When Roger Goodell announced the Chargers’ first round selection, us here at Bolts From The Blue were fairly content with the pick. We all expected an offensive tackle and several other positions before we expected a guard to be taken, but when we truly dove into the type of player Zion Johnson is, we began to love the pick immensely.
Overall, Johnson’s selection by the Bolts was also well-received across the NFL media landscape. At the end of the day, it seemed like any move the team could have made to protect prized quarterback Justin Herbert would have been met with rave reviews.
So what did the experts from around the media landscape end up saying about this year’s first-round pick? Well, let’s take a look and find out.
Pro Football Focus - Grade: Good
This is a quality pick for the Chargers, who will now put Johnson at right guard and move 2021 starter, Matt Feiler, to right tackle (where he ranked fifth in pass-block grade back in 2019). As lead draft analyst Mike Renner highlighted in the 2022 PFF Draft Guide, there are a few cons to his game. He’s a polished and stout performer with standout production. Johnson earned an 80.0-plus grade as both a pass- and run-blocker last season, recording just one penalty en route to an honorable mention PFF All-American honors. He then proceeded to light up the Senior Bowl as he didn’t lose a single pass-blocking rep during Senior Bowl week. - Anthony Treash
Fox Sports - Grade: A
A year ago, the Chargers hit a home run with Rashawn Slater. L.A. might have duplicated that selection with the burly Johnson, whose girth, power and intangibles made him one of the safer prospects in this draft. Whether at guard or center — Johnson can play both — the Chargers got tougher up front and accomplished their No. 1 goal of protecting the investment in Justin Herbert. - Rob Rang
Sporting News - Grade: A
The Chargers’ offseason has been about trying to make a Super Bowl run with Justin Herbert. After they got their left tackle rock in Rashawn Slater in last year’s first round, they get the ideal player to upgrade the right side, either inside or outside. Johnson does a little bit of everything well with his all-around skill set, featuring his natural agility and power. - Vinnie Iyer
NFL.com - Grade: A
Johnson fortifies a trouble spot on the offensive line with his mobility and toughness, making him an excellent selection. Getting Khalil Mack with their second-round pick was necessary to compete in the pass-happy AFC West, and third-rounder Woods could contribute at nickel or safety in the secondary right away. - Chad Reuter
Sports Illustrated - Grade: B
The Chargers hit with last year’s first-round pick (Rashawn Slater) and continue to boost their protection for Justin Herbert with Johnson. Johnson is smart and polished, plays under control and with good balance. Including his two seasons at Davidson, Johnson has double-digit starts at three different positions—left guard, right tackle and left tackle—and took reps at center during Senior Bowl week. While he can handle a spot start at tackle if necessary, he’s ideally suited to the play guard for the Chargers. - Kevin Hanson
The Athletic - Grade: B+
Johnson (6-foot-3, 312 with 34-inch arms) could eventually emerge as the best offensive lineman from this class. He began his career at Davidson before catching on at Boston College where he started 30 games — 18 at left guard, 12 at left tackle — in three seasons.
Per PFF, Johnson allowed just three sacks on more than 1,000 pass-blocking snaps. He didn’t miss a game in five years, got called for just one penalty last season and has excellent athleticism. - Sheil Kapadia
The Chargers’ goal needs to be to protect Justin Herbert at all costs. This pick won’t be a headline-grabber, but it makes plenty of sense.