Nazeeh Johnson felt destined for Chiefs active roster

Feb 12, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, US; Kansas City Chiefs safety Nazeeh Johnson (13) during Super Bowl
Feb 12, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, US; Kansas City Chiefs safety Nazeeh Johnson (13) during Super Bowl / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

On paper, the moves look like minor transactions. The Kansas City Chiefs submitted a few official roster moves over the weekend to adjust to training camp injuries and the only familiar names involved belong to those known by the more passionate fans.

But this was devastating for Nazeeh Johnson.

It might make for a good trivia question someday to ask what Brett Veach's three seventh-round selections were in the 2022 NFL Draft. Most fans will be able to give two of three right off the bat—cornerback Jaylen Watson and running back Isaiah Pacheco—for their immediate contributions to a team that brought home another Super Bowl championship. The third might be harder to identify for most of Chiefs Kingdom.

As for the other, the third of the bunch, Nazeeh Johnson might have required a bit more time than others to make his own presence felt, but coming into the 2023 season, Johnson was more than ready to make the leap. Unfortunately, Johnson was lost for the rest of the season when he went down with a serious injury in training camp, later confirmed to be a torn ACL.

Just when everything seemed to be moving forward for Nazeeh Johnson, he went down with a devastating injury.

Just like that, someone else's job was saved in the secondary because Nazeeh Johnson was getting ready to steal it.

As the 259th choice in the 2022 draft, Johnson wasn't even in view of most draft experts after playing for Marshall but the Chiefs knew he offered the sort of versatility, athleticism, and measurables that could make him a hit. Johnson's splits, 40-yard dash, and vertical leap were also all elite coming out of college in the pre-draft season.

Last season, Johnson appeared in 11 games for the Chiefs—already a solid first-year total for a late seventh-round pick—and it was clear Dave Toub was learning to trust him more and more on special teams.

Coming into this year, Johnson had already elevated his game throughout the postseason, showing himself to be a very reliable special teams gunner while also earning defensive snaps as well—potentially eating into the playing time of those drafted higher or those more well-known than him. Players like Trent McDuffie and coaches like Toub were singing his praises to the media already this preseason. There's also this:

Yeah, that means the pecking order for at least part of camp was L'Jarius Sneed, McDuffie, and then Johnson.

Now, no one should read too much into this and say that Johnson was destined to be a starter, if only. The Chiefs rotate players in and out of roles throughout camp on a regular basis, and that's the very reason why camp exists—to test players in new roles and measure out the competition. But even a year ago, Johnson wasn't part of the rotation of potential starters and he was definitely not generating the sort of buzz he's created in camp so far.

Instead of squeezing someone out in the name of competition, Johnson will now have to rehabilitate an injury knowing he's already made this climb once. But for those of us who overlooked him the first time around, we'll be keeping an eye on Johnson as he tries to make the ascent once again. We now know what he's made of.