In 2018, Gary Johnson began making his bid for an NFL future while playing for the Texas Longhorns. He not only led the Longhorns with 90 total tackles, but he also had 16.5 tackles for loss as a senior. Johnson also had 6.5 sacks in 2018. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound junior college transfer has overcome many obstacles in pursuit of his NFL dream.
Johnson is not an average linebacker. His 4.43-second mark in the 40-yard dash was second fastest among linebackers at the NFL scouting combine. Even with this impressing showing, he is still expected to be a late-round pick or possibly not even be drafted at all. The critics of Johnson say he plays out of control at times and “comes in hot.” Many NFL executives believe that Johnson would need to be paired with the right coach and the right system to continue his development.
His speed and strength are his biggest attributes. Johnson is the type of inside linebacker that can pressure up the middle and chase down opposing quarterbacks. He is a force in the run defense and has proven to be a punishing and sure tackler throughout his college career.
The Cleveland Browns seem content with their current starting linebackers in Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey. Kirksey will average $9.5 million per season over the remaining three years on his deal. Schobert, on the other hand, will be a free agent after the 2019 season, during which he is set to earn slightly over $2.1 million.
A situation where Gary Johnson could sit behind two veterans and former Pro Bowlers would be ideal to help him get accustomed to the NFL. Whether he would be drafted or signed as an undrafted free agent, Gary Johnson would be on a very team-friendly contract and would be affordable to keep in the future.
Johnson has shown enough talent to get invited to an NFL training camp. Whether that opportunity will come through the draft or by signing as a free agent after the draft remains to be seen.