Nico has the size and athletic ability that you look for in an inside linebacker to build your front seven around. He is smart and a coach on the field. Between the hash marks, he is an excellent "meet, greet and shed the block" form tackler. He has the type of speed that surprises you and also seems to be enough to make a play outside the hash marks. He lacks the quickness and change of direction skills you like to see in a rush linebacker or cover linebacker, but he always seems to be around the ball when playing zone coverage that results into impact plays. Nico seems to always be in the right spot, which makes it seem that he is not as athletic as others on the team, but he is. Nico has the long arms to keep those big offensive lineman off him and fills the gaps to make tackles at the line of scrimmage, and not just down the field. You need this kid on the wall, you want this kid on the wall, to stop the run and be a coach on the field. He'll get others in the right place to make plays against the run and against the pass. Nico is a three-and-out linebacker.
Although Nico does have some athletic limitations for the next level, he compensates for them with excellent football intelligence. His athletic talents will make some teams feel that Nico will not be effective as a linebacker in a Tampa two system and some teams will think that Nico is only a two-down linebacker. This may affect his draft status, but make no mistake about it. Nico has the goods to be an core player and a fan favorite as an inside linebacker in a 4-3 or 3-4.
When you think of Nico Johnson, think of the a larger version of the Redskins middle linebacker London Fletcher. Nico will do what he has to do to get the job done. He will be as fast as he needs to be to make a tackle, intercept a pass or cause a fumble and run it back. He will be a respected leader for your defense, a coach on the field and a fan favorite for a very long time. Think about it: what round would you draft London Fletcher in today if he were coming out in the draft and you suspected that he was going to have the career he has had? Nico has the potential to be as good as London. He has the potential to be the same style of linebacker. If we were out on the field choosing up sides and you took Ray Lewis, I would take London Fletcher and I just bet London would match Lewis tackle for tackle and impact play for impact play. That's Nico -- he will match you tackle for tackle, impact play for impact play and you won't notice until you see the box score.
Drew "The B.S. Detector" Boylhart