Eagles Select Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson with the Fourth Overall Pick

Eagles Select Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson with the Fourth Overall Pick
April 25, 2013, 4:51 pm
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Last season was a case study in the importance of the
offensive line for the Eagles. Not surprisingly, they took the opportunity to fortify
the position through the draft.

Howie Roseman stayed put at number four to
select Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson in the first round of the NFL
Draft on Thursday night. He will likely be penciled in to start on the right side from
day one, and should eventually supplant Jason Peters on the left.

[MORE ON LANE: Lane Johnson wrestles bears | Evan Mathis wastes no time to have some fun with Lane Johnson]

Hailed as “the most athletic offensive tackle in the draft”
by NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, Johnson sounds like a perfect fit for Chip Kelly’s
up-tempo offense. He has the size you look for (6-6, 303), plus a bit of a
nasty streak as well.

Here’s the full profile via NFL.com:

Strengths

Uses his athleticism well,
displaying good foot quickness to mirror pass rushers off the edge to deny them
the corner and adjust to their inside moves. Easily reaches second-level
targets when pulled outside or stepping up in the box, and sustains the block.
Generally plays with good pad level and balance despite his height, and can
fire out from a three-point stance and generate a bit of push on run plays.
Johnsons feet keep moving through initial contact,
allowing him to get into the correct blocking ang
le while engaged. He
also uses his hands and length well to maintain distance with the defender. NFL
coaches will like that he plays with an attitude, as he looks willing to
hand-fight with defensive ends, usually landing multiple strong punches, and
will consistently finish blocks with a strong arm extension.

Weaknesses

Lack of experience on the offensive
line is a concern, so putting another strong season on tape will be a boon to
his draft stock. Height will always be an issue when trying to get leverage
against veteran pro defensive linemen, must continue to add strength throughout
his frame to control and anchor.

The one concern with Johnson is that he’s a bit more of a
project than Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel,
who went first and second overall to the Chiefs and Jaguars respectively.
However, it’s rare (for most franchises) to be in a position to snag an elite prospect
at offensive tackle.

Much of the reason Johnson is so raw is because he played so
many positions, including quarterback at high school and for one year of junior
college, then tight end and finally defensive end at Oklahoma. Sooners head
coach Bob Stoops talked about Johnson’s transformation with ESPN.com’s Jake
Trotter.

“We were always trying to find the
best spot for Lane, and we knew even before then that [tackle] was a
possibility,” Stoops said. “We were always looking because we appreciated how
hard he worked -- like, we’ve got to get him on the field.

“He was starving himself at 270 to play D-end. And I asked
(strength coach Jerry Schmidt) how long it’d take him to get to 300 pounds, and
he said, ‘About a week and a cheeseburger.’ And he was right, it didn’t take
him long.”

Many of the Eagles’ woes up front were supposed to be solved
through players returning from injury. Peters, Jason Kelce, and Todd Herremans
were all lost last season. Both tackles are into their 30s though, and Peters
may never be the same again after suffering a twice-ruptured Achilles. Plus,
they still had a hole at right guard where 2011 first-round selection Danny
Watkins appears to be a bust.

With Johnson in the fold, Herremans can move back to guard
where he played during his first six seasons. Down the road, Johnson will provide
the front office with flexibility if/when Peters goes into decline.



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Offensive line is never the most exciting pick, but it is
typically one of the safest at the top of the draft. And as we saw in 2012, it’s
an area where a team can be just an injury or two away from becoming a complete
trainwreck.

For that reason I can’t imagine too many people in the Delaware
Valley are going to be disappointed by the selection. Since Chip arrived, the
Eagles’ moves have been about building the foundation of a team. This was just
the latest, and there are plenty more picks to come.


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