The Miami Dolphins opened last year’s NFL Draft by investing in the future of the franchise with the selection of Ryan Tannehill. The rookie quarterback would get the start in Week 1 of the 2012 season and gave the world a glimpse of the player he could become. This year, the Dolphins need to protect that investment, and Lane Johnson may be just the man for the job.
Johnson is a versatile offensive tackle that started his football career as a high school quarterback. A very big high school quarterback. At 6-6 and a shade over 300 pounds, Johnson found himself playing tight end and defensive end at Oklahoma before finding a home on the offensive line. He played right tackle for a season, but he worked his way to the left side of the line before the start of the 2012 season.
He is listed as the third best offensive lineman on the majority of draft boards, coming in behind Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher. Johnson may not be as polished as his draft board cohorts, but he is every bit as talented.
Johnson is extremely athletic for his size, with nimble feet he can use to stay with pass rushers coming around the edge. If they come at him with strength, Johnson has more than enough to meet them head on. He uses his hands well, controlling defenders without drawing many flags. Thanks to his strength, speed and flexibility, Johnson has everything it takes to become a solid NFL left tackle.
As important as the pass protection is, Johnson is also very good at run blocking. The same traits that help him in the passing game make him excel when creating lanes, or setting the edge.
The biggest area of concern has to be concern surrounding his ability to sustain his blocks. As a work in progress, he still has the tendency to forget technique and rely on speed and strength. He may have gotten away with it at the college level, but it will get him in trouble when facing the fierce pass rushers of the NFL. The good news is, nothing Johnson has listed as a negative trait would be hard to correct.
It would not hurt for him to get with the nutritionist and hit the gym to pack on a few more pounds of muscle, but he has plenty of room on his frame to make it happen.
With the extra weight increasing his strength and stability, Johnson could set many concerned minds to ease by the time the season begins. He has all of the offseason team activities and a full training camp, including an extra preseason game scheduled, to refine his skills and to prepare himself for the pressure he will face on a weekly basis.
If he puts in the work to reach his potential, the Dolphins will happily introduce him to the crowd as Jake Long’s replacement, and the future of the offensive line. No one would be happier to see this scenario play out then the man who will be missing Long’s presence the most, Ryan Tannehill.
Do not be surprised to see the team make sure their franchise quarterback gets all of the protection he needs by taking Johnson with the 12th pick of the first round.