The general consensus among the NFL draft community seems to be that Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher are this year's top offensive tackle prospects. Lane Johnson finds himself a distant third among the behemoths on the offensive line according to most draft analysts, but does he have a shot to become the best of the bunch?
Write this down: Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson will be drafted in the top-11 picks of 2013 draft.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 25, 2013
Draft position is no guarantee of success at the next level, and Johnson has a legitimate chance to come away as the draft's top offensive lineman. Hard work, determination, several more clichés and a pinch of luck will propel him there.
Here is a bit of Johnson's bio from Darren Page at Detroit Lions Draft:
As a high school football player, Lane Johnson was throwing the ball around as a quarterback. After stints as a tight end and defensive end early in his collegiate career, he finally found his home on the offensive line. He now has two seasons of offensive tackle experience under his belt, which is far less than tackle prospects.
Becoming a top prospect at your position despite only two years of real experience is a feat in and of itself. Johnson's metamorphosis from quarterback to tight end to defensive end and finally to tackle is complete, and the big lineman is ready to emerge from the college chrysalis to spread his wings in the NFL.
There are examples of players who become offensive linemen shortly before or after coming out of college. Perhaps most notably, Eric Winston became one of the NFL's best right tackles after having played tight end throughout his career at Miami.
Johnson has the talent to become a great tackle at the next level. Like anyone else, his NFL Combine results garnered attention:
Official O-linemen 40 times in at #NFLCombine: Terron Armstead at 4.71 seconds, Lane Johnson at 4.72.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) February 23, 2013
Terron Armstead and Lane Johnson (both offensive linemen) would both beat Te'o in a foot race.— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) February 25, 2013
He is quite probably the most athletic offensive lineman in the 2013 draft.
Johnson's biggest obstacle will come in getting strong enough to be dominant in the NFL. One of his biggest knocks stems from a lack of power to complement his athleticism. Here is what Bleacher Report's Eric Stoner had to say:
He doesn’t always play with good knee-bend and overcompensates for his thin and developing lower body by getting tall and playing with too wide of a base. As a result, he’ll put his head down and fail to roll his hips through contact, allowing his man to disengage easily at times.
Similar sentiments are found in Johnson's scouting report over at NFL Draft Geek:
Lane Johnson is at his best in pass protection where he can use his athletic ability to mirror defenders and keep them out of the backfield. He can struggle in run blocking because he isn't overly strong as of yet, but does a good job with his technique and shielding off defenders.
At 6'6" and 302 pounds, Johnson has some room to grow. Johnson can feasibly add 15-20 pounds without sacrificing his athleticism. That is practically a matter of hitting the weight room and having a proper diet.
The practice reps will come.
The right situation is a part of the equation, of course—getting drafted by the right team is also important, particularly in terms of running scheme. Johnson seems better suited for a zone-blocking scheme (ZBS) than a power setup. While Johnson is lacking as a power blocker, he excels in space.
While Joeckel and Fisher seem like safe bets, Johnson has more upside.