Lane Johnson's long-term prospects

June, 27, 2013
6/27/13
2:55
PM ET
I'm enjoying this Insider series where they try to forecast top 10s for various position groups for the 2016 season. This one is on the offensive linemen, and coming in at No. 4 is Lane Johnson, who was the Philadelphia Eagles' first-round draft pick in April and likely to be their starting right tackle this season as a rookie. Here's what Gary Horton has to say:
A creative Chip Kelly offense requires linemen who are athletic and great in space. They must also be in shape to run the high volume of plays required. He is an ex-quarterback and tight end, which is an example of his athletic ability. As well as he plays, there is still a lot of room for improvement. He is not a power player, but he wins with balance and position. He seems to have a good feel for blocking angles. He gets to the second level, adjusts on the move and fits perfectly in this up-tempo offense.

A lot of the praise for Johnson as the No. 4 overall pick in the draft seems to focus on the consensus belief in how good a fit he is for Kelly's style. This makes one wonder whether his future prospects depend on how long Kelly is the coach in Philadelphia. If you take a tackle at No. 4, you have to at least be thinking about him as a franchise left tackle at some point down the road, right? The Eagles have Jason Peters on the left side now, but he's 31 and won't be there forever. Johnson's worthiness as that high a pick likely depends on whether he can eventually take over at the more important tackle spot once Peters is done.

I don't see much reason to fear that Johnson won't, though. He appears to be quite intelligent, and as Gary points out he seems to have the technical aspects of the job down pretty well. It's a bit of a concern that "he is not a power player," but I would imagine that whether Kelly's the coach for the next 10 years or whether Johnson has five different coaches during his time in Philadelphia, there will be a use for a tackle who's quick and athletic enough to operate at the second level. Kelly's up-tempo style may play well to Johnson's abilities, but that doesn't mean those abilities wouldn't translate to some other system if necessary.

The only other NFC East lineman on Gary's list is the Dallas Cowboys' Tyron Smith, at No. 8.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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