Zion Johnson Scouting Report

Background

Zion Johnson (6’3″, 310) is an offensive guard for Boston College and a prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. Johnson transferred to Boston College prior to the 2019 season after spending two years at Davidson. Johnson is from Bowie, Maryland, and prepped at Riverdale Baptist School. During his two years at Davidson, he played in all 11 games both seasons and made 19 starts. After transferring to BC, Johnson took the majority of the snaps at left guard for the first half of the season never started. However, he earned the starting job after six games and played extremely well for the rest of the season, earning ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week twice (NC State, Pittsburgh). Johnson earned Second-Team All-ACC honors, despite only starting seven games. 

Before the 2020 season, the new coaching staff decided to shuffle the offensive line around in order to better fit the new offensive system, which would be more zone-oriented. Johnson kicked outside to left tackle, surprising given his prowess at guard and his relative lack of height. Despite some early-season struggles against Duke and Pittsburgh, he settled into the position as the season went on, turning in quality performances against Notre Dame and Clemson and their NFL-level defenders. He earned All-ACC honors again, this time on the Third Team as an offensive tackle.

Johnson earned some draft buzz during the previous offseason and it only increased going into 2021. However, he decided to take advantage of the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility and return for a fifth year of college football. According to reports, Johnson will be returning to his more natural position at left guard this season. Even though he displayed competency at left tackle, he will most likely stay inside at the next level. 

Statistics

Pro Football Focus Grades (20% snap minimum): 2020 – Offense: 76.1 (60th out of eligible 266 OTs), Pass Blocking: 68.4 (t-116th), Run Blocking: 76.1 (57th), 2 Penalties; 18 hurries, 7 QB hits (top-10 most for both), 2 sacks; 2019 – Offense: 71.4 (t-49th out of eligible 327 OGs), Pass Blocking: 72.5 (123rd), Run Blocking: 69.1 (73rd), 1 penalties; 7 hurries, 1 QB hit, 0 sacks. 

Games Watched

Guard: Kansas (2019), Wake Forest (2019), NC State (2019), Clemson (2019), Pittsburgh (2019)

Tackle: Duke (2020), North Carolina (2020), Pittsburgh (2020), Virginia Tech (2020), Louisville (2020)

Strengths

  • Very good play strength: has both functional and explosive strength to knock defenders back or hold his ground against power; also has both upper and lower body strength and unifies them together very well; heavy hands allows to control and steer defenders with ease; very rarely gets pushed back or shed by defenders. 
  • Very good in pass protection: gets off the snap well and moves fluidly to set points; quick feet, but also patient on vertical sets; very good use of hands with excellent placement and timing, easily controlling defenders’ chests; very good anchor comes from play strength, as he can shut down bull rushes very easily; can recover very well if initially shocked or beaten to get back in front of the rusher and win the rep. 
  • Very good run blocker in Gap schemes: very good ability to execute Base and Drive blocks, playing very well in the phone booth to play with good leverage and drive opponent backward; strength and use of hands (placement) very apparent in controlling defender; very good in DBLs, consistently driving opponent backward; good puller on Trap and Power plays, moving well and delivering blow to defender. 
  • Good run blocker in Zone schemes: good at Reach and Combo blocks, solid on Scoop blocks; has the athleticism to get a gap down and push defender down the line; works exceptionally well in Combo blocks, using excellent strength to drive first defender and good instincts of when to climb. Displays a good understanding of using good angles on his blocks to shield defender away from the ball carrier. 
  • Solid athletic ability and movement skills: can get on the move well on longer Reach blocks; shuffles well in pass protection with quick feet; good on shorter pulls between the hashes.
  • Good competitive toughness: consistently hot motor, plays through the whistle; loves to aggressively finish his block, frequently burying his opponent into the ground; looks for work in pass protection and helps his teammates; very consistent player that does not get tired or discouraged with bad plays. 
  • Good mental processing: keeps his head on a swivel in pass protection to watch for stunts and twists; displays good instinctual timing when climbing to the second level on Combo blocks and when to release for screens; good at reading defenders and adjusting angle/block to meet defender.

Weaknesses

  • Does not have the necessary length or athleticism to consistently play at tackle; clearly not his natural position as he seems to be a tick behind sometimes (play noticeably improves when tight end attached as a blocker, making him feel more like a guard).
  • Struggles against rushers with superior burst that could challenge him around the corner; is not as natural taking deeper vertical sets and generally has issues dealing with smaller, speedier rushers (when playing offensive tackle); inside counters can give him some trouble (at tackle). 
  • Struggles with consistency against quick stunts, especially when already engaged in a block; sometimes a tad late to recognize and react
  • Does not consistently locate and execute block when asked to climb to the second level, especially if defender sits and waits.
  • Longer pulls and blocking in space outside the hashes lack consistency; does not display the necessary foot speed to get out there; looks a little lost when in space. 

Projection

Zion Johnson projects as a top-100 player in the 2022 NFL Draft. He is a complete prospect as an offensive lineman, bringing both the necessary inherent physical traits and refined skills to be one of the best blockers in his class. Johnson has displayed the ability to excel in both a Man-Gap run-heavy offense and a pass-heavy offense that utilizes more Zone principles in the run game. He consistently executes any kind of block you can scheme up. There is not much Johnson can add to his game in 2021; he struggles with consistency in some of the more nuanced aspects of the game. But Johnson got better as the season went on the last two years, even as he dealt with switching to a new position in 2020. He should be even better, returning to his natural position, but coaches and scouts will like that he has displayed positional versatility.

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Published by

Mitchell Wolfe

Scouting Academy Graduate, 2020 Boston College, 2017 Temple University (Master of Sport Business), 2021

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