Randell Johnson had an up-and-down career at Florida Atlantic University. As a redshirt sophomore in 2011 he was second on the team with 92 tackles, 12.5 TFL, and five sacks. But in his junior and senior years combined, he totaled 62 tackles, 10.5 TFL, and 4.5 sacks.
"My speed, my length, using my hands, getting to the quarterback and just making plays," Johnson said when asked about his strengths as a linebacker. "I'm a playmaker. I'm going to bring that to the Buffalo Bills."
Johnson ran a 4.6 40-yard dash at his pro day in April, showing the kind of speed the Bills envision him using to rush opposing quarterbacks.
"I can play every [linebacker position]," Johnson said. "I played 'Mike' (middle linebacker) in high school and I played 'Mike' at FAU also when we ran our 4-2-5 defense… They used me for blitzing, stopping the run, for coverage. In all types of schemes I was everywhere. I was all over the field."
The 2013 FAU football Iron Man of the Year was not expecting Buffalo to be in the mix for drafting him, citing the Seahawks, 49ers, and Dolphins as the teams he had spoken to the most prior to the draft.
"To tell you the truth, I didn't expect this. I don't really know anything about Buffalo at all so I was surprised. I was just surprised Buffalo picked me up," Johnson said.
Henderson, the former number one overall recruit out of high school, comes into Buffalo on a short leash. He was suspended at the University of Miami three times, all for drug-related reasons. He then tested positive for marijuana at the NFL combine in February, and ended his pro day in April earlier than expected.
"Everybody pretty much knows about my past and I was very truthful about my past and I am just looking forward to moving on and becoming a professional," said Henderson.
If he is able to stay out of trouble, Henderson brings uncanny athleticism to the Bills offensive line. He considered playing basketball instead of football in college and played AAU ball with Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes.
Henderson translates that athleticism to the football field with his surprisingly quick feet and agility for a man his size – 6-7, 331-pounds. He is another massive, strong offensive lineman that specializes more in run blocking, which was clearly an emphasis for Bills GM Doug Whaley and head coach Doug Marrone heading into the draft.
"When you look at the defensive linemen that are in this division – going against all the guys in New York, to Miami, to the players up there in New England, and you look at the players we're getting: everyone is getting bigger players," Marrone said. "We're doing it for the matchups, so we can match up with those players inside."
Based purely on talent, upside, and body size, many people would not have been surprised to see Henderson get drafted as early as the second round. He was a third-team All-ACC pick and posted 58 knockdowns and ten touchdown resulting blocks in 2013.
Henderson now has the opportunity to put his past transgressions behind him and focus solely on improving as a player and helping the Buffalo Bills win games.
"I feel wonderful. I've just been praying for these last couple days with my family," said Henderson. "I've had a lot on my mind but now it's just quite the relief. I'm honored."