As we close out the “NFL Christmas” that is the NFL Draft, we are taking a look at some selected players SteelerNation may have not heard about going into the draft. Next up…
Devodrick “Buddy” Johnson (ILB), Texas A&M, Senior
SELECTED: 4th Round, 140th Overall
As I’ve said throughout the months heading into the draft, there are three things we can count on; death, taxes, and the Steelers drafting a linebacker. We all know the Steelers are built on a foundation of deep, elite linebackers (both inside and outside) and consistently look to add to the linebacker corps any chance they get. In 2020 we saw how crucial depth at the inside linebacker position is, with injuries to Devin Bush (ACL), his replacement Robert Spillane (knee), Ulysees Gilbert III (back), and Vince Williams (COVID) all proving to be major losses at defense. With the ending of a brief relationship with Avery Williamson and a thin linebacker depth chart, it was no wonder the Steelers were looking for a hard-hitting value pick in the middle rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft. Enter, Devodrick “Buddy” Johnson from College Station, Texas.
Johnson is the run-stopping linebacker Steelers fans adore. Although he is a bit undersized, he plays with a high motor and will outwork anyone to get to the ball carrier. He is definitely a run-stopper, as opposed to a coverage linebacker. Based off his tape in college, we’ve compared him to a young version of Vince Williams. Johnson plays best in the box, specifically in a 3-4 defensive scheme and can crash on the line to disrupt plays. He is able to take on and shed blockers, and move laterally to wrap up the ball carrier. Being an inside linebacker, he could also be the play-caller on defense. Johnson has great football IQ and is not afraid to do the dirty work.
There are two main reasons why Johnson slid to the 4th round. First is his size. At 6’0” and 229 pounds, he is pretty maxed out physically. With Johnson being focused on stopping the run, teams may have wanted to see him bulked up a bit more at his Pro Day heading into the draft. Second, Johnson lacks in his coverage abilities. He showed some slowness in keeping up with tight ends and slot receivers in zone and man coverage. He tends to show stiffness in his technique, and this results in Johnson getting beat on pass plays. Teams like to see more versatility with inside linebackers, and this played into why Johnson fell to the 3rd day of the draft.
With the Steelers addressing their offensive needs in the first two days of the draft, I was happy to see them pick up an inside linebacker in the 4th round. Based off the profile of Johnson, I am assuming Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert see his run-blocking strengths as a good pairing to Bush’s coverage abilities. I definitely like that potential “thunder and lightning” combination in the coming seasons. Johnson is going to help provide that critical depth in the linebacker room and is going to be seeing playing time in 2021. Get ready to see #51 blowing up a backfield near you.
How do you think the Steelers did at the 140th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft? Let us know in the comments below!