Jeff McLane 🤷🏻‍♂️

After drafting prospects in each of the first three rounds, the Eagles took the next two rounds off before returning in the sixth with linebacker Kyron Johnson. The 6-foot, 235-pounder will likely end up working at strong-side linebacker in Jonathan Gannon’s scheme, but his selection was clearly made with special-teams play in mind.

If Johnson provides immediate contributions on special teams and develops into a reliable defensive reserve, the pick would be a successful one. If he gives the Eagles more, and there is some potential upside considering his athleticism, then he could prove to be a sleeper addition. Johnson wasn’t invited to the NFL combine, but the Kansas product had some impressive pass rushes during Senior Bowl practices in January and was clocked at around 4.4 seconds – some had him a smidge under 4.4 – in the 40-yard dash at his pro day.

He notched only six sacks in his first four seasons with the Jayhawks, but when moved to the edge for his redshirt senior season, he finished with 6 ½ sacks. Johnson’s a speed-to-power rusher, like many undersized edges, but he’s also capable of countering his primary moves with other techniques. He could also learn a thing or two playing behind the similarly sized Haason Reddick in Philadelphia.

While the Eagles had other, greater needs, filling them late in the draft shouldn’t have mattered. At that point, you’re just trying to find diamonds who may have slipped through the cracks. I don’t necessarily dislike the pick, or that the Eagles included scheme-fit into their evaluation, but Johnson is still on the smaller side for a SAM/edge defender. The Reddicks of the NFL are extremely rare. Johnson’s age – he turns 24 in July – is also a bit of a turn-off.

But if he can carve out a staying role on special teams and fill in on defense without getting overrun, the pick would have been more than worth the cost.

Josh Tolentino: Meh

Following early discussions between Johnson and special teams coordinator Michael Clay, Johnson revealed Friday afternoon that he expects to play every single special-teams snap. His speed is enticing; Johnson recorded multiple sub-4.4-second 40-yard dashes. Although he’s a linebacker, he’d be an intriguing option at the gunner position, which is predicated around agility and quickness.

Johnson played for three different coaches over five seasons at Kansas. During that span, the Jayhawks had a record of 9-48. That he emerged from such a tumultuous program – he was the only player drafted from Kansas – might be a testament to his ability and athleticism.

Although he can over-anticipate at times, he tackles with force. Johnson led Kansas with 8½ tackles for losses with 6½ sacks and he tied for ninth in the FBS with four forced fumbles. That intensity will be welcomed by both Clay and defensive coordinator Gannon.

EJ Smith: 👍

When dealing with Day 3 picks, it’s important to set expectations. If Johnson makes even a slight contribution in the next few years, this pick was a good one.

When you look at his physical profile, it’s easy to see what the Eagles liked. He ran a sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash at 6-feet, 235 pounds and has extensive special teams experience. The Eagles likely see him as more of a SAM linebacker than a true defensive end or inside linebacker, and there’s at least a small chance he carves out a role as one of Haason Reddick’s backups.

If he ever figures out how to turn his speed into effective pass rushing, this pick would be a home run. If he tops out as a special-teams contributor for a few years, it’s perfectly fine value. Even if he never sees the field, the decision to take a flier makes sense.

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