Boston College’s Zion Johnson stands out as one of the best interior offensive line prospects in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. Coming out of high school in Maryland, Johnson began his collegiate career with Davidson, starting 19 games over two seasons. He transferred to Boston College ahead of his junior year and spent the next three season with the Eagles. Johnson alternated positions between guard and tackle before settling at guard for fifth-year senior season in 2021. This past year, he earned honors as a First-Team All-ACC member and First-Team All-American.
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Athleticism/Mobility: Johnson is at his best on the move, when he can demonstrate his impressive quickness and fluidity to locate and block defenders all over the field. He’s very adept at coming off of double teams while finding and blocking linebackers at the second level. He can also get on his horse and lead the way when pulling for outside sweeps or counters. Johnson is an unusually dynamic athlete for an interior offensive lineman, and he knows how to exploit that advantage on the field.
Length and Anchor: With 34″ arms, Johnson has excellent length for a guard. He’s typically able to establish first contact with the defensive lineman he’s up against, and from there he usually controls the rep with his very good grip strength and anchor. It’s exceedingly difficult to push Johnson back into the pocket, because his leverage and core strength enables him to hold his ground. Once he gets his hands on a defender, he can usually move his feet well enough to mirror in pass protection.
Inconsistent Feet in Pass Protection: Johnson is a very good linear athlete and checks nearly every box from a physical standpoint. His lateral agility, however, leaves something to be desired. While he can usually keep up with defensive tackles at close range, he can be beaten by blitzing linebackers coming with speed from depth. This is the case with a lot of guards, so it’s certainly not a death knell, but it is a limitation that keeps him from being an elite prospect. Apart from his resticted lateral mobility, Johnson can sometimes neglect to move his feet late in the down, and as a result defenders can swim past him.
Balance: Johnson sometimes plays with a narrow base, which can leave him lunging or leaning in order to recover. When blocking on the move, Johnson does a good job of finding a defender and delivering a blow. He can sometimes approach too high, however, and stumble off his block after initial contact.
Starting Guard in Any Scheme: Johnson is one of the safer prospects in this entire draft. Any team that selects him can therefore feel confident they’re getting a quality day-one starter. He has the tools and physical makeup to excel in either a wide zone or gap-based scheme.
If Johnson comes off the board in the back end of the first round, then the Dallas Cowboys, Tennessee Titans, or Buffalo Bills could call his name. Should he slip into the early second round, the New York Giants, Carolina Panthers, or Atlanta Falcons would love to snap him up.
– Ryan Cuneo is the Managing Editor of Full Press Giants. He covers the New York Giants. Like and follow on Follow @ryan_cuneo Follow @FullPressGiants and Facebook.
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