For a moment Thursday night, Lane Johnson believed he was Miami-bound.
The Dolphins obtained the NFL Draft’s third overall pick via trade. Considering Miami lost four-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jake Long last month in free agency, many expected the Dolphins had traded up for Johnson. Instead, they picked Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan.
“After that took place, I knew I had a good vibe from Philly,” Johnson said. “And after I got a phone call from a Pennsylvania number, I knew it was time.”
The Philadelphia Eagles selected Johnson, a 6-foot-6, 303-pound tackle from Oklahoma, with the fourth pick Thursday night, concluding the former junior-college quarterback’s remarkable rise up draft boards over the past several months.
Johnson joins an Eagles’ offensive line that was decimated by injuries last season. Four of Philadelphia’s five starting linemen were injured last season, when it finished 4-12, leading to longtime coach Andy Reid’s dismissal.
The Eagles hired Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who is expected to bring his up-tempo, spread offensive attack to the NFL. Johnson’s experience in a similar system at Oklahoma wasn’t a factor in the team’s decision, Kelly said.
“Obviously, he ran a similar system in terms of the pace of play, but that wasn’t really not a factor in us selecting him,” Kelly said. “What really was a factor is that you see a guy who is 6-6 and 300 pounds. He’s got 35-inch arms. He’s got an unbelievable athletic background to him.
“We felt he was the most athletic tackle we’ve seen. He has a huge upside, a very big ceiling.”
Johnson was the last of three offensive tackles picked within Thursday’s first four selections. The Kansas City Chiefs chose Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher with the first overall pick, and the Jacksonville Jaguars followed by snagging Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel with the second pick.
Johnson played right tackle as a junior at Oklahoma, then switched to left tackle for his senior season. The former Sooner said he’s perfectly fine playing either position for the Eagles.
Jason Peters, Philadelphia’s five-time Pro Bowl left tackle, missed last season with a torn Achilles tendon. Last year’s starting right tackle, Todd Herremans, used to start at guard, so he might move inside.
“Let’s get Lane in here and let him actually take a few reps and run around a bit,” Kelly said when asked about the depth chart. “We do know that Todd has some flexibility. That’s the great thing about him because Todd has played inside and outside.
“The other thing about Lane that is great with his versatility is he’s played the right side and the left side. We’re going to let them all battle it out. They are going to win the jobs on the field.”
Johnson began his collegiate career at Kilgore College as a tall, lanky quarterback. He added 40-50 pounds of mass after his freshman season, switched to tight end and transferred to Oklahoma, where he redshirted his first season.
He switched to defensive end midway through the 2010 season, and then to offensive tackle in the spring of 2011. Johnson started 23 games over the past two seasons at tackle.
“While it took a while to find the right position for him to maximize his athletic potential, I have no doubt that he has a huge upside and will only get better with more experience playing tackle,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “Lane is a special individual and we’ll anxiously follow his progress this fall along with our many other Sooners in the NFL.”
Johnson became the fifth offensive lineman — and the 13th overall player — selected in the NFL Draft’s first round under Stoops. He’s also Oklahoma’s 21st all-time top-10 selection.
“I’m kind of an aggressive player on the field, but off the field I’m a down-to-earth guy,” Johnson said. “I’m not arrogant at all. I know Philly’s a good, blue-collar town that works their tail off. Very, very passionate about their sports, especially football.”