Eagles Wake-Up Call: Revisiting the Johnson Pick

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles

Going into last offseason, the Eagles knew they liked Lane Johnson.

But they didn’t know just how much they liked him until they saw him in action at the Senior Bowl and the scouting combine. Like every other NFL GM, Howie Roseman stresses the college tape first and foremost when talking about prospects. But gathering information in Mobile, Ala. and Indianapolis is still an important part of the process.

“In January, we’re in pencil,” Roseman said. “Pen doesn’t come out until a couple weeks before the draft. We want to be open to the process. We want to make sure we’re able to be open-minded at every stage of it. That doesn’t mean we’re gonna have someone who’s gonna go from the fourth round to the second round. That’s not gonna happen, just for where we are because the game tape’s gonna be the most important thing. But when a guy’s in the first round and you see that he’s got traits, sometimes those aren’t confirmed until you get to the combine.”

Something as simple as a prospect’s height, weight and arm length aren’t confirmed until the offseason events. Measurements are listed by college teams, but those are often exaggerated.

As for Johnson, he lit it up during the pre-draft process, testing off the charts in pretty much every category.

“Lane’s one of those guys, when he moves his feet, you just kind of go, ‘Wow,’ ” Roseman said. “He’s got rare movement skills for a 300-pounder, and then he’s got length and he’s got a work ethic.”

Johnson started all 16 games as a rookie and only missed one snap all season. He was far from perfect, enduring growing pains throughout his first season. But overall, Johnson showed improvement from September to January and displayed the promise the Eagles were expecting when they took him with the No. 4 overall pick.

With only two teams left standing, a couple draft review articles have popped up. Don Banks of SI.com had the Eagles taking offensive tackle D.J. Fluker over Johnson in his re-draft:

There was nothing shabby about the Eagles’ original pick of Lane Johnson, but Fluker looked even better at right tackle for the Chargers. Though he struggled in a four-game starting stint at left tackle, Fluker proved to be athletic in his pass-blocking and powerful in run-blocking, logging more than 1,000 snaps for a playoff-qualifying San Diego team that was fortunate to see him fall all the way to No. 11.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. gives the Eagles a B+ in his draft review:

I thought they did a nice job, particularly on the value side, and I gave them one of the better grades in the draft. After a season, I think it holds up pretty well. Johnson struggled early, but we expected that from a guy who’d been playing QB in junior college a couple of years earlier. And Johnson was pretty darn good at right tackle for the last 10 or so games. He was as good as any other rookie at tackle. Ertz saw more of the ball late in the season and looks like a long-term starter; same story with third-rounder Logan, who can be a disruptive player on the inside. Barkley didn’t do anything, but he was a fourth-round pick, so it’s not as if the onus was on Philly to make that pick work. Wolff offered decent depth. The grade stays high as a pretty good team added key help.

For what it’s worth, Roseman feels pretty good about where Johnson is after Year 1. The pick was not just about immediate returns, but how Johnson projects down the road.

“Sure,” Roseman said when asked if Johnson could play left tackle down the road. “He’s done it at a high level in college football and he’s certainly got the movement skills and the size and the length.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Weekend reading: Some love for Nick Foles and Senior Bowl studs.

Wrapping up the Senior Bowl with three defensive prospects Eagles fans should know.

Three Eagles leftovers, including one QB prospect being linked to the Birds.

More on Johnson’s development, plus one vote for Andy Reid over Chip Kelly.

Once again, safety is a need position for the Eagles. Some options in this year’s draft.

Could Brian Orakpo be an option for the Eagles? T-Mac takes a look.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Mike Sielski of The Inquirer tells the story of new Browns coach Mike Pettine and his father:

He retires from West after the 1999 season and joins your staff at North Penn in 2001, but both of you possess fierce tempers, and you often interpret his advice as a sign of distrust. During one game, you look up at him in the coaches’ booth and mutter something unrepeatable and slam your headset to the ground, and even he can see it’s time for you to move on to something bigger and better and all your own.

Still, he never wanted to leave the high school level, certainly never dreamed of coaching in the pros, and now you’re making that jump, and he’s worried: What if it doesn’t work out? You know how fathers are.

Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com takes aim at Heath Evans of the NFL Network:

Blaming your editors for horrible work is garbage, especially when you’re on video basically saying the same exact things you said in your article.

Heath Evans, just stand there in your wrongness and be wrong and get used to it.

COMING UP

We’ll have some stuff on the Eagles’ salary cap situation, plus the start of our offseason outlook series.

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