This is the eighth in a series. Click the link for all of our profiles. Between now and April 25, we’ll look at as many prospects as possible.
Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson didn’t take the usual path to becoming a first-round prospect.
The 6-6, 303-pounder played quarterback in high school and didn’t draw much recruiting attention, eventually landing at Kilgore (junior) College. But Johnson kept filling out his frame and was moved to tight end in the spring. By that time, he had bulked up from 220 pounds to 255.
Oklahoma offered him a scholarship, and Johnson red-shirted in 2009 as a tight end. He kept putting on weight and was now up to 280. The coaching staff decided another position switch was in order, moving him to defensive end.
But that wasn’t the end of it. The Sooners suffered an injury on their offensive line, and Bob Stoops asked Johnson if he wanted to give tackle a shot.
“I told him no at first,” Johnson said at the Combine. “Then in one of the pass-rush drills, they switched me there, and I’ve been stuck there ever since.
“I thought he was joking or lying to me at first. I didn’t really believe him. After I found out he was serious, I took it a little bit more into consideration.”
Johnson played right tackle as a junior and left tackle as a senior. He is now expected to be taken in the top half of the first round, likely in the top-10.
While college tape is still the most important part of evaluations, Johnson excelled in the pre-draft process. Adam Caplan said he’s never seen a more dominant performance at the Senior Bowl. And this from NFL Network’s Mike Mayock:
Mayock: “I think Lane Johnson had the freakiest Combine in the history of our coverage of the Combine.”
— NFL Media PR (@InsideNFLMedia) April 5, 2013
Jimmy Kempski had a good post for the Allentown Morning Call, putting Johnson’s Combine into perspective.
AN EAGLES SLANT
We’ve made the case several times for the Eagles to take a tackle in the first round. Todd Herremans and Jason Peters are 30 and 31, respectively. The team looked at tackles during free agency and could decide to slide Herremans back inside to guard, where they have a void.
Johnson could come in, play right tackle early in his career and then eventually replace Peters. He’s the most athletic tackle prospect in the draft, which has to intrigue Chip Kelly.
But would the Eagles consider taking him at No. 4? Don’t rule it out. Caplan Tweeted recently that some teams have Johnson rated higher than Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher. And Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com says Johnson has “the most upside of any offensive lineman in this entire draft class.”
He could also be an option for the Eagles if they trade down.
The Birds worked Johnson out last week.
Jeremiah has Johnson going seventh to the Cardinals.
ESPN’s Todd McShay also has Arizona landing Johnson with the seventh pick.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Johnson falling all the way down to 11 to the Chargers.
Josh Norris of Rotoworld has the Dolphins trading up to No. 6 to take Johson.
Courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com, here’s Johnson in the Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M.
You can see there has to be a projection with him since Johnson’s only played the position for two years.
At the 2:58 mark, he blocks the outside linebacker way upfield and out of the play. On the very next snap, Johnson takes the defensive end to the ground on a run play.
And at 5:16, you can see him get his hands on a defensive back at the second level. Didn’t see as much of this as I had expected though, given Johnson’s athleticism.
Lance Zierlein of The Sideline View wrote recently:
The one thing that concerns me with Johnson is that he doesn’t bring his feet with him upon contact in the running game and there are times when linemen never quite pick that up.
That makes sense when you watch the cut-ups. Johnson was not as effective in the run game as one might expect (at least in the games I watched).
Here is another game against Texas.