After addressing the offense with wide receiver Travis Benjamin, the Browns turned their attention to shoring up defensive depth by using the 120th overall selection on James-Michael Johnson, an inside linebacker from Nevada.
Johnson, 6’2, 240 lbs., played 53 games for the Wolf Pack, accumulating 167 solo tackles, 9 sacks and 46 tackles for losses. During his Senior season, Johnson contributed 100 solo tackles while serving as a team captain.
Johnson began his college career playing outside linebacker and earned second team All-WAC honors during his Sophomore season. Johnson was switched to inside linebacker for his Junior campaign and totaled 88 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles.
When asked to describe his game, Johnson cited his versatility.
“I’m an athletic linebacker,” Johnson said. “I’m an instinctive linebacker. I come downhill. I can guard man-to-man out of the backfield. I can guard the tight end man-to-man.”
Scouting reports suggest that Johnson is a better fit at inside linebacker in a traditional 4-3 defense. However, Johnson has two seasons of college experience at outside linebacker and has also displayed solid blitzing and coverage skills.
Coming to Cleveland, where veteran D’Qwell Jackson recently signed a lucrative contract extension, it would appear that Johnson could be tried as an outside linebacker.
“I’m more comfortable at either role,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t really matter to me. My last two years I played MIKE and that’s where I’m comfortable at, but I’m a linebacker, I can play any position really.”
When asked about Jackson, Johnson was already familiar with the Browns’ standout.
“I’ve been watching D’Qwell for a couple of years,” Johnson said. “He is one of the best inside linebackers in the game. I admire how he plays. I try to pick up things from watching him play on T.V.”
Like most mid-round rookies, Johnson’s initial contributions will come on special teams. Johnson already has experience covering kicks at Nevada.
“I played special teams every year that I was at Nevada,” Johnson said. “It’s something that I like doing, and I embrace special teams. I’m not one of those players who don’t like special teams. I don’t mind running down on kickoff or covering punts. Anything really, I love everything about it.”