Ranking the Falcons: No. 22 Mike Johnson
Ranking 22nd on the Falcons is offensive lineman Mike Johnson. Click here to read about the scoring system used to provide these rankings.
Total Score: 50
Player Grade: 50 out of 100
Teams he could start for: 10 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he could find role on: 28 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +3
Positional Bonus: +3
Mike Johnson earns the highest ranking of the Falcons untested linemen that aren’t named Baker, Blalock, or Konz. Part of that is because of my initial belief that Johnson was a highly talented guard prospect coming out of Alabama. Johnson hasn’t exactly proven that yet in his three years in Atlanta. Injuries have been partially a reason why. He nearly unseated Garrett Reynolds in a camp competition in 2011, but injuries prevented Johnson from getting the necessary reps to supplant Reynolds.
Another reason is versatility. After manning the left guard position behind Justin Blalock as a rookie, Johnson moved to right guard in 2011. Then in 2012, he moved to right tackle as the primary reserve behind Tyson Clabo. During last season, Johnson served as the team’s sixth lineman functioning as a tight end and produced in that role. Essentially the only position that he hasn’t played extensively at is center after working some at left tackle in Atlanta and Alabama.
That is what helps him in his ranking, allowing him to potentially start on as many as ten other NFL teams. For some that would be at right tackle and for others potentially at guard. It also means that Johnson could find a role on the vast majority of NFL teams, albeit mainly as a backup at swing tackle or guard.
Johnson will be facing competition this summer from Lamar Holmes at right tackle. But he’ll have the opportunity for the first time in his career to be the front-runner for a starting position. If history repeats itself, then it likely means he’ll emerge as the winner of the battle. If so, and he is able to turn that into a productive year as a starter, he’ll have a chance to earn a long-term contract from Atlanta next off-season when he is due to hit free agency. Where the Falcons see his long-term prospects remains to be seen. The Falcons are going to want to get Holmes an opportunity to start eventually, which means that even if Johnson plays well at tackle this year, his future may still lie inside at guard where he could compete with Reynolds in 2014.
Johnson could compete with Reynolds this summer, although that seems like a longshot barring an early setback at right tackle. Johnson doesn’t have the natural feet of a polished tackle, but he’s shown definite improvement in that area over the past few summers. That was a similar criticism levied at Clabo over the years, as many felt that he was a more natural guard. But Clabo solidified the Falcons right tackle spot for six seasons despite that perceived shortcoming. Like Clabo, Johnson isn’t overly powerful although he ranks better in that arena that many of his Falcon counterparts. The key for him in 2013 will be adding that “plus” ability as a run blocker but also not being a liability in pass protection. It remains to be seen if he protects Matt Ryan from players like Charles Johnson, Cameron Wake, Ahmad Brooks, and Clay Matthews better than Clabo has in the past. And unfortunately for Johnson, he’ll have little room for error as Holmes will be looking over his shoulder.