So what exactly happened with Micah Johnson going undrafte..."/>
So what exactly happened with Micah Johnson going undrafte..."/>

So What exactly happened with Micah Johnson?


By Kyle

So what exactly happened with Micah Johnson going undrafted? That’s a question a lot of people have been asking and while no one really knows, I’m going to take my best shot at answering it. It’s unfathomable to Kentucky fans how their star Linebacker could go from an all-SEC performer to an NFL afterthought, but if we look at what Micah brings to the table, maybe it makes a little more sense.
As one of the top prep players in the country, ESPN had this to say about Micah as a five star prospect and the #1 Middle Linebacker in the country back in 2005:

“Johnson is a freakish athlete; he has the size and strength to make plays between the tackles and the speed and athletic ability to be a force on the perimeter. He does a nice job of reading blocks and locating the ball. That in addition to an excellent first step allows him to get a jump on blockers. He plays fast downhill and is very physical at the point of attack. He shows the lateral movement to side step blockers and make plays in the hole. He excels at working through the trash, using his hands to play off of blocks and get over the top to make plays on the edge. He has nice closing speed and runs very well in the open field, especially for a player his size. He takes excellent angles to the ball carrier, that along with his speed makes him threat to make a play anywhere on the field. He is a sound tackler that wraps ball carriers up, he is physical enough to lay a lick, and has the presence of mind to try and strip the ball when appropriate. He is a good pass rusher that uses a nice burst to be a force off the edge. His size allows him to be an effective blitzer from the middle. Johnson’s size and ability makes him so valuable because he could play several positions effectively. He is also an excellent running back in the mold of Jerome Bettis. However, his physical style will probably land him on the defensive side of the ball at the college level.”

So reading through that would lead most people to believe this player was destined for stardom and the first round of the NFL draft. But things didn’t play out that way and seven rounds came and went this week without Micah hearing his name called. Here’s what I think went into him going undrafted.

1. Speed

Micah posted the slowest forty-yard dash time of any linebacker a the combine, clocking in at 5.07 seconds. He improved this a little at his pro day and managed to clock a time of 4.84 seconds. With today’s Inside Linebackers running 4.6 and 4.7 second times, Micah was just too slow to garner consideration as an elite prospect and suffered for it.

2. Injuries

Let’s not kid ourselves here, Micah had a major problem with injuries throughout his career in Lexington. Between high ankle sprains, he did excel on the field, but it’s difficult for NFL teams to know where you stand on their board if they can’t watch you play healthy. ESPN had this to say:
“DURABILITY – 4(below average) -Sustains high ankle sprain during 2008 Middle Tennessee State game and misses Western Kentucky and Alabama games as a result. Undergoes arthroscopic knee surgery in October 2007 and misses Mississippi State game.”
Even when Micah was on the field, he was usually playing through an injury and one can’t help but think that that played some role in his going undrafted.

3. Fit

Micah is obviously physically fit, but his playing style doesn’t really fit what a lot of teams do. A team that employs a 4-3 Tampa-2 style defense usually values speed over size because the MLB is expected to be able to drop back and cover he middle of the field. Pass coverage was never his strong suit and this knocked about a half of the teams out of the running as a potential destination. As I’ve said before, Micah is going to do best where he can use his size and strength to step up and stop the running game and blitz the passer. A team that utilizes a blitzing 3-4 defensive scheme is really the only true fit for a player of his ability.

4. Need

Of the teams that employ the type of defense that fits Micah’s skill set, there are very few with a need at the Inside Linebacker position, and the ones that could use an upgrade had other positions that were in need of an upgrade worse. It partially comes down to an issue of supply and demand. Micah can supply a team that runs a 3-4 with a great run-stuffer and blitzer, but there just isn’t a lot of demand at this point.

5. Value

Inside Linebackers in any scheme just aren’t considered a high value position. We’ve seen some of the top standouts fall down draft boards in recent years and that played big part in the issue at hand. There are just so many solid options at the position every year that teams can afford to draft these guys a round or two later than they’re valued because of the limited pool of talent at other positions.

So what happens next?
I think Micah should be picked up very soon and he will have the luxury of picking his destination rather than being forced to go to the team he is drafted to. I would expect him to end up with the Ravens, Jets, Steelers, Browns, Chiefs, Chargers, Packers, or possibly the Broncos. The best bet is for him to end up a Charger (where he is a major upgrade over both of their starting Inside Linebackers) or to the Steelers (where he can provide depth behind the aging Larry Foote and James Farrior). Regardless of where he ends up, Micah Johnson should still have an immediate impact for the team he signs with.

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