The best thing one can say initially about the New Orleans Saints selecting Tarleton State outside linebacker Rufus Johnson with the 183rd overall pick is that the team stuck to its new defensive scheme in acquiring a big outside linebacker.
It is also nice to see the team finally addressed its final "need" in the 2013 draft.
The future outside linebacker came in at 6"4 1/2", 255 pounds at his Pro Day.
At Tarleton State, Johnson played defensive end. In Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme, Johnson will be asked to stand up but essentially play the same position.
That should be good news, as Mike Triplett relays some of Johnson's gaudy senior season statistics.
#Saints DE Rufus Johnson had 10 sacks last year, 17.5 tackles for loss, forced fumble. As junior had 5.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss, 1 FF.— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) April 27, 2013
At his Pro Day, Johnson ran a 4.75 and 4.78 40-yard dash respectively. He also had a 34 1/2-inch vertical leap. Along with wide receiver/special teams guy Saalim Hakim, the Saints now have two Tarleton State players on their roster.
The question is: How does Johnson fit with New Orleans?
As mentioned already, in terms of body type, Johnson is the perfect fit for the outside linebacker spot in Ryan's defense. He will be asked to do the same things in the 3-4 that he did as a defensive end in Tarleton State's 4-3 scheme.
He will undoubtedly stand up and hold the point of attack against the run. Brief film study shows with his size, ability to stay low and play with leverage and react to the ball-carrier running right at him, he will be an excellent run defender.
Who should make up the starting outside linebacker duo?
He also shows a tremendous ability to stop plays that are directed away from him.
As a pass-rusher, he shows amazing strength as he pushes back offensive tackles and gets to the quarterback. It is questionable as to whether his strength will translate immediately to the NFL level.
He seems to lack elite burst and closing speed, but he does possess a knack for getting to the quarterback. His hand usage isn't great, nor does he possess natural pass rush moves.
Time will tell if his natural abilities and strength allow him to become a useful pass-rusher. It is almost guaranteed, though, that he will become a three-down player who can start at outside linebacker in a year or two with his ability to play the run.
He'll never be asked to cover the pass. With his stiff hips, he simply cannot do it. But he can be a great run defender and pass-rusher.
This pick may end up better than it would have seemed at first glance.