The Eagles had many options entering the 4th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. At pick number 4, the team could have picked on either side of lines, in the secondary or at quarterback. The Eagles decided go to offensive line with Oklahoma's offensive tackle Lane Johnson. The decision seemed obvious given the age on the offensive line, especially with the potential questions surrounding Jason Peters' and Todd Herremans' health.
Johnson was a pretty successful Texas high school quarterback who went to Kilgore Junior College as a freshmen. He was picked up by Oklahoma following a very limited season at Kilgore. He redshirted his first year, then became a tight end at the start of 2010. He then converted to defense midway through the season. In 2011, he was converted to a right tackle and started 12 of 13 games. Johnson manned Landry Jones blindside in 2012, starting 11 of 13 games, and was voted to the All-Big 12 second team.
Johnson played very well during his final season at Oklahoma, but he really gained the greater football community's attention at the Senior Bowl. He then followed up his great week in Alabama with a freakish Combine in Indianapolis. Johnson was a top offensive line performer in five categories: 40-yard dash (4.72), vertical jump (34-inches), broad jump (118-inches), 3-cone (7.31), and 20-yard shuttle (4.52).
Here is what NFL.com had to say about the 6'6" and 303-pound bookend:
STRENGTHSUses his athleticism well, displaying good foot quickness to mirror pass rushers off the edge to deny them the corner and adjust to their inside moves. Easily reaches second-level targets when pulled outside or stepping up in the box, and sustains the block. Generally plays with good pad level and balance despite his height, and can fire out from a three-point stance and generate a bit of push on run plays. Johnson's feet keep moving through initial contact, allowing him to get into the correct blocking angle while engaged. He also uses his hands and length well to maintain distance with the defender. NFL coaches will like that he plays with an attitude, looks willing to hand-fight with defensive ends, usually lands multiple strong punches, and will consistently finish blocks with a strong-arm extension.
WEAKNESSESLack of experience on the offensive line is a concern, so putting another strong season on tape will be a boon to his draft stock. Height will always be an issue when trying to get leverage against veteran pro defensive linemen, must continue to add strength throughout his frame to control and anchor.
NFL COMPARISONRiley Reiff
My Take: Again, like with Zach Ertz, NFL.com has offered a bizarrely inaccurate comparison for an Eagles pick. First off, Riley Reiff is a short-armed, guard-bodied player, while Johnson is all athlete with tremendous reach. Johnson is a genetic freak with football player written all over him. He plays with tremendous tenacity and is just a mean blocker. Still pretty raw to the position, you can tell Johnson still has to really get use to playing tackle. Johnson's instincts are very good and he finishes blocks very well. While you will hear that Johnson is behind Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher when comes to immediate ability, it is clear he has easily the biggest upside. Johnson improved greatly improved his blocking ability for year one to year two at tackle, which is a good sign, but when you watch his tape you can see that he is much more natural on the left side. The worry I have with Johnson is his strength. He is still very thin and has a lot of room to grow, but I question whether he will gain that size by September. Johnson is very talented and is a smart, instinctual player, so I doubt he falters. Athleticism is nice, but what I like most about Johnson is that he is an angry player who finishes plays. Those traits are ideal with any blocker.
While scouting offensive linemen is hard if you are not aware of blocking assignments, take a look at Johnson's raw talent and play on the field: