Derrick Johnson is one of my favorite Kansas City Chiefs players. The way he shoots the gap and stuffs a running back in the backfield is one of my favorite plays in the game. So I take notice when someone compares a draft prospect to Derrick Johnson.
Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith is listed at 6'3 and 229 pounds, which is similar to DJ. He started 39 games at Notre Dame. He was considered a top 10 pick before a serious knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl (ACL and LCL) derailed those plans.
Read this NFL.com profile of Smith and you could easily be reading about DJ.
Angular, sinewy build with a body fat number you could count on one hand. Checks every size, weight, speed and athleticism box there is. Can sink hips and change direction with suddenness in space. Has length and quickness for extended playmaking radius. Racked up 225 tackles over his last two seasons as a starter. Lightning quick lateral scrapes from gap to gap following track of the ball. Able to transition from scrape to spring seamlessly. Has a turbo boost to race running backs to the corner. Tries to meet oncoming blocks with physical punch and desired arm extension to stay clean. Adequate speed to diagnose and respond. Play speed is elite for the position. Very talented in man coverage. Asked to take on challenging man coverage responsibilities and responded. Has tools to become an excellent blitzer.
There are a couple of concerns for me:
The injury. He was a top 10 pick before it but now we don't really know. There's talk he's still a top 20 pick. He could miss part of next season. If he falls to the Chiefs at No. 28 and they're OK with his medicals, they should absolutely jump on it but they have to be OK with the injury. There aren't many career-ending injuries anymore.
What to do with DJ? Free agency starts March 9. The NFL Draft is April 28. So do you sign DJ before that and then potentially draft his replacement? Or do you let DJ walk and take the gamble you can replace him in the draft (or perhaps you think his replacement is already on the roster)? I don't think the Chiefs would regret signing DJ.