By the early look of things, all three of the elite tackle prospects were going to be off the board before the Eagles even got on the clock. Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel went 1 and 2, and the O-line needy Dolphins traded into the third slot, presumably to land Lane Johnson. Instead, they grabbed Chip Kelly‘s old student, Dion Jordan.
They would have a chance to land a tackle after all.
“We thought he was the most athletic tackle we’ve seen,” said Kelly of his first draft pick as Eagles head coach. “He has a huge upside. He hasn’t played a ton of offensive tackle but he has played the right side and the left side so he has experience at both sides.
“The game is won up front. He’s a tough, physical guy and that’s what I think we were looking for as we went into this draft. It’s an exciting thing when you can target people and get what you’re looking for.”
Kelly said that the three tackles and Jordan were the top four players on their board. As it turned out, those prospects went 1-4. In Johnson, they get an intriguing athlete that has more question marks than Fisher and Joeckel because of his lack of experience. But Johnson believes he is ready to start right away.
“I think I am. Yes sir,” he said.
As far as whether he has a preference of playing on the right or left side, he said, “I really don’t care. I’m trying to be as balanced as possible. Whatever coach Kelly and [the team] needs, I’m going to do it.”
If Johnson is capable of playing early on he could man the right tackle post, kicking Todd Herremans inside.
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 270. 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 kind of asked him. I said, ‘Come on, Lane.’ He was a big d-end, we loved him there to be honest with you,” said Stoops. “But I could tell. I said, ‘Big Lane you’re 270 and I can tell you could be more. How are you managing it at 270 playing d-end?’
“I asked our strength coach, what will it take for him to be 300 pounds? He said, ‘Only a couple weeks and a cheeseburger.’ Sure enough, that’s what happened.”
Stoops said they knew after two practices that he had found his home. Johnson played right tackle as a junior and left tackle as a senior.
“I think he is ready, but he is raw,” said Kelly. “And it’s a draft of raw guys. Luke Joeckel is a three-year player…It just seems that’s how this draft fell out. We look at raw as a positive, not a negative because if he’s doing what he’s doing now and he has only played really two years on the offensive line…just what the upside is. We felt his ceiling was probably the highest. That’s the intriguing thing.”
Johnson shot up mock drafts after excelling during the pre-draft process. Adam Caplan said he’s never seen a more dominant performance at the Senior Bowl.
A look at Johnson in action below.
Sheil Kapadia contributed to this story.