Tackle Lane Johnson's NFL draft stock rises

Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson had eye-popping numbers at the NFL combine.
Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson had eye-popping numbers at the NFL combine. (DAVE MARTIN / AP)
Posted: April 25, 2013

The rise in tackle Lance Johnson's NFL draft stock can be summed up in 140 characters:

Junior college quarterback turned Oklahoma offensive tackle puts up freakish combine numbers, climbs draft boards, and is now a top-10 pick.

 The Twitter version, of course, is only a snippet of Johnson's story. While his ascension can accurately be described as meteoric, it does not take into account the No. 1 reason many teams have the offensive lineman rated as a first-round talent: his tape.

Johnson had a very good senior season at Oklahoma. If it weren't for that, there wouldn't be the hype or a chance of the Eagles selecting him with the No. 4 overall pick in Thursday's first round. There is more to the 6-foot-6, 303-pound 22-year-old than just his impressive athleticism.

"If you go back and look at my tape, I've been able to show that," Johnson said recently. "So there shouldn't be any question marks. As far as my athletic ability, I think that will help making the transition to the NFL."

Johnson's combine performance was called one of the greatest by an offensive lineman in the 31-year history of the event. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.72 seconds, had a 34-inch vertical leap, and broad-jumped 118 inches.

"So you have a 300-pounder who is putting up numbers at the combine like a skill-position player," said the NFL Network's Mike Mayock.

Johnson actually finished behind Arkansas Pine-Bluff tackle Terron Armstead in the 40 (4.71 seconds) and the vertical leap (34.5 inches). But Armstead did not compete against the same competition in college and did not look as impressive on film, according to many evaluators.

"We always go back to the tape - [Johnson's] tape from the beginning of this year, or even the end of last year, up through Senior Bowl, has improved every single day," Mayock said. "As the tape has gotten better, you can see the physical, freakish ability."

NFL teams looking for athletic lineman to play up-tempo have obviously caught on. There has been recent buzz that Johnson won't slip past the Detroit Lions, who pick after the Eagles at No. 5.

The Eagles spent a lot of time with Johnson during the offseason. Coach Chip Kelly met him at the combine. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland worked him out in Texas earlier this month. And Johnson visited the NovaCare Complex a little over a week ago.

His rise, in part, can be attributed to the fact that tackles Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher are considered the top two overall prospects in the draft, and possibly the top two picks. If they go 1-2, tackle-hungry teams such as the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins could be enticed to trade up, possibly in a deal with the Eagles.

But it's going to take a slight leap of faith for the Eagles to take Johnson at No. 4. There could be some benefit to taking a lineman with such raw skill. Eagles left tackle Jason Peters, for instance, played tight end in college.

"Intelligence level is important. Background is important," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. "Where were they coming from before? Is it junior college? Is it against low-level competition? Is it a position that, kind of, transfers?"

Johnson was an all-state quarterback at Kilgore High in Groveton, Texas. He went to Kilgore junior college to play quarterback, but was eventually moved to tight end. Oklahoma recruited him, and after a redshirt season he played a little tight end and defensive end as a sophomore.

Before his junior season, though, the Sooners lost their starting right tackle and Johnson was approached about filling in.

"I told the coach 'No' at first," Johnson said. "I really didn't think that he was serious about it. But then after a few weeks I knew he was serious and he needed help."

Johnson played most of his junior season at right tackle and then moved to left tackle last season. He said he played at 305 pounds last season.

"When I went to the Eagles they had my body fat down to around 15, 16 percent," Johnson said. "They want to see how lean you are. They'll measure your wrists, around your knees and ankles to see what your body can hold and they told me [it was] around 315, 320."

Johnson, who earned all-Big 12 second-team honors, entered the Senior Bowl in January already on the national radar. But when he didn't allow a sack during practices or the game, he padded what was already on tape.

"My deal heading into the Senior Bowl was that I knew I was going to be one of those combine freaks," Johnson said, "and I just wanted to prove to people that I could play football."


Receiver/Tight End Prospects

Here are the top-rated wide receivers and tight ends in the NFL draft and some others the Eagles could select in later rounds:

Wide receivers                            

                                          Projected

Player, college                      Ht.    Wt.    round

Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee    6-2    216      1

Tavon Austin, West Virginia          5-8    174       1

Keenan Allen, California             6-2    206       1-2

Robert Woods, Southern Cal       6-0    201       1-2

DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson          6-1    214       2

Justin Hunter, Tennessee             6-4    196       2

Terrance Williams, Baylor          6-2    208       2

Others

 Marquise Goodwin, Texas          5-9    183       3

Kenny Stills, Oklahoma             6-1    194       4-5

Josh Boyce, Texas Christian         5-11    206       5-6

Denard Robinson, Michigan          5-11    199      6

Rodney Smith, Florida State       6-5    225       7

Tight ends                                  

                                          Projected

Player, college                      Ht.    Wt.    round

Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame             6-5    250       1   

Zach Ertz, Stanford                6-5    249      1-2

Travis Kelce, Cincinnati             6-5    255       2-3

Gavin Escobar, San Diego State    6-6    254       2-3

Vance McDonald, Rice             6-4    267       3

Others

 Dion Sims, Michigan State          6-5    262       4-5

Chris Gragg, Arkansas             6-3    244       6

Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State       6-4    252       6-7

- Jeff McLane


Lane Johnson Scouting Report

Tale of the Tape

Height       Weight       Arm length          Hands

6-foot-6       303 lbs.       351/4 inches       101/8 inches

Combine results

40-yard dash: 4.72 seconds     Bench press: 28 repetitions

Vertical jump: 34 inches        Broad jump: 118 inches

3-cone drill: 7.31 seconds        20-yard shuttle: 4.52 secs.

Skinny

Despite just a few years playing on the offensive line, Johnson has natural ability as a blocker. He uses his athleticism well and displays good footwork in pass protection. He keeps pass rushers at bay with his long arms. He's built like a basketball player, with narrow hips, but has surprising power. Scouts love that he plays with an attitude and is physical with his hands. Aside from his inexperience, Johnson can be undisciplined at times. He's not a great run blocker and doesn't always move defenders.

- Jeff McLane


Contact Jeff McLane at jmclane@phillynews.com.

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