NFL experience: 4th year
We go to our fourth straight player on this list who was undrafted. A.J. Johnson’s career with Tennessee football was cut short his senior year in 2014 due to serious legal charges, which kept him from being able to play competitively for four years. Finally, after a long trial, he was acquitted in 2018 and was able to give it a shot in the NFL.
Johnson landed with the Denver Broncos and played in one game that year. However, he then emerged as a key player in the rotation and quickly became a starter in 2019, starting in 12 games overall while appearing in 15 of them. Then, last year, the 6’2″ 255-pound inside linebacker managed to start all 16 games.
Over the past two years, Johnson has an interception, five pass deflections, four forced fumbles, two and a half sacks, nine tackles for a loss and an incredible 217 combined tackles, 123 of which were solo. He’s been a playmaker all the way around, which was clear in his college days.
A teammate of Johnson’s with the Vols in 2014, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, is also still going strong with the Detroit Lions. He’s not a full-time starter but a reliable backup, so he deserves a shoutout. Johnson, though, is the star of the UT linebackers in the pros.