Oklahoma offensive lineman Lane Johnson is considered a surefire first-round prospect in this year's draft, with the potential to land in the Top 15. It's something that seemed wholly unlikely just three years ago.
After playing quarterback in high school, Johnson started his career at Oklahoma as a tight end, before moving to defensive end. In the spring of 2011, he was asked to move to right tackle due to injuries. Despite his inexperience, he immediately flourished as an offensive lineman, starting all but one game that season.
Johnson switched to left tackle last season and picked up where he left off, routinely dominating opponents. For his efforts, he was named second-team All-Big 12 by the coaches in 2012, in just his second season ever playing the position.
The Chicago Bears have met with Johnson and have shown serious interest in the former Sooner. Let's go to the film room to see what he'd bring to the Windy City.
Arms: 35 ¼ inches
Hands: 10 1/8 inches
40-Yard Dash: 4.72 (2nd best amongst OL)
Bench Press: 28 reps
Vertical Jump: 34.0 (2nd)
Broad Jump: 9-10 (1st)
3-Cone: 7.31 (2nd)
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.52 (5th)
As you can see by his combine numbers, this kid is extremely athletic. His experience as a quarterback and tight end shows up on film, with his extreme quickness in everything he does.
He doesn't always explode off the ball but he's fast out of his stance. His speed often allows him to make up for any delays at the snap. Johnson moves very well laterally and can change directions effortlessly. He mirrors defenders very well and gets back quickly in his drop, almost never giving up the edge.
In pass protection, his balance is outstanding, as is his hand usage. He does well in extending his long arms and sinking his hips, allowing him to hold up against the bull rush. On film, very rarely does he allow the defender to get past him and collapse the pocket. He'll be able to handle speed rushers at the NFL level.
As a run blocker, he relies on his natural ability more than technique. He's very aggressive and always looks to finish blocks. He is great at the second level and can easily locate and get in front of linebackers. In a zone run-blocking scheme, Johnson could have great success.
Johnson's biggest weakness is his lack of experience, which often shows up in missed assignments. Poor fundamentals are also a problem. To this point, he has gotten by on natural ability but he must improve his technique if he's going to be consistently successful at the next level. On tape, it appears he's still a few years away from accomplishing that goal.
As a run blocker, he's mediocre. He's a strong player but his tall, lean frame makes it hard for him to keep his pads low. As a result, he ends up bending too much at the waste, resulting in major balance issues in the run game. He's often caught leaning and can easily be thrown aside by wary defensive ends. In power-run situations, he has a tendency to give away the play by leaning forward in his stance and too often drops his head before contact.
He's very aggressive as a run blocker, which is a great starting point, but he'll need a lot of work if he's ever going to be able to move NFL defensive lineman at the point of attack.
Johnson is extremely intriguing. He's freakish in his ability to move as an offensive tackle. On pulls and traps, he's lightning fast down the line and at the second level he's the best offensive lineman in this class.
He's a natural in pass protection and possesses a rare combination of balance and lateral agility. Johnson isn't NFL ready and, if thrown into the fire as a rookie, will likely struggle at times. In reality, it could take him two to three seasons to develop into a consistent contributor. But the potential is all there.
Johnson is a pure left tackle who, if he continues his rapid development at the position, could protect Jay Cutler's blindside for the next decade. There will be some learning pains but Johnson's extreme athleticism will allow him to grow into the role of an NFL starter.
Many current mock drafts have Johnson landing in Chicago at 20th overall. The Bears are looking for an offensive tackle in this draft and will be giving Johnson strong consideration if he is still available when they pick in the first round. He may not be a Day 1 starter but he has the potential to anchor the offensive line for years to come.
If GM Phil Emery sees the former Sooner staring him in the face on the first day of the draft, then I fully expect Johnson to be a member of the Monsters of the Midway for the next decade.
To view more film of Johnson and the rest of the incoming 2013 draft class, visit our BearReport.com forum "War Room" and get caught up.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.