With the NFL offseason now on the horizon, the Dallas Cowboys will begin looking to address their biggest deficiency: the offensive line. Come April, Jerry Jones & Co. will undoubtedly have this need at the top of their priority list. One player that belongs high up on the Cowboys’ big board is Boston College’s, Zion Johnson.
Despite ending the 2021 campaign with 12 wins, the trenches left a lot to be desired. Giving up 33 sacks is far from what we would call “elite,” though it was technically an improvement over giving up 44 the previous year. The improvements that should be made would be directed towards the offensive line’s interior.
Investing a first-round choice (preferably a second-round pick if you’re Jones) in Johnson would be wise. Johnson could potentially come into the NFL as a swing offensive lineman. He’ll settle at guard, best-case scenario, but he could also provide depth at center if need be.
What’s the state of the Cowboys’ O-line?
The reason I mentioned the second-round scenario is that Johnson’s currently getting ranked as the top guard prospect. While the offensive line class is stacked this year, getting yourself the cream of the crop could likely cost you a first-round pick. Nevertheless, if the priority is to keep Dak Prescott healthy and upright, Johnson is your guy.
Dallas will likely lose Connor Williams to free agency this year, and Connor McGovern is by no means the long-term solution. While you’d like to preferably draft a starting tackle, the holes within the interior are serious, not to mention that Tyler Biadasz improved his pass blocking from 2020 to last year, but a push from a top prospect will pay dividends.
In fact, Johnson’s pass blocking was graded at 81.6 by Pro Football Focus, while his run blocking came in at an impressive 84.4 based on 777 snaps.
What does Johnson bring to the table?
Turning heads at the Senior Bowl last week, Johnson, standing at six-foot-three and weighing 316 pounds, earned himself the title of Practice Player of the Week. While preferably a better fit in a zone rushing attack, Johnson is quite simply a balanced anchor. He’ll succeed in both opening lanes for Ezekiel Elliott and protecting Prescott.
One thing that stands out while watching Johnson is his power. You won’t mistake him for the strongest player on the field, but he holds his own against incoming defensive linemen, thanks largely to his strong core and outstanding hand usage.
Johnson checks off a lot of the fundamentals you want in a top prospect, such as his hands, anchor ability, and holding his own at the point of attack. He accomplishes this while not having the biggest frame either, but his build can certainly be added onto with NFL-level training.
Picking up an offensive lineman early in the draft isn’t always the “sexiest” or “flashiest” move, but the Cowboys cannot afford to go into the 2022 season with an interior carelessly assembled.