Cowboys Draft Target: LB Derrick Johnson

Looking for the top outside linebacker available in the 2005 NFL Draft? Look no further than Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson, one of the top defensive players available for the Cowboys in April. <BR>

With the bulk of free agency now behind us, the Dallas Cowboys can turn the majority of their attention towards next month's draft.

That's not to say that the Cowboys are completely done with free agency, because chances are, they aren't. However, there's good reason to believe that the organization won't be making near the noise that it did just one week ago.

With that being said, it's time to get re-energized about the draft, and today, we get things going by resuming our Draft Day Targets series. First up, is Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson.

Johnson, a 6-3, 230 pound outside linebacker who runs a 4.55 40-yard dash, is currently ranked as the No. 1 outside linebacker prospect available in this year's draft by Scout.com.

As a junior, Johnson posted a team-high 125 tackles and 20 tackle for loss en route to becoming Texas' first-ever Butkus Award finalist and its first consensus first-team All-American linebacker since Jeff Leiding in 1983. His four interceptions in 2003 tied the UT season record by a linebacker.

"Physically speaking, Johnson is far and away the best senior linebacker in this draft.
Last season, Johnson earned the Nagurski Trophy as the nation's top defensive player and the Butkus Award recognizing the nation's top linebacker. For the year, he recorded 130 tackles (73 solo), 19 tackles for loss, 10 pressures, eight PBUs, nine caused fumbles (No. 1 on NCAA single-season list), two sacks and a blocked extra point.

In other words, he pretty much did it all.

"Johnson is an explosive athlete that forces the action up the field," notes one NFL scout. "He displays good range, covers a lot of area and makes plays in any direction of the field. He's also outstanding in pursuit, and easily cuts the corners off from running backs and is quick filling gaps up the field."

One area Johnson must improve on, especially in the NFL is in his play-action recognition.

"He's not real instinctive or quick," added the scout. "He bites on play action passes and gets caught out of position too often."

As the consensus top-ranked linebacker in the draft, Johnson would have to be picked up by the Cowboys with their No. 11 pick in the first round. By most estimates, he probably won't last past the 15th overall selection.

"Physically, Johnson is far and away the best senior linebacker in this draft," adds the NFL scout. "He also has the ability to play several linebacker positions but should be most effective on the strong side in a system that does not require him to do a lot of thinking."

While Johnson's track record at Texas was almost spotless, his stock soared even higher after his collegiate career at the NFL Combine. The former Longhornr ran a 4.56 40-yard dash after weighing in at an impressive 242 pounds.

With those kind of numbers, it's no wonder why so many consider him the top linebacker in the 2005 draft.

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