Lane Johnson isn't as polished as other tackle prospects, but he may have a higher ceiling

Posted Feb 25, 2013

Oklahoma's Lane Johnson, a former quarterback and tight end, outperformed all other offensive tackles at this year's NFL Scouting Combine

Lane Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS - Much of the conversation regarding this year's crop of offensive tackles has centered around Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher of Central Michigan - considered the two top tackle prospects.

While reporters and analysts were trying to determine how big the gap is between Joeckel and Fisher at the NFL Scouting Combine, Oklahoma's Lane Johnson quietly had one of the best combines of any of the tackles - Joeckel and Fisher included.

Johnson, considered the third-best tackle available behind Joeckel and Fisher, is a former quarterback and tight end who was converted to offensive tackle in 2011.

A quarterback in high school, Johnson was moved to tight end after one semester at Kilgore Junior College. He earned a scholarship to Oklahoma as a 6-foot-6, 220-pound tight end who could run 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

"I was around 280, playing tight end and defensive end," Johnson said. "During that next spring, Jarvis Jones, our right tackle, went down. Coach (Bob) Stoops asked me if I wanted to play it. I told him no at first. Then in one of the pass-rush drills they switched me there, and I've been stuck there ever since."

Stuck might not be the right word because Johnson's steadily excelled over the last two years. He started 12 games at right tackle as a junior the first year he switched positions and was moved to left tackle this past season.

Now 303 pounds, the upside with Johnson is that he hasn't lost a lot of the athleticism from his tight end days. He ran 4.72 seconds in the 40-yard dash, bench pressed 28 reps of 225 pounds (Joeckel and Fisher did 27 apiece) and recorded a 34-inch vertical at the Combine.

The reason he's not in the same conversation as a Joeckel or Fisher in terms of being a potential top-5 pick is because he's not nearly as polished.

"His 40-yard dash time was faster than Anquan Boldin," NFL Network Analyst Mike Mayock said of Johnson. "His vertical at 34 inches was the same as A.J. Green – think about this, this is an offensive tackle at 300-plus pounds. He ran faster than Anquan Boldin, he jumped the same as A.J. Green and his broad jump at nine feet, 10 inches was the same as Steven Ridley. Think about those three things for a 300-pound offensive tackle and put that in perspective of what he can be.

"If you look at Lane Johnson's tape Week One at Oklahoma versus the end of the year, it's very different. This is a guy where the sky is the limit. There might be some teams that very quietly think he could become better than those other tackles, (Eric) Fisher and (Luke) Joeckel, with time because of that athletic ability.

"He's going to end up somewhere maybe in the 10-15 range in this draft and he has the ability to be an All-Pro left tackle."

Mayock said that despite only playing tackle two years, he likes him more at this point in his career than he did Nate Solder in 2011 when Solder was selected 17th overall by the New England Patriots. Solder has started 29 games for the Patriots over his first two seasons.

"I like him better than Solder at this point, and Solder was a heck of a prospect," Mayock said.

Johnson, obviously, needs to add weight and muscle to his frame, but doesn't think that'll be an issue once he gets to a practice facility.

"When I first got to Oklahoma, I did the BOD POD test," Johnson said. "They measured my body fat but also my frame, the depth of my chest and hips. When I first got there my frame was 265, which was saying how much weight I can hold. By my junior year, it went to 325. That's kind of what happened, and the weight just kind of came."

Johnson might not be as polished at Joeckel or Fisher as a prospect Day 1 of his NFL career, but his ceiling could be a lot higher.