Packers Draft Rumors: Interest in Zion Johnson in Round 1

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 04: Zion Johnson #OL22 of the Boston College runs a drill during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 04, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 04: Zion Johnson #OL22 of the Boston College runs a drill during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 04, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

As we discussed recently in my ‘What would Gutey do?’ mock draft, while there are certainly exceptions that can be made, one of the draft trends that the Green Bay Packers have stuck to throughout the years is that they do not select interior offensive linemen in the first round.

However, according to Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network, one prospect that they’ve been linked to recently is Boston College’s, Zion Johnson. Pauline writes that the Packers, along with Dallas and Tampa Bay, are three teams to watch as the first round closes out.

Offensive line depth is a major need that the Packers need to address in this year’s draft.

Now, just because the Packers don’t traditionally draft interior offensive linemen in the first round does not mean that it isn’t a need–it very much is. The current depth of the entire offensive line unit is quite thin at the moment, with the only healthy backup options being Cole Van Lanen, Jake Hanson, and Michal Menet.

When it comes to the NFL Draft, there are very few sure things, but Johnson certainly seems like he might be one of them. He comes from the pro-style Boston College offense with over 2,200 career snaps, and he tested very well at the combine. According to PFF ($$), Johnson allowed just one sack and six pressures this past season at left guard while being one of PFF’s highest-graded interior offensive linemen as well.

"“Johnson is a smart and physical blocker with consistent technique,” says Joe Marino of The Draft Network. “He plays within himself and is rarely caught with poor posture or poor control of his frame. I believe he is best in pass protection but he’s still an above average run blocker that is comfortable operating in space.”"

Many draft analysts believe that Johnson will be best suited to play along the interior at the NFL level, and Pauline even notes that some within the league believe the best move is to transition him to center. But Johnson does also have 786 career snaps at left tackle, and if the Green Bay Packers believe that he can play there in the NFL, then this pick would better align with the positions they’ve traditionally selected in the first round.

Admittedly, I’m still a bit skeptical that this is the route that the Packers will go–and it has nothing to do with Johnson, he’s a terrific football player, and we know how important the versatility that he possesses is to Green Bay.

Perhaps having two first-round picks will change how Brian Gutekunst operates, but this is a first-round selection that would very much go against the grain for the Green Bay Packers–as I’ve already mentioned, they just do not draft interior offensive linemen at this stage of the draft.

And while past results aren’t indicative of future success, I do believe the organization’s track record of selecting Day 3 offensive tackles and moving them to guard does play at least a small factor in this. In the last two drafts, Gutekunst has selected Jon Runyan and Royce Newman on the final day of the draft while there are several other examples of Ted Thompson also finding key contributors in those mid to later rounds.

It’s also important to remember that any rumors heard at this stage of the pre-draft process need to be taken with a grain of salt as teams try to keep what they are really planning to do close to the vest.

Now, having said all of that, if the Green Bay Packers do select Johnson, I will absolutely understand why — he has all the makings of being a 10-year starter in the NFL, and if you have the opportunity to select that player — regardless of position — you do it.

However, this is one of those rumors that also doesn’t quite add up for me either. Would the Packers break the mold and finally select an interior offensive lineman in Round 1? Do they view him as a tackle while a majority see him as an interior player? Would Green Bay move him to center and then move Josh Myers to guard?

As you can see, there are more questions than answers with this one—but Gutey has thrown us a few curveballs in the past as well.