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On the Draft Board: Oregon’s D.J. Johnson

Kansas City has now met with an athletic pass-rushing specialist.

Stanford v Oregon Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

Last week’s NFL Combine led to many reports and rumors about April’s NFL Draft in Kansas City. Among those was a report that Oregon EDGE D.J. Johnson had a formal interview with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Here’s what to know about a potential Kansas City draft target:


Out of high school, this California native was a four-star recruit who spent his freshman year at the University of Miami, playing in eight games during his freshman year. But at the end of the season, he left the program with the intent to transfer.

After Johnson transferred to the University of Oregon, NCAA rules forced him to to sit out his first regular season with the Ducks. In his just-completed senior season — his best — he appeared in 11 games, tallying 24 tackles (15 solo, eight for loss) and six sacks, along with two passes defended and a fumble recovery.

Film evaluation

On film, you can quickly see Johnson’s elite athletic skills. Coming in at 260 pounds, he has great closing burst and decent bend on the edge. His speed and athleticism allow him to move well — both in space and laterally — which allows him to drop into coverage and defend the run.

While a dynamic athlete, Johnson does struggle with high hips — and allowing blockers to get their hands on his body. Outside of his bull rush, he does not have a lot of pass rushing moves, limiting his ability to counter against good offensive linemen.

How he fits with the Chiefs

Johnson’s ideal fit would probably be as 3-4 outside linebacker — but Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo might use him as a rotational pass rusher who could be moved around on the defensive line to get favorable matchups where Johnson’s athletic ability would be used to full advantage.

The bottom line

Johnson’s Combine numbers (including a 4.49 40-yard dash) will turn the heads of general managers across the league. But despite his good athletic profile, he still has some room to develop as a pass rusher. Another thing working against him is his age. He is 24, making him older than some other prospects. With the right coaching, though, his ceiling could be high — but without greater pass-rushing versatility, he might be only a rotational player at the next level.

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