The NFL Draft is perhaps the most fluid event in all of sports. One day a player can be ranked at the top of the heap and before you know it, the next day he is shuffled down the board into obscurity. For the San Diego Chargers, this could prove to be quite beneficial in the 2013 version of the draft as they covet a solution at left tackle. While the NFL Combine is not the gospel of all things draft related and cannot trump film study in determining which players will and will not be successful at the next level, it does showcase just how impressive some guys truly are.
For Oklahoma Sooners offensive tackle Lane Johnson, that is exactly what transpired for him of the weekend as he annihilated the previous record by a tackle in the 40-yard dash. His 4.72 seconds to run the distance destroyed the former mark of 4.84. Although he was bested by fellow tackle Terron Armstead of Arkansas-Pine Bluff by .01 of a second, Johnson clearly distanced himself from the rest of the tackle class in terms of athleticism.
How is this advantageous for the Bolts who are slated to select 11th overall? What this shows is that there are clearly three elite tackles in this draft class. Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M is still the cream of the crop, Eric Fisher of Central Michigan is my personal favorite, and Johnson has firmly planted himself in the discussion as well.
What the Chargers have to be hoping this development does is allow them to land one of these three young men by standing pat. The needs are different for every team selecting in the top 10 picks ahead of San Diego, but it’s safe to safe that they can’t all take a tackle. If just one of the three remains when the Bolts are put on the clock, they have to be confident that they have themselves an instant starter.
Johnson might be the tackle in vogue right now, but Joeckel outclasses all in terms of what he has put on film (and film doesn’t lie). After him, the debate is on between Johnson and Fisher and it’s safe to say that some clubs may prefer the upside of Johnson to the steadiness of Fisher. For my money, Fisher is still ahead of Johnson in terms of overall ability so if the Chargers can get the former Chippewa at number 11 overall that would be outstanding.
There may not have been a monumental shift in which players are taken at the top on April 25th at the Combine, but there was a new contender added into the mix for the top 10. Johnson’s athletic ability will intrigue some teams so much that they may roll the dice on him in the early portion of round one. If the Chargers end up with him at 11, that’s clearly a good thing, but if they can just get one of the top three tackles in this class, the team will have to be more than satisfied.