NFL Draft 2017Scouting Reports


Zack Johnson — OG, North Dakota State University


Height – 6’4″

Weight – 331 lbs.

Age – 23

At First Glance

Johnson graduated from Eastview High School in 2012 with a destination already set in stone; he’d committed to North Dakota State on October 4, 2011. The 6’3,” 305-pound tackle from St. Paul, Minnesota was named to the Associated Press and Minnesota Coaches Association all-state second team his senior season and arrived in Fargo with plenty of local pedigree.

His freshman year, Johnson appeared in 13 games and made one start at left guard. The following season, he was named to the All-Missouri Valley Football Conference second team and started every game at left guard.

On November 11, he was named MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week after a dominant performance against Youngstown State; he recorded 13 knockdowns and allowed zero quarterback hurries or sacks.

Unfortunately, Johnson injured his knee in 2013 and sat out the following season with a redshirt designation. He returned in 2015 and enjoyed a return to form. Johnson received multiple honors and recognitions, including:

  • 2015 Associated Press All-America Third Team
  • 2015 College Sporting News “Fab 50” Honorable Mention
  • 2015 All-MVFC First Team

Though Johnson missed three games due to injury that season, he made 11 starts at left guard and received an invite to the coveted East-West Shrine Game. There, he received praise from numerous scouts in attendance before tearing his MCL in a practice session. According to WDAZ, Johnson expects to be “full-go” by NDSU’s pro day in March

The Vikings Slant

The lack of tape on Johnson makes his evaluation as a prospect almost impossible. Unless you watched every NDSU game the past three or four years, your knowledge of the redshirt junior lineman is extremely limited. Here’s what we do know: Dane Brugler of CBS Sports has a seventh-round grade on Johnson, though he also considers the Bison guard a potential undrafted free agent.

Johnson follows in the footsteps of Joe Haeg, the last NDSU linemen drafted in the NFL. Haeg, who we highlighted last year, was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the fifth round and started at three different spots along the offensive line. Johnson doesn’t have Haeg’s same versatility, but he’d likely be able to swap between right and left guard spots if asked to do so.

And given the age of Joe Berger—33 years—adding depth at one of Minnesota’s weakest position groups has to be a priority for the Vikings. Here’s where things get tricky for Rick Spielman, though — do you target offensive linemen early in the draft or stick to the script of selecting guard, tackle, or center prospects in the later rounds?

Spielman spoke to reporters late last week, noting his failures to address the line in the early rounds. His last first-round selection was on Matt Kalil in 2012, and since then, Spielman’s utilized the last half of the draft to build depth with players like T.J. Clemmings and Austin Shepherd. Obviously, it hasn’t worked for the Vikings, who continue to struggle running the football and protecting the quarterback despite spending money on free agents like Andre Smith.

Of note, Spielman’s shown a tendency to take late-round fliers on players with severe injuries or lengthy injury histories. If he sticks to those tendencies and doesn’t apply the lessons from his studies to this year’s draft, Johnson fits the mold of a late-round selection for the Vikings.

Johnson’s recovery from an MCL tear could push his stock down, making Minnesota a potential destination for the St. Paul native. With younger, cheaper talent like Zac Kerin, Nick Easton, and Jeremiah Sirles on the roster already, Spielman can afford to spend his late picks on a developmental lineman like Johnson.

Hey, if he used a selection on Moritz Böhringer the last offseason, Johnson is well worth a seventh-round pick this year.

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Austin Belisle

Austin Belisle is the West Coast's biggest Vikings fan, a football diehard cheering on the purple and yellow from sunny California. After graduating from San Jose State University in 2014, he began working full-time in corporate marketing and blogging on various sports websites. Austin's passion for the Vikings led him to Vikings Territory, where he hopes to share his lifelong enthusiasm for the team with readers on a daily basis. You can follow him on Twitter @austincbelisle

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  1. It could well be that he will follow a similar path to Haeg’s. Undervalued as he played for a D-1A program, was a part of at least 3 national championship teams, and gave Wentz plenty of time to throw and all runners for NDSU holes that one could drive a bus through without touching anyone.. Oh, and starting as a rookie in the NFL.
    PS I accept that I may be biased as I am an NDSU alumnus.. But I was not wrong when hoping that the Vikes could/would, respectively, draft Wentz and Haeg. But, at least they got the worthless, slow, fat body Beavers instead of the wall of muscle Haeg that scouts claimed lacked footwork as he was always able to pancake opponents using just his strength without ever having to resort to “technique”.

      1. Hey man, not snarky at all, I get it! I think we can all agree Beavers was, in retrospect, a poor pick by Spielman.

        1. Thanks Austin. I did not like any of their picks at the time, except for Brothers and Kearse, I liked the Mac pick a bit, but with reservations, the last CB they drafted that was 5’10” didn’t work out so well, is Robinson even in the NFL anymore? Anyway, not a retrospect situation for me, I wish that time would have proven my opinion of last April wrong. I am not holding my breath on Tread either. My opinion then was to trade their first rounder for a mid 2nd plus a 3rd, to pick Spriggs and also have the ammo to trade back into the second to take Whitehair. I was not one that thought their o line was in good shape during the draft, and I was then assuming that Harris would be back. Then again, I loved the Chris Cook pick at the time. Sigh.

    1. To be able to trade him they must be able to also trade his contract. No team will trade for him as no team will be willing to pay him $18M for the next season. Even if MN could find someone to trade for his $12M salary, they would still be on the hook for his $6M signing bonus. The latter would count against their cap as well.

      1. Oops. I apologize, hasty (poor) editing. His contract for 2017 is for $12M, any team trading for him must be willing to accept that. The signing bonus could be negotiable, but ultimately MN would be on the hook for that, unless the other team would agree to pay that too.

    2. His ridiculous contract and the fact that most of the NFL probably knows he’ll hit the FA market.

      It become more likely if the Vikings can renegotiate his contract first.

      1. The collective bargaining agreement of 2011 makes it all but impossible to renegotiate and trade though Brett. All parties would have to agree to all aspects beforehand.. If Adrian stands firm MN would take a cap hit for the difference.