An extremely athletic offensive tackle from the University of Oklahoma, Lane Johnson has been rising up draft boards all the way into first round consideration.
We talked with Jordan Esco of the Crimson and Cream Machine, an Oklahoma Sooners community on SB Nation, about the former high school QB.
Tale of the Tape
Height- 6’ 6”
Weight- 302 pounds
Can you give some background info on him and a quick overview of his career?
In my humble opinion, Johnson’s has to be one of the most interesting stories in NFL Draft history. He came to Oklahoma as a junior college quarterback before moving to tight end, then briefly to defensive end, before ultimately winding up on the offensive line. The fact that he’s now being talked about as a potential first round draft pick is really nothing short of incredible.
It’s a testament to the Oklahoma coaches for seeing his potential, but even more so to Johnson and his work ethic to add the 100+ pounds he did since first arriving in Norman. He’s a guy who is still learning how to play the position, but whose athleticism for a guy his size is just so rare it’s impossible to ignore.
What are his strengths and weaknesses?
At this point, I’d say Johnson is a much better pass blocker than he is a run blocker. He went up against a number of the better edge rushers in the country this past season and fared very well against all of them. He moves incredibly well for his size, so he’s a guy who can get out and pull if need be. He also hasn’t shown any issue getting off his initial block and into the second level of the defense.
While he’s far from a poor run blocker, he’s also not a guy Oklahoma had a ton of success running behind this past season. I think that’s much more about him still learning the intricacies of being an offensive tackle than it is an inability to ever develop into that kind of a blocker.
How did he go from being a QB in high school to a potential 1st round offensive tackle?
Obviously, I don’t think the plan when Oklahoma initially signed Johnson was for him to be their starting left tackle. Honestly, I think they saw him as a guy who could play tight end for them. But like a lot of guys at this level, their bodies can change significantly once they get into a D-I strength and conditioning program. Clearly, Johnson is one of those guys.
He just continued to add weight, and good weight, and at a legit 6’6″ had the frame to do so. The term ‘freak’ is often overused, but in this instance I think it’s more than appropriate. Not necessarily in the sense that it’s typically used, but when you consider where he was when he first arrived to where he is today it’s pretty incredible.
With only playing OL for two years, do you think he is ready to play tackle in the NFL right away?
Well, if he’s going to be the first round pick many are currently projecting he’s probably going to have to be whether he’s truly ready or not. As I was describing before, I think his strength in pass protection can only help his chances of having success in the NFL if he is asked to play as a rookie.
He played both left and right tackle at Oklahoma, so if the team that drafts him wanted to start him out on the right that could help some in terms of his development. Assuming of course they would have that luxury, it would certainly seem to make sense as opposed just throwing him to the wolves at left tackle and the NFL’s elite pass rushers.
What kind of blocking scheme does OU run and do you think he is capable of playing in a zone blocking scheme?
Oklahoma keeps their blocking scheme pretty simple for the most part, so while Johnson doesn’t have a ton of experience in a zone blocking scheme I actually think that type of scheme would best suit his abilities. As I’ve said previously, he’s a guy who moves incredibly well for someone his size. He does well not to get caught up in the traffic around the line of scrimmage and as you’ve said for a guy in only his second year playing on the offensive line, his footwork is very impressive.
All of those qualities would serve him well in a scheme where he would be asked to take on an initial block, release and get out into space to engage another. There would still be a bit of a learning curve I’m sure, but he’s obviously a quick study.
You can follow Jordan on Twitter @Jordan_Esco