Johnson Goes From Junior College To No. 4 Pick

When the Dolphins traded up to the No. 3 spot, Lane Johnson thought he was headed to Miami.

And he wasn’t the only one. Jake Long signed with St. Louis in free agency, and the Dolphins desperately needed an offensive tackle to protect Ryan Tannehill. But when Roger Goodell got to the podium to announce the No. 3 pick, the name that came out of his mouth was Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan.

“So after that took place, I knew I had a good vibe for Philly,” Johnson said. “After I got a phone call from a Pennsylvania number, I knew it was time.”

It’s been quite the journey for the Eagles’ first-round pick. He started his college career at Kilgore (junior) college, playing quarterback and weighing 220 pounds. He started bulking up and caught the attention of Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners.

They tried him out at tight end and then defensive end. But Johnson continued to grow, and because of injuries, they moved him to the offensive line.

“The toughest was actually from quarterback to tight end,” Johnson said. “From being such a glorified position and then going to tight end where your hand’s in the dirt, and there’s a lot of physicality involved, that was probably the toughest transition.

“Going to tackle my first year, junior year, was a learning experience, and it kind of felt weird because I had been a skill position player my whole life. And then going to tackle was just kind of a weird experience. Going into my senior year, I knew I had the talent. I just kept on working and developing, and things went well for me.”

That qualifies as an understatement.

Johnson was on the radar of NFL teams back in January, but he had no clue back then that he would be a first-round pick. The pre-draft process was crucial for him.

“One of my main areas of focus was to have a good Senior Bowl,” Johnson said. “I wanted to show people that I’m a good football player and not just a test athlete. And so once I had a good week there, I knew the Combine was going to be kind of icing on the cake with the tests and numbers and stuff. So it’s all part of the process, and it’s finally over.”

In Indianapolis, Johnson put together perhaps the most impressive testing performance ever by an offensive lineman.

“I think Lane Johnson had the freakiest Combine in the history of our coverage of the Combine,” said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock.

He ran a 4.71 40 and displayed a 34-inch vertical (more details here).

Chip Kelly said the Combine was just part of the evaluation and stressed that Johnson is far from a finished product, going as far as to call him “raw.” But he explained that’s part of what the Eagles loved about him – his upside.

Asked if he’s ready to start right away, Johnson said, “I think I am. Yes sir.”

Kelly made a point to mention that jobs will be won and lost on the field. But barring injuries, the Eagles’ offensive line will likely feature Johnson at right tackle, Todd Herremans at right guard, Jason Kelce at center, Evan Mathis at left guard and Jason Peters at left tackle.

Johnson played right tackle his junior year and moved to the left side as a senior. Asked if he has a preference, he said, “I really don’t care. I try to be as balanced as possible. Whatever Coach Kelly and them need, I’m going to do.”

One part of the Eagles’ program that shouldn’t be too tough for Johnson to adjust to is tempo. Oklahoma ran 77.3 plays per game last season, while Kelly’s Oregon squad ran 81.5.

From junior college to the No. 4 pick, from Kilgore, Texas to Philadelphia, Johnson is excited about taking the next step.

“I’m ready to get started,” he said. “And I’m very fortunate to be with the Eagles.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Around The Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • Run Eagles Run

    bryant mckinnie started in JC

  • nicksaenz1

    Trade up to the 29th and get Cyprien!

    • nicksaenz1

      Okay, 30th

    • cliff henny

      we need the picks, at 35, elam will be there.

      • Ank

        Baccari Rambo, slay, and/or honeybadger later…margus hunt or Jesse Williams now

    • Jason N.

      We don’t have to trade up,Elam or Cyprien will be there at #35. I guarantee you.
      I bet you Jags going to take Geno Smith with their 2nd pick.

      • nicksaenz1

        Cyprien still has a shot. Knew Baltimore would take one of the two tho. I forgot SF took Reid when they traded up.

  • Cyrus Robinson

    If Shady stays healthy, I think he gets over 1500 rushing yards this year. With the two most athletic tackles in the NFL, Chip’s fast paced offense and his ability to work in space with the read option, I think he will have a monster season.

  • najascutellatus

    Danny Watkins went from Junior College to first round pick too.. look how that turned out…

    • yat

      don’t be such a downer!

    • Token

      Fans dont like hearing the truth. Dont mention experts loved Twatkins coming into the draft too. Thought he was a day one starter. People never learn.

      Howies job hinges on this pick.

  • Fink

    Jesse Williams, Margus Hunt, or Cyprien. We are guaranteed one of them! What an awesome 1st and 2nd round that would be.

    Still shocked about EJ… ??

    • Ank

      Yea really wanted EJ…hate the bills with their BS Nassib ploy

      • Fink

        I didn’t want EJ, but wouldn’t have hated it. Overall I just can’t believe he went that early. Also can’t believe Floyd dropped that far. He will be the steal of the first round IMO.

        • GEagle

          They needed someone with a CANNON to play in the elements of Buffalo(weather)….didn’t surprise me. Sucks to be Nassib tho

  • Zachary Kahn

    Please god not Geno.

  • Jack Waggoner

    Geno Smith is good value here but not sure about good fit for the Eagles. If Cyprien is there I think we’d be crazy to pass him up. If not I like the D-tackles Williams and Hankins.

  • Green Flyer

    Just like that we now have to figure who they need to pick in the second round. Do they go defense now? Kelly said they will again take the best player, whether offense or defense.

    • GEagle

      The only offensive player that you could possibly take in round 2 is Ertz,Kelce or Esobar….but I think there is a gret chance you find one on the board in round 3…so I think it’s going to be a defender..but I won’t be mad at all if it’s a TE…

      the only thing that will piss me off is if they draft that bum, sulker, Geno

  • southy

    looks like we found our qb of the future

  • Check out this awesome recap of round 1 of the NFL draft.