Riverdale Baptist High School
Boston College Eagles
Boston College’s 2021 roster featured five legitimate NFL Draft prospects along the offensive line. Zion Johnson is at or near the top of that group. With substantial experience at guard and tackle, the Eagles’ standout has the versatility to back up all five offensive line positions in the NFL. Johnson primarily wins with an easy anchor to withstand contact to his frame; he also has a strong trail arm to slow opponents down. His flexible hips, back and ankles help him stand opposing players up. Johnson routinely seals defenders. What’s more, his persistent leg drive and strong grip after initiating help him generate power and sustain blocks. The Maryland native has a knack for using defenders’ momentum to wash them out of plays. He easily overpowers linebackers and flashes dominance in double teams. Johnson exhibits improved functional strength when playing at tackle. While power is the key to his game, the versatile lineman has reasonable short-area burst and is an above-average linear athlete. He covers ground in sets and can pull, climb or get to space. In pass protection, the Boston College star has the awareness and vision to pick up stunts, help teammates and hand defenders off. He plays with proper gap discipline and handles linear rushes. In the run game, Johnson’s movement skills allow him to execute scoop and down blocks. The experienced starter has long arms to initiate. His hand placement is typically low and he maintains a wide base through contact.
Despite his experience, versatility and overall-promising athletic profile, Boston College’s standout lineman has a limited ceiling in the NFL. Johnson exhibits below-average change of direction and lateral agility; he struggles to hinge, limiting him as a run blocker. What’s more, the linear athlete is ineffective mirroring before contact. His poor deceleration leaves him out of control. He lacks notable straight speed and cannot sustain blocks for extended periods. Further, Johnson is not a people-mover in one-on-one situations. He fails to reliably create space; rather, he typically stalemates defenders. In pass protection, he sometimes takes the wrong opponent and allows penetration. He misses delayed or second-level blitzers too often. The most troubling aspect of Johnson’s film is his unrefined technique. His late and wide hands and high pad level give up his chest and reduce his functional power. Moreover, the athletic lineman is a waist-bender whose inadequate weight distribution sees him redirected regularly. Johnson’s tendency to chase rather than cut off his assignment results in poor angles, sloppy play in space and unfavorable engagement. He does not break down into contact.
A versatile and athletic lineman, Boston College’s experienced blocker has a promising future in the league. Johnson’s ability to serve as a backup at all five offensive line positions should make him a rosterable player early. Further, his power and linear athleticism offer starting potential if he can develop technically. To reach that level, he must learn to drop his pads, refine his hand placement, clean up his angles and play above his base. Even if he improves his technique, Johnson’s ceiling is limited. He can be an average starter at guard.
Born November 18th, 1999 in Bowie, Maryland, Zion Johnson is the son of Tammie Edwards. He attended Riverdale Baptist High School, where he played on both the golf and football teams. In 2016, Johnson had a standout year on his way to the team’s Coach’s Award and Most Improved honors. Despite his development, the Maryland native was an unheralded recruit. He was unranked by 247Sports and chose to enroll at Davidson. Through two seasons with the Wildcats, Johnson appeared in 22 games and had 19 starts. He was named PFL All-Conference First Team and HERO Sports All-Sophomore Honorable Mention in 2018. Riding on his success, Johnson transferred to Boston College as a junior in 2019. He made an immediate impact, playing in all 13 games and earning seven starts at left guard. He was awarded All-ACC Second Team and All-ACC Academic honors. As a senior, Johnson again earned All-ACC Academic honors. The 2020 All-ACC Third Team member was elected team captain by his teammates. He was one of three Boston College student-athletes to receive the 2021 Weaver-James-Corrigan Postgraduate Scholarship Award from the ACC. He played in all 11 games at left tackle and missed just two snaps (783 of 785). Before the 2021 season, Johnson found himself on Phil Steele’s Preseason All-America team at offensive guard. A mainstay on Boston College’s excellent line in 2021, the former Davidson Wildcat kicked inside to guard for most of the season. He was invited to the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl. Johnson has earned an undergraduate degree from the Morrissey College of Arts & Sciences in computer science; he is enrolled in the Woods College of Advancing Studies with a focus on cybersecurity policy and governance. He received The Cote Family Football Scholarship Fund II.
At the next level, Johnson is best suited kicking back inside to guard, as he is an extremely talented run blocker, who with some improvements in his technique can eventually become a starter.
Floor/Ceiling: Rosterable Swing Backup / Average Starting Guard
Scheme Fit: Gap/Power Run Scheme Guard
Grade: 2nd Round
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Watch: Big, strong and physical, Boston College senior Zion Johnson is a transfer from Davidson where he spent two seasons playing in a triple-option offense. It didn’t take Johnson long to acclimate himself to his new surroundings on Chestnut Hill, however, proving to be a menacing blocker in the run game while also improving vastly in pass protection. He has played in a power-run scheme offense under previous head coach Steve Addazio and in an up-tempo spread attack with current coach Jeff Hafley. His versatility, athleticism, strength and tenacity provide ultimate value. (08/21/21)
12/04/21 – A northeast native from Maryland, who played two seasons at Davidson before transferring to Boston College, Johnson has been a staple of consistency during the past two seasons. The Eagles coaching staff raves about his work ethic and versatility. While Johnson has played both tackle and guard, he is best-suited on the interior due to his lack of height but he brings an intense toughness that would endear himself to any fanbase.
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