line speed to recover once behind a step in coverage or juked at the line of scrimmage, will also struggle to get angle on backs before they turn upfield at the next level.

NFL Comparison

Jason Phillips

CBS NFL Draft Scout Profile:

Strengths

Physically imposing defender with good overall musculature and weight distribution. Has a thick lower body which aids in his anchoring against blockers. Seems to enjoy the physical nature of the game, aggressively taking on and shedding blockers at the point of attack. Appears most comfortable inside, showing the ability to make subtle side-steps to slip into gaps and meet backs at the line.

Weaknesses

Isn't the intimidating striker that his physicality might lead you to believe. Doesn't often leave his feet and explode through his hips as a hitter to knock ball-carriers to the ground. Instead, he latches on and 'rassles them in a manner that may not appear as aesthetically pleasing but gets the job done, nonetheless... Doesn't play as fast as might appear in workouts. Limited awareness as a pass defender. Does not possess ideal speed or fluidity to handle coverage responsibilities for long.

Stats from Sports-Reference.com

Combine Measurements:

Height Weight 40 Time Bench Broad Jump Vertical 3 Cone Drill 20 Yd. Shuttle
6'2" 248 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
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