When the Chargers selected Zion Johnson in the first round of last year’s draft, many in the draft community believed they hit home on another immediate and long-time starter on the offensive line.
Johnson was instantly inserted at right guard where the Chargers struggled with injuries the season before. The rookie would go on to start all 17 games in a season that saw three starters miss time at one point or another.
For his consistency and effort, Johnson was one of five offensive lineman named to this year’s All-Rookie Team by Pro Football Focus. Here’s what they had to say:
Johnson didn’t quite live up to his NFL-ready billing as much as the Chargers would have hoped, but he was still easily the NFL’s best rookie starter at guard. He finished with a 64.8 overall grade, although that was mainly down to his performance as a run-blocker, as he allowed 40 pressures on the year.
I believe the author here was mistaken and accidentally wrote “run-blocker” instead of pass-protector as the run game is where Johnson saw the most success. He finished with a 69.5 run block grade in contrast to his 52.6 pass block grade.
If anything, Johnson was simply consistent. He never got super high overall game grades and he never dropped super low outside of a handful of blunders in the pass game. His best performance came against the Titans in week 15 (77.0 game grade) where he helped lead Austin Ekeler into the end zone twice in that close contest.
Rookie offensive guards have never been super quick at acclimating to the professional game unless your name is Quenton Nelson, so I’m not worried at all about Johnson’s future. In a season where a number of rookie offensive lineman showed they belong early on, regardless of where they were drafted, it’s only more impressive that Johnson got the job done with both starters on either side of him revolving throughout the season.