Lane Johnson went fourth in the NFL Draft on Thursday night. Not fourth round. Fourth overall, to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Lane Johnson, who 15 minutes ago was a junior college quarterback and now is an Eagle offensive line cornerstone, went three picks higher than did Adrian Peterson in 2007, and anyone who could spell helmet knew Peterson was going to be an epic tailback.
Johnson went 26 picks higher than did Greg Pruitt in 1973. Twenty-seven picks higher than did Tommy McDonald in 1957. McDonald only led OU in rushing, receiving and passing in a single season and went on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
We can do this by position. Lane Johnson, who moved to offensive line two years ago, went 50 picks higher than Phil Loadholt, who is bigger than a breadbox factory, did in 2009; 19 picks higher than the delightful Davin Joseph did in 2006; nine picks higher than did Jamaal Brown in 2005; 24 picks higher than did Ralph Neely in 1965.
We can do this by Rushmore players. Lane Johnson, who didn’t make the coaches all-Big 12 team last season, went higher than did defensive tackle Tommie Harris (2004), who Barry Switzer considers one of the greatest talents to ever set foot in Norman. Ten picks higher. Lane Johnson went higher than did Roy Williams (2002), the greatest OU defender since Lee Roy Selmon. Four picks higher. Lane Johnson went higher than did Clendon Thomas (1958), who was a man among boys at OU and a man among men in the NFL. Fifteen picks higher. Lane Johnson went higher than did Keith Jackson (1988), who was an absolute, no-doubt, sure-shot prospect. Nine picks higher.
Lane Johnson, who didn’t even play left tackle for OU in 2011, was picked higher than was Steve Zabel (1970), as good a choice as any as the toughest Sooner there ever was. Two picks higher. Lane Johnson was picked higher than was Steve Owens, who won a Heisman Trophy and was a blue-collar runner when the NFL was built around blue-collar runners. Fifteen picks higher. Lane Johnson was picked higher than Eddie Hinton (1969), the most talented receiver in OU history. Eddie Hinton might have won a Heisman Trophy playing in the Bob Stoops era. Lane Johnson was picked 21 slots higher than was Eddie Hinton.
Lane Johnson’s out-of-nowhere theme was prevalent on Stoops’ teleconference with Philadelphia media on Thursday night, which is interesting because of content but also fun to listen to for the tone. Good to see East Coast writers try to slip one of those “were you surprised” questions past Stoops.
How easy was Johnson’s transition from defensive end to tackle?
Stoops: “It was easy for him. He’s a great athlete, big guy. We could tell within a couple of practices, this is going to fit him perfectly. I told him then, ‘You watch, you’re going to be a first- or second-round draft choice.’”
Were you surprised that he rose so high in the draft?
Stoops: “Not really, because we all knew, we’d seen him run our gassers, our three-trippers over and back, he’s in front of the D-ends and D-linemen by 10, 15 yards every day. We knew as soon as they would test him, they were going to be shocked by his upside. When they see him run and change direction. I should say, maybe not the fourth pick. But we knew he’d jump up to a first-round pick.”
Eagle coach Chip Kelly said Johnson should fit in well with Kelly’s uptempo offense, since OU did something similar. Do you agree?
Stoops: “Absolutely. Lane can go all day. He’s as well-conditioned and framed an athlete as we’ve ever had here. I’ll be surprised if he never needs spelled out. He’s used to that. He’s been trained to do that. He’s had good assistant coaches.”
Any one game stand out?
Stoops: “About any game you watch of ours, he was always consistent. He went against some highly-rated defensive ends a year ago at Texas that everyone talked about, and he blocked ‘em as well as anybody could. But through the year, no one worked him. He was great against everybody.”
Is it fair to say that Johnson is still raw?
Stoops: “No. He is raw, but he’s incredibly talented. But he’s been taught well. He’ll get better naturally.
What is Johnson’s ceiling?
Stoops: “I don’t have any idea. But he’s not close to it right now. And he’s really good right now.”
You had some injury problems when Johnson was moved to the offensive line. Without that, would he have been moved?
Stoops: “We don’t doubt that. We’ve been pretty good at finding our players’ strengths.”
How much improvement has Johnson made over two years?
Stoops: “That’s hard to gauge. He was always good. Naturally, the more you do something, the better you get at it. I’m sure there’s more to come.
Does he remind you of anyone?
Stoops: “No. I’m not much on comparing players. I don’t like to do that. They’re all different.”