What I like-Johnson is a tremendous athlete. Having made several position changes during his career, you can tell it has helped him develop. His time at tight end and defensive end helped him understand leverage. He’s a fluid athlete with almost no wasted movement in his game. Johnson also has a very high football IQ, and solid football pedigree. His former experience as a quarterback shows in his knowledge of the game and when it comes to his assignments, he’s spot on. Physically, Johnson is ideal without being imposing. What I mean by that is he has all the requisite height and length for a top left tackle, but to see him on the field he doesn’t stand out in terms of raw size. But Johnson has learned in just two years of the position how to use his combination of physical gifts and football acumen to become a great pass protector.
His footwork is tremendous. He’s confident in his game, and it shows. He slides quickly and almost effortlessly into his set up and against speed rushers he can match them move for move. Those long arms allow him to extend out while keeping his leverage good and re-direct defensive players. That’s not to say that he is strictly a finesse player because he’s not. Johnson does show good strength as a pass protector when he needs to, and that comes from his base and footwork. When he does get out of position the fact that he’s still lined up properly allows him to use that leverage to hold off a player that could bull rush him.
What I don’t like-While Johnson has all the markings of an elite pass protector, there are some concerns. First is in the run game. As long as Johnson is able to work in short areas or downfield he is able to harness that athleticism. But as a straight ahead run blocker Johnson struggles. He lets his head dip and can get moved around, particularly by larger players. On too many plays Johnson was on the run side but set up wide, hoping to just shield the defender away from the running back and instead he gets pushed around when the defender takes him inside. Against larger 3-4 defensive ends this is something he will need to work on.
Also in pass protection, Johnson has worked hard on his skills and technique and against the majority of rush ends who only come on an outside move, he can stonewall them. But when they come back inside on him he can lose his leverage, let his arms bend and when he cannot extend he’s at a distinct disadvantage.
What is all means-As a Sooner fan my entire life I feel as if I have to be very cautious when I scout their players. Not only so I don’t give them too positive a review, but to avoid against a negative one as well. There is so much to love about Johnson’s game. When you consider how long he’s been playing offensive tackle it is easy to see that his ceiling is very high. If he can get stronger, maybe a little meaner and continue to improve his run blocking technique he will have a very long and very successful NFL career. But I caution coming out of the Sooners Air Raid offense he was rarely asked to maintain pass blocking assignments. Typically you could make a count of two and the ball was gone. Sometimes this meant all Johnson had to do was extend those arms and one big punch, the defender gets pushed upfield a little and the play was over. In the NFL he’s going to be asked to maintain blocks much more and against much better players.
Johnson is likely a top 10 pick in the 2013 NFL draft, and on the right team he could end up in a lot of pro bowls. But I put him firmly behind the top two tackles in this draft, Luke Joeckel from Texas A&M and Eric Fisher from Central Michigan. He’s a great prospect but like most of this draft class, not without some warts. The fact he’s a natural left tackle prospect helps him a great deal.