Scout: Lane Johnson ‘Not Ready For Prime Time’

Not everyone is sold on Eagles first-round pick Lane Johnson.

In an NFL.com piece, Albert Breer writes that some around the league have their doubts about the Oklahoma offensive tackle:

While most evaluators see Johnson as a good system fit for Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly — because Kelly needs linemen who are in shape and can run — one scout working the Big 12 said Johnson is “not ready for prime time,” an opinion that is shared in some corners of the NFL. Proof comes in the form of the two teams drafting in the top dozen who shied away from Johnson after sniffing around the left-tackle market. The San Diego Chargers, for one, simply didn’t see it, considering Johnson too much of a projection to trade up for. The Miami Dolphins, on the other hand, did deal up with Johnson still on the board — and then simply went in another direction.

Of course, Chip Kelly fully admitted after the pick that Johnson is a “raw” prospect. The Eagles were impressed with his skill set and athleticism. Now it will be up to the coaching staff to help Johnson maximize his potential in the NFL.

It should go without saying that different scouts and evaluators are going to have different opinions on prospects. For example, here’s what one executive told Paul Domowitch of the Daily News about Johnson:

“It’s hard to find fault with this pick. We had him as the third guy on our board. He’s a really good athlete. He’s only played the position for a couple of years, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he plays or by his knowledge. We had him in for a visit and he was very impressive. Really smart. They can plug him in at right tackle now, and when (Jason) Peters eventually leaves, he can move over and replace him and they won’t miss a beat.

And finally, Bob McGinn’s pre-draft write-ups in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel are always must-read. A couple scouts had fairly positive things to say about Johnson, but one had his doubts:

“I think he’s a fraud,” a third scout said. “He can’t run block. I don’t think he plays strong. I don’t think he moves guys.”

The other factor here is that there were questions about many of the other prospects taken after Johnson (Ziggy Ansah, Tavon Austin, etc.).

It’s tough to find fault with the process. The Eagles spent months getting their draft board together and rating their top four prospects. The player they landed on was Johnson. We’ll know in a few years whether they were correct in expecting his upside to outweigh his question marks.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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