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Texas A&M linebacker could provide a succession plan at MIKE

For 29 Days of Draftmas, we profile a linebacker with high football IQ.

NCAA Football: Southwest Classic-Texas A&M vs Arkansas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

A very Merry Draftmas to you!

We continue our tradition of profiling an NFL Draft prospect every day in April, leading up to the NFL Draft on April 29th. Every day, you’ll get a prospect profile that includes how they would fit with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Today, we’re profiling a prospect who could enter the pipeline to eventually replace Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens.

Buddy Johnson, linebacker

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 02 Capital One Orange Bowl - Texas A&M v North Carolina Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

6’ | 230 lbs | Texas A&M

Dallas, TX

Pro Day: 4.58 40-yard dash, 38.5” vertical jump, 128” broad jump, 4.07 short-shuttle, 7.09 three-cone

Expected draft range: Early Day 3

One-sentence bio: Two-year starter who had playing time in all four seasons at A&M — and led the team in tackles during the years he started.

One-sentence scouting report: An explosive, physical downhill thumper who plays with a high IQ and flashes surprisingly good range in specific situations.

One play:

How he fits in Kansas City: Johnson is a highly intelligent linebacker who was the lynchpin in one of the nation’s top defenses over the past two years — even though the unit wasn’t flooded with stars. He made the defensive calls, adjusted the fronts and did all the dirty work for the A&M defense. He consistently showed he knows where to be — and can get there quickly. In this way, he shares some similarities with Chiefs MIKE linebacker Anthony Hitchens.

As a run defender, Johnson isn’t afraid of contact — in fact, he almost embraces it. He doesn’t go out of his way to find contact, but for a player listed at only 230 pounds — although he may have played bigger — he certainly finds a way to win more engagements than he loses. He doesn’t display the most flexibility to bend around or slip blocks, but he is great at utilizing the proper block-deconstruction techniques to squeeze down a run lane or work over a blocker. Despite quality testing, Johnson shouldn’t be seen as a player with sideline-to-sideline range, but he is explosive — and if the path is even somewhat clear, he isn’t stressed by working outside the tackle box.

Johnson’s biggest questions come in coverage. At A&M, he was mostly utilized as a shallow zone dropper — and even in those instances, he often just walled off potential crossing routes. Working on a vertical plane against running backs out of the backfield, he doesn’t look natural — and he doesn’t have the fluidity to match up with tight ends in man coverage. But he makes up for that with his intelligence and quick processing between receivers; he is quick to release a player leaving his zone and pick up another — and also shows a good feel for depth and spacing. So while he may not be a playmaker in the passing game, he’s competent. Combining that with his football IQ — and his ability in the running game — gives him the opportunity to be a quality starter at the next level.

KC Draft Guide

The 2021 edition of the KC Draft Guide is now available!

The Draft Guide provides a one-stop shop that shows how the top college prospects fit with your Kansas City Chiefs. This digital download includes detailed analysis and profiles for hundreds of prospects, player comps, scheme-fit analysis, a Chiefs draft pick trade chart, features, a mock draft and more!

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