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The NFL can only hope that Johnson follows the same career arc as the last All-American offensive lineman from Pitt 22 years ago - guard Ruben Brown, a nine-time Pro Bowler over 13 seasons with the Buffalo Bills and Chicago Bears.
Johnson certainly looked the part of a future NFL standout during his time with the Panthers. A local product from nearly Belle Vernon, Johnson signed amid great fanfare, earning five stars and the overall mark among offensive linemen by some recruiting sites. He played in 12 games as a true freshman, starting three times (two at left tackle, one at right guard) before making the switch to left guard as a sophomore. Teaming with left tackle Adam Bisnowaty, Johnson provided a brick wall on the left side for the Panthers over the next three seasons. He earned Second Team All-ACC honors in 2015 before capping his career by allowing zero sacks and earning All-American nods from several publications in 2016, starting 40 consecutive games to conclude his career.
Agile and awareness in pass protection and nimble blocking at the second level in the running game, Johnson is one of the top offensive linemen in the 2017 draft. Whether he ultimately earns a spot among the top 32 or falls just outside of the first round, he looks like a Day One starter and future standout.
STRENGTHS: Unlike many interior lineman sporting 300+ pounds, Johnson carries his weight well, sporting thick limbs with no extra around the middle. He is often asked to pull in this scheme and is well suited for it, showing light feet and balance leaving his stance and locating second level targets. Johnson isn't just athletic, he's savvy. His experience shows up while blocking at the second level, where Johnson shows vision and anticipation to track and attack and greater finishing power and intensity as a senior than in previous years. His balance and lateral agility make him quite effective in pass protection, as well, as Johnson slides easily to mirror athletic rushers and shows awareness to counter stunts and surprise blitzes. Johnson has shown impressive durability over his career, starting since midway through his freshman season and missing just one game (the season opener in his freshman year) during that time. Generally plays with proper technique but is considered a player with some potential left untapped.
WEAKNESSES: Despite his experience, Johnson does not always play with the greatest of fundamentals. He is a bit reliant on his lateral agility and balance to seal off opponents, rather than latching on and controlling due to inconsistent hand placement and pad level. The game seems to come easy to him due to his natural athleticism but Johnson does not always play with the sustained intensity scouts would prefer, raising some questions as to whether he will ever fully maximize his potential.
IN OUR VIEW: Johnson was a standout from the start at Pitt and possesses the blend of size, agility and strength to earn immediate playing time in the NFL, as well. His quickness and body control make Johnson particularly well suited to a zone-blocking scheme.
COMPARES TO: Jahri Evans, New Orleans Saints: Johnson has a long ways to go before warranting a comparison to Evans (a six-time Pro Bowler) but he possesses a similar blend of balance and awareness in pass protection, as well as the quickness in the running game.
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