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Roderick Johnson brings stability to OT class


Offensive tackle Roderick Johnson spent time in prayer and talking to his family when weighing the decision about whether to return to Florida State for his senior season or enter the NFL Draft.

He may have taken a peak at a list of draft-eligible linemen as well.

"It had a little factor," Johnson said, acknowledging the notion that this tackle group isn't considered strong compared to recent years. "But it really came down to what I believe. I'm pursuing my dream. I thought I paid my dues at Florida State. It was time for a step up in my life."

Offensive tackle is perpetually a position of need for the NFL as a whole, and an average of five offensive tackles have been taken in the first round of the last four drafts. It's technically possible that Johnson could be the fifth offensive tackle drafted this year but that his selection could come in the third round.

While that's a possibility, it's not a likely one. Teams often can't help themselves when it comes to drafting tackles, and Johnson could be a beneficiary of that mindset – especially considering his lineage and his seeming readiness.

Over the last four NFL drafts, five Florida State offensive linemen have been selected and have earned starting assignments as rookies.

"A big advantage. They always have a pipeline of putting guys in the league," Johnson said. "The coaches there are top notch, top of the line. They know what they're talking about. They're going to push you to be the best player you can be."

Like those before him, Johnson has been prepped for the next level by the Florida State program. Johnson got experience and lots of it in a pro-style offense, starting the Seminoles' last 31 games over the last three seasons at left tackle. The last two seasons ended with Johnson being awarded the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, given annually to the Atlantic Coast Conference's top offensive linemen.

Johnson also possesses attributes that can't be coached. At 6-7 and 300-plus pounds, he has the length and size that NFL personnel people crave in tackles, and his durability speaks for itself. He's among the reasons that running back Dalvin Cook, who became FSU's leading rusher in three seasons, is considered by most to be a first-round prospect.

"You didn't need to do much blocking for Dalvin," Johnson said. "He's a great running back. He sticks his foot in the ground, can go vertical and can catch."

While Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman is noted for his love of "hog mollies," he also tends to view a limited number of offensive tackles in recent draft classes as capable of performing early at left tackle in particular. He's selected just one offensive lineman in the first three rounds of his first four drafts, and that was a guard in third-rounder Trai Turner (2014).

In addition, with the signing of former first-round pick Matt Kalil in free agency, Gettleman has positioned the Panthers to not have to draft a tackle early based on need. But if Johnson were to still be around toward the latter stages of Carolina's four picks in the first three rounds, who knows?

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