Quarterback turned tight end turned defensive end turned offensive tackle; that is the Cliff Notes version of Lane Johnson’s football career thus far. Now, the 6’7”, 303 lb. former Oklahoma Sooner projects to be a first-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Johnson is regarded as a left tackle at the NFL level, and he may be one of the few top-tackle prospects Chicago could come within reach of this April. Johnson’s lack of experience at the position may have initially hurt his Draft stock, but his performance at the Scouting Combine has only put it back on the rise.
Johnson put up 28 reps on the 225 lb. bench while running a 4.72 40, second best among the group of linemen. Top prospect Luke Joeckel ran a significantly slower 5.22 40 despite his similar frame of 6’6”, 310 lbs. But the tape certainly doesn’t lie; Joeckel is the better prospect. But Johnson’s performance could be enough to make him the second tackle selected.
Johnson will indeed go in the first round, but many have him coming off the board between picks ten and fifteen. The Bears pick at No. 20.
According to NFL reporter Adam Caplan, Johnson will meet with the Bears at the Combine in Indianapolis in addition to at least 19 other teams. Among those 19 are the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers. The Chiefs of course own the No. 1 overall pick, which some speculate will go to former Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel. The Chargers, however, pick right at No. 11.
I’ve been high on Johnson as a potential prospect for the Bears for awhile now, trying not to get my hopes up too much. I remembered back to the 2011 NFL Draft and Scouting Combine, thinking the Bears absolutely had to find a way to draft this Gabe Carimi kid. Chicago ultimately found a way, but for a number of reasons, it hasn’t exactly worked out.
So when I found myself combing through the news of the day on Saturday, coming across this video from the NFL Network in which Johnson calls himself the most athletic tackle in the Draft, I had to laugh and recall the similar comments made by our own Carimi some two years ago.
“I feel comfortable,” Johnson said. “I feel I’m the most athletic tackle in this Draft. I think some of the [Combine] drills are kind of proving it, so I’m just trying to finish off on a good note.”
And Carimi from 2011: “I'm the strongest tackle [in the Draft]. I know I'm the best tackle out there, so I'm just going to play like it and act like it.”
Certainly Carimi’s comments were a bit more egocentric if you remember the circumstances as I do. But one of the things highly touted by coaches is Johnson’s attitude and willingness to get nasty with opposing defensive linemen, something Carimi was also lauded for. Confidence alone is certainly no reason to draw conclusions about how Johnson’s career will ultimately turn out based on the way Carimi’s has.
There is no doubt that at least some of Carimi’s struggles have been injury related. Following two knee surgeries since his rookie season, he’s struggled to reach the potential he no doubt had. There were also some injury flags surrounding Carimi coming out of Wisconsin. Bears’ GM Phil Emery made it a point to say the “medical element” ranks No. 1 for him at the Combine.
If the Emery and the Bears happen find Johnson high on their board and do manage to reach him at pick No. 20, let’s hope all the parallels between him and Carimi start and end at self-confidence.
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