Lane Johnson is so fast, he outran four wide receivers, three cornerbacks and Manti Te’o at the NFL Scouting Combine.
But Johnson isn’t a fleet-footed tight end or safety; he’s a 300-pound offensive tackle.
Still, Johnson’s nimblest act of the year might have come on four wheels.
The Oklahoma Sooner — and likely top-10 NFL draft pick — played in the Cotton Bowl in the Dallas metroplex Jan. 4. After the game, he drove three hours back to Norman for his wedding rehearsal on Jan. 5, married college squeeze Chelsea Goodman on Jan. 6, and then took a plane to Arizona for predraft training on Jan. 7.
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The happy couple hasn’t had a chance to honeymoon. Perhaps a trip to Miami in, say, a week and a half, would do the trick.
League-wide rumors suggest that the Dolphins, needing an offensive lineman to replace the departed Jake Long, will trade up to draft a tackle in the first round.
That’s where Johnson comes in. He’s the likeliest candidate of the top three tackle prospects (Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher are the others) to still be available at a range where a trade up from the 12th pick wouldn’t be too onerous.
“Lane Johnson is a top-10 guy,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “He’s the kind of guy that has to be in the discussion even at five for Detroit.
“He’s right there with Joeckel and Fisher. It’s really a three-way battle to see who is going to be the first tackle taken.”
The prevailing assumption in football circles is that Joeckel will go first overall to Kansas City, and Fisher won’t make it out of the top five.
But if Johnson is available at No. 6 and beyond, the Dolphins wouldn’t need to give up much more than their first and one of their two second-round picks to go get him.
That’s assuming general manager Jeff Ireland grades him that high — which isn’t certain. After meeting with Johnson at the combine, the Dolphins decided against bringing him back to South Florida for a personal visit, The Miami Herald learned. Whether that is a reflection of their level of interest or is a bit of predraft misdirection remains unclear.
But if they’re serious about upgrading the offensive line — as Ireland has said they plan to do next week — and want to get more athletic, Johnson would be a logical fit.
He isn’t so much an offensive lineman as he is a physical anomaly who happens to block. And that last part has only been for the past few years.
Johnson stands 6-6, but as a senior in high school, he was 80 pounds lighter. He played quarterback in Groveton, Texas, earning honorable mention all-state honors as a senior.
But the big-time schools didn’t recruit him, so Johnson went the junior college route, serving as a backup quarterback for a year. He then enrolled at Oklahoma, where he worked at tight end (redshirting his first year), but never made a splash either at that position or defensive end.
Finally in 2011, necessity pushed him to the offensive line. Right tackle Jarvis Jones was injured, and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops thought Johnson’s body might translate well to blocking.
Johnson had never previously thought about playing on the line, and actually declined the request at first. But he was put at tackle anyway, and, in his words, has been “stuck there ever since.”
Good thing. He’s now on the verge of NFL first-round riches.
A few months back, Johnson was seen in a similar vein as Alabama’s D.J. Fluker — a solid prospect, but in the second tier of this year’s offensive tackles.
But his stock has skyrocketed since a remarkable combine, where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.72 seconds and had the best broad jump by an offensive lineman, leaping 9 feet, 10 inches.
Some questions remain about his lack of experience at the position, but as a college graduate and married man, maturity isn’t a concern.
Goodman, who ran track at Oklahoma, is the daughter of former Steelers defensive end John Goodman. Her father has been a mentor to Johnson in this process.
Still, some things cannot be taught. Such as Johnson’s 34-inch vertical leap, which he has used to throw down 360-degree dunks on the basketball court.
“I feel right at home now,” Johnson said at the combine. “I’ve kind of grown into my body. I’ve kind of got the mental aspect of, I’m going to be like this for the next 10 or 12 years. It fits perfect now.”