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4 Questions: The Detroit Lions ‘got a steal’ with 7th-round NT PJ Johnson

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Getting to know the Lions’ newest defensive tackle.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Remember the days before the draft? Remember when so many wanted Ed Oliver as if they were sure that he was going to be the next Aaron Donald? Well, the Lions took a tight end in front of him and waited till the end of the seventh round to go out and get their defensive tackle when they selected PJ Johnson of Arizona.

Much like the Aaron Donald situation, the Lions didn’t necessarily need a defensive tackle, at least not that high in the draft. They currently have a formidable duo in Damon Harrison Sr. and A’Shawn Robinson already on the roster. They’ll probably continue to add to their depth in free agency in the months to come as well.

That’s why it seems that Johnson has the highest of hills to battle up. While he is a mountain of a man at 6-foot-4, 334 pounds, His RAS score shows that he is really lacking athleticism.

Still our friend Gabe Encinas from Arizona Desert Swarm thinks the Lions got themselves a steal in the seventh round. Here’s what he had to say.

POD: What are your overall thoughts on Johnson’s time at Arizona?

ADS: “PJ didn’t spend much time at Arizona but he made the most of it. He had a crazy road to get to Arizona, starting at Sacramento State, battling a burst appendix and a tumor in his leg. He ended up transferring to City College of San Francisco and went pretty unnoticed in recruiting holding offers to FAU, Kansas and Rutgers.

He stepped on campus at 6-foot-4, 335 pounds and filled an immediate need at nose guard. He was turning heads all spring and fall as the newcomer to watch and it translated into the regular season.

He was asked to move all across the line and had a terrific season. When there were rumblings that he was interested in declaring for the NFL Draft it was a massive blow but understandable given his breakout season and two kids.

He is a high energy guy with a massive personality to match his size and production and he’ll always be a fan favorite.

POD: What are his strengths?

ADS: “He has so much versatility. Arizona runs a hybrid 3-3-5/4-2-5 and he initially came in as a nose guard. All throughout the season he was moving around to defensive tackle and end and it worked.

He’s strong, is great with his initial step and works well with his hands. He’s a relentless pass rusher that can disrupt the pocket and as a run stopper he can plug the gaps and moves well down the line to get to the ball. He commanded attention and was constantly doubled and sometimes triple teamed.

He’ll be able to play multiple position and fit just about any package.”

POD: What are his weaknesses?

ADS: “The biggest weakness for him has to be conditioning and athleticism. He has a huge frame and it comes with some bad weight. Mixing that in with the double teams, you could tell when he would get gassed and become less effective.

He is deceptively quick for his size but overall not very athletic. He did not appear to test well at Arizona’s pro day when it came to agility and changing direction.

He did trim down during the draft process so hopefully that is not a concern going forward.”

POD: Is Johnson a guy that has a chance to make the Lions? What kind of impact can he make in the NFL?

ADS: “I think PJ would have had a great shot at making just about any NFL roster. He has the size to compete and the versatility find a role in any scheme. He can play nose guard in three-man front, he can play defensive tackle in a four-man front and he could probably get some use at defensive end in certain packages.

The reason why he fell to the seventh round was likely due to the lack of experience and film. He didn’t play much at Sacramento State, went the junior college route and then had only one season at Arizona.

The Lions got a steal late in the draft. I think PJ can be a great rotational piece that can easily make it to his second contract.”