Though the play seemed to be over, Zion Johnson kept moving.
In a contest at Clemson last season, the Boston College guard engaged the defensive tackle in front of him. Running back Pat Garwo III collided into Johnson, one of the top interior offensive line prospects in this year’s NFL Draft, at the line of scrimmage.
But Johnson kept his feet churning. Although his opponent had an advantage, his arms locked out, Johnson paved a way for his running back to advance. By the time the play concluded, Johnson ensured the defender before him was well out of the way.
Even in the NFL, Johnson has the capability to create running lanes.
Zion Johnson Draft Odds
Johnson is tied for the seventh-best NFL Draft odds to be the first offensive lineman off the board at +10000.
|1st Pick Odds (4/28)
|Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner
|Derek Stingley Jr.
Zion Johnson Draft Pick Projection
The Detroit Lions need help with their offensive line, specifically on the interior.
Last season, the Lions were 21st in rushing adjusted line yards and 12th in adjusted sack rate, according to Football Outsiders. Pro Football Focus rated them 19th in pass and run blocking.
However, that’s with their tackle situation already solidified. Though he played nine games, Taylor Decker was graded sixth by PFF among tackles.
Detroit drafted Penei Sewell out of Oregon with the seventh overall pick a year ago. In his rookie season, playing on both the right and left side, he was PFF’s 59th-best tackle.
With the last pick of the first round, the Lions could give themselves a boost up front by selecting Johnson.
Zion Johnson’s Stats
Johnson was among the best offensive linemen in the ACC after transferring from an FCS school despite swapping positions twice.
Johnson was an All-American and All-ACC first-team selection in 2021. He allowed only one sack and not a single pressure, via ESPN. PFF graded him as the seventh-best guard in the country.
Johnson proved he can be moved around the line in 2020. He was graded his team’s best offensive lineman while playing 11 games at left tackle on his way to all-conference third-team honors.
Johnson made seven starts while playing in 13 games at left guard in 2019. He made the All-ACC second team.
Johnson played two seasons at Davidson before transferring to Boston College. There, he started 19 games and was an All-Pioneer first-teamer and HERO Sports All-Sophomore honorable mention in 2018.
Zion Johnson Draft Profile
The highlight of Johnson’s tape is his power at the point of attack.
He was first among all players, not just offensive linemen, as he benched 225 pounds 32 times at the NFL Combine.
He was also fourth at his position group with a 32-inch vertical and tied for sixth with a broad jump of 9 feet, 4 inches. He was third with a 4.46-second 20-yard shuttle and fourth with a 7.38-second three-cone drill.
This strength and athleticism were evident in college.
In a game at Pitt, he began by helping out with a block on a nose tackle. In an instant, Johnson spotted a linebacker making his way toward the gap.
Johnson shuffled over and drove him out of the way. This was all just in time for the running back to find space.
Johnson begins plays a little high in his stance. If he was lower, it would help him gain leverage and push opponents off the line more often. It would also help him load weight up on his feet so he can spring out and gain a quicker first step.
Johnson’s hands were also far apart when he blocked, which could leave him vulnerable. He could also improve his stunt and blitz recognition.
However, when he’s getting pushed back, Johnson’s form looks spot on. He squats down and digs in, which makes him tough to beat in narrow spaces.
In space, Johnson keeps his stance wide. Combined with choppy feet, this assists him in consistently remaining in front of pass rushers. He also has the athleticism to block linebackers.
At Clemson, Boston College faced first-and-goal down 13-6 early in the third quarter. Without a defensive lineman in front of him, Johnson climbed to the second level.
He locked up with defensive end KJ Henry and began turning him away from the hole. With this leverage, Garwo had a path to the end zone and tied the game.
Johnson has the potential of providing pro offenses the same sort of performances crucial to victory.
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