Zion Johnson, Guard/Center, Boston College: 2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Boston College OL Zion Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Boston College OL Zion Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

You’ve heard all about his meteoric rise throughout Senior Bowl week, let’s look a little closer at Zion Johnson’s unlikely path to the 2022 NFL Draft with this scouting report.


Name: Zion Johnson

School: Boston College

Position: Interior Offensive Lineman

DOB: November 18, 1999 (22 years old)

Height: 6’2

Weight: 314 pounds

Wingspan: 82 7/8”

Arm: 33 7/8”

Hand: 10 7/8”


This Bowie, Maryland native has one of the most interesting stories in the 2022 NFL Draft. Zion Johnson was very late to football. Instead, he grew up on the links and was an accomplished golfer at Riverdale Baptist High School.

When Johnson arrived to the school on his first day of freshman year, he stood at a measly 5’9, 190 pounds. By the time senior year came around, Johnson had added 40 pounds to his frame and grew over three inches in that span. This led him to finally putting on the pads for the first time in his entire life.

Johnson was a quick study, starting as the teams right tackle and steadily improving as the season progressed. Even with his growth, both in terms of height and weight, he was still viewed as undersized by scouts on the recruiting trail. Unfortunately for Johnson, he received a zero-star rating and his lone offer came from a small college in North Carolina called Davidson.

Johnson displayed tremendous work ethic in his two seasons for the Wildcats, showing stunning improvement and a better understanding of the game as a whole. He started 19 games and helped lead Davidson to one of the most feared rushing attack on the FCS level. Scouts quickly took notice and in turn, Johnson gained interest from a handful of schools. One of those schools was Boston College, which is where he opted to play his final three seasons.

His first of those came in 2019 when he hit the ground running, with his success as a run blocker following him to Boston College. In his seven starts at left guard, Johnson contributed to one of the best ground games in the nation. This is backed up by statistics as the Eagles averaged an unbelievable 250 rushing yards a game, spearheaded by eventual second-round pick AJ Dillon. Johnson was awarded the ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week Award on two occasions during his inaugural season in the conference.

He returned for his senior year in 2020 and was named a team captain. Johnson was moved to left tackle for 11 of his 12 starts, marking his first time starting on the outside since his final season in high school. The results were veritably mixed, however Johnson was able to show his durability by playing all but two snaps over the course of the season. He accepted an invite to the 2021 Senior Bowl, but later opted to exercise his right to an extra season of eligibility due to COVID reeking havoc on the 2020 college football season.

The decision to return was unquestionably beneficial, not only to Johnson’s progress as a player but also to his draft stock. In 2021 he returned to the interior line, reclaiming his spot at left guard en route to 11 starts at the position. Johnson graded as the best lineman for Boston College and locked up an impressive quartet of honors (All-ACC First-Team, ESPN’s All-American, CBS All-American, and PFF All-American). He also accepted an invite to attend the 2022 Senior Bowl.

Johnson gets a lot of praise for being a key cog in the run game, but as highlighted by this stat from ESPN, he can more than hold his own in the pass protection department as well:

"Johnson didn’t start playing football until his senior season of high school, but he has developed into one of the best offensive linemen in the country. He allowed just one sack in 2,288 career snaps with the Eagles and had just four blown blocks in 756 snaps this season. He is rated as the No. 2 guard available for the 2022 draft by ESPN’s Mel Kiper."

Following a successful college career full of consistent improvement, Johnson finally began receiving attention on the national scale. Leading up to the Senior Bowl, you could find him near the bottom of many scouts’ top 100 big boards. He set out to enhance that draft stock even more, but little did he know that the week in Mobile would change his life forever.

Johnson Johnson showed up eager to prove himself against the cream of the crop. He gave full effort 100% of the time, while soaking up as much invaluable knowledge from the Jets coaching staff as possible. In this now famous video, Johnson is shown taking reps at center in the pouring rain following practice.

At no point in Johnson’s life has he ever taken game snaps at center, but flashing the ability to do so can only be beneficial to his 2022 NFL Draft aspirations going forward. Let’s dive in and see what has NFL scouts drooling over this former zero-star recruit from Maryland.

2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Boston College Offensive Lineman Zion Johnson

Best Traits

Hands – Hand usage is a key component to having a fruitful career on the offensive line. Zion Johnson shows astounding hand strength and uses it to regularly gain leverage on opposing linemen. His ability to latch onto defenders and steer them in any way of his choosing is unparalleled in this draft class. You cannot teach the natural grip strength that he possesses, as this helps him immensely against players that are bigger than he is.

Technique – Johnson not only has mythical strength in his hands, he’s also very polished when it comes to technique. He uses sound fundamentals and couples it with nearly flawless footwork. Johnson anchors himself into the ground very well; I liken it to a tree with its roots sunk deep into the Earth. It is more or less impossible to move Johnson off his spot when he establishes his base. He exhibits elite traits as a mauler in the run game, too. Johnson regularly keeps his legs churning and does well to get under the pads of the opposition by using his god-given 82 7/8” wingspan.

Athleticism – For a player that received minimal national attention prior to his final season in college, Johnson profiles as a plus athlete which is rare for a player of his size. He has shown the ability to be a menacing pull blocker, using his nimble feet to get going and pairing it with the aforementioned strength to embarrass defenders. Virtually every big play that Boston College made can be credited to Johnson getting to the second level quickly after creating a crater in the line of scrimmage.

Motor – Zion Johnson proved in Mobile that the motor he presented on tape was authentic. He was typically the hardest worker in each rep taken at the Senior Bowl, never wasting a single play and rarely looking overmatched. As is apparent from his path to the 2022 NFL Draft, Johnson has a yearning to learn and finds ways to maximize his talent to the fullest degree. There may be bigger, there may be stronger, there may be faster… but I promise you there is no one that works harder than this kid. His drive has solidified him as a favorite of scouts and fans alike.

Potential – Because of the fact that Johnson has improved each year he has played football, many scouts believe that the sky is the limit in regards to his NFL career. You can’t put a value on someone that has a constant obsession to become the best version of himself each and every day. There is no reason to believe that Johnson has peaked, giving him All-Pro potential as an interior lineman in the league. Don’t be surprised to see Johnson sneak into the backend of the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He has earned it.

Needs Improvement

Inexperience – To be frank, there are not a lot of holes in Johnson’s game. I highlighted his potential but I will be fair and address the other side of that coin. While it is promising how much Zion Johnson has improved, he is still quite young in football years. There are instances on tape where you can tell he is still getting used to the body he grew into. With the work ethic he demonstrated in front of scouts at the Senior Bowl, it’s safe to assume this section becomes a moot point sooner rather than later.

Instincts – His inexperience shows up in another part of his game: play recognition. He does well as a power run blocker but will need to show a better understanding of zone concepts to reach his full potential as a complete player. There are times where he is stuck in no man’s land looking for a body to block. This doesn’t happen often but when it does in pass protection, it really leaves the quarterback out to dry even if the play doesn’t result in a sack.

Balance – Again, I am being nit-picky because I would say he displays elite balance on roughly 95% of his snaps. The one constant variable in each of his “bad plays” though, is the inability to drop his anchor and establish a firm base. He is guilty of lunging at defenders, making him susceptible to getting knocked off his spot and leaving a free shot at the quarterback and/or running back out of the backfield. Considering how sparingly this occurred, you hope it is more of an outlier than anything.

Final Thoughts

Zion Johnson is one of the easiest players to root for in the 2022 NFL Draft. He has an underdog story that anyone can relate to, constantly being overlooked and slept on after arriving late to the sport. I bank on him continuing his trajectory and becoming an All-Pro at guard or center. He is locked in as a late first round value on my board and is behind only Tyler Linderbaum in my interior offensive line rankings. Don’t be surprised to hear Johnson’s name called early in the the draft, potentially much earlier than anyone expects.