Looking ahead to the 2022 Draft, we check out another Cowboys prospect with a scouting report.
Name: Zion Johnson
Weight: 312 pounds
Combine Results: 5.18 40-yard dash, 32 bench press reps, 32” vertical, 112” broad jump, 7.38 3-cone drill, 4.46 short shuttle
Zion Johnson is really a feel-good story in this draft. After receiving zero scholarship offers from any FBS schools, Johnson committed to Davidson, which subsequently was the only FCS school to offer him. After two dominant years as a starter at Davidson, he got the opportunity to transfer to Boston College, where he spent one of his three years there at left tackle while spending the other two at left guard.
Now, Johnson is only about a month away from being an NFL player, with strong odds of being selected in the first round of the draft. Johnson showed steady improvement each year at Boston College and capped off his impressive final year with a stellar combine performance that seems to have vaulted him to the top of the interior offensive lineman class this year.
With the Cowboys staring at a big hole at left guard after Connor Williams’ departure, and Connor McGovern doing little to claim the job this past year, Johnson seems like a natural fit. More than that, Jerry Jones more or less confirmed the team’s plan to select a lineman at 24 this year. So, how would Johnson fit in Dallas?
Anchor: Johnson has a very sturdy frame despite being a little shorter than the average guard. When he drops his anchor, Johnson does a great job of standing firm and not getting driven off his platform.
Lateral Agility: Boston College ran an offense that was heavy on outside zone runs, which meant Johnson got plenty of opportunities to show off his lateral agility. That’s good because this may be his best trait. Johnson has impeccable footwork and keeps his angles clean when on the move. Johnson’s performance in the combine’s agility drills - fourth among all offensive linemen in the 3-cone drill and third in the short shuttle - further hammered home this strength of his.
Point of Attack: Johnson plays with the type of nasty demeanor that you love to see in linemen, but it doesn’t always translate to actual power. Bigger, more physical defenders have been able to outmuscle Johnson in this regard, but those defenders were few and far between. It’s not quite a weakness for Johnson, as he does have sufficient power at the point of attack, but it’s not a strength either.
Balance: Johnson is pretty well built out and he carries himself well. He rarely gets ahead of himself and remains in control when playing on the move.
Hand Technique: Johnson has very quick hands, which pair well with his 34” arms. He’s able to consistently get his hands on defenders and get full extension to move them back. Johnson’s great hand technique and length is a big reason why his average power at the point of attack isn’t a big factor in his play.
Run Blocking: Overall, Johnson is a really good run blocker. He’s at his best here when playing on the move, and Johnson has a bright future in the NFL as a puller. Johnson isn’t dominant as a run blocker, but he’s certainly better than most other interior linemen in this draft class.
Pass Blocking: Johnson shines most as a pass blocker. His impressive anchor ability is a big part, as he’s very stable in pass protection. Johnson’s year at left tackle also highlighted his ability in this part of his game, although Johnson looked notably more comfortable inside.
Processing: You can often see Johnson working with his line mates in passing off defenders from one to another, and he rarely gets overwhelmed by stunts or blitzes. Johnson played in a triple option offense in his two years at Davidson, so being able to start right away at Boston College in a very different, much more traditional offense speaks to his ability to learn the playbook. That kind of football IQ is part of the reason why Johnson got reps at center at the Senior Bowl.
Intangibles: Johnson is a tone setter and it showed, as his teammates twice voted him as a team captain. The pure grit and determination it takes to go from zero FBS offers to where Johnson is now also speaks to his character. Johnson is going to be a great presence in any locker room.
Boston College’s offensive coordinator is Frank Cignetti, who has a long history with Mike McCarthy. That relationship will undoubtedly play a role in Dallas’ evaluation of Johnson, but it goes further than that. The Cowboys may not run an identical scheme to what Boston College has the last two years, but the language and concepts will be similar enough to where Johnson would have less of a learning curve than he may with other teams.
That only boosts Johnson’s potential fit for the Cowboys, going beyond their obvious need for a left guard. Johnson’s flexibility to play tackle and even taking center reps at the Senior Bowl adds to his value in Dallas, where right tackle is a question mark and Tyler Biadasz isn’t firmly entrenched at center. The biggest question for the Cowboys is whether they’ll be able to get him, as Johnson could very well be off the board by the time they get to make their pick.