Below are three takeaways from Tom Telesco's and Brandon Staley's 2022 first round draft press conference on Thursday night.
What does Zion Johnson bring to the Bolts?
Just like that, the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft is in the books and the Chargers walked away with a first-team All American offensive lineman in Zion Johnson.
After the Bolts made their pick, general manager Tom Telesco and head coach Brandon Staley spoke to members of the media at SoFi stadium to recap the first day of the draft.
Telesco talked about the decision to ultimately select Johnson with the 17th overall pick and why he's 'excited' to add a guard of his caliber to the Bolts roster.
"We have some excellent skill players, both at receiver, tight end, also at running back and with [QB] Justin Herbert, obviously, these guys cannot do their jobs without a rock-solid offensive line," Telesco said. "So, as much as this pick is to protect our quarterback, which is a big part of it, this is also to facilitate everybody else. It's pass-protection, it's run game. We're in the second half of the game and we have a lead and we've got to run the ball, they know we're going to run the ball, he's going to help there. So, if he does what we think he can do, he's going to play 900 to 1,000 snaps for us in his rookie year, but he's a really well-rounded football player, so we're excited to get him in here."
Staley has always talked about building a complete team filled with complete players, and for him, Johnson fits that mold.
"He's really, really impressive," Staley said. "He's smart, tough, really physical, versatile. He played in a pro-style offense. From a physical standpoint, he has big hands, long arms and really good feet. He can really anchor in pass protection against the biggest, strongest, best interior players in the league. We just really felt like this guy was a really complete player in both the run game and in the pass game. His intangibles really fit what we're looking for."
Telesco and Staley see Johnson at right guard
A year ago, the Bolts drafted left tackle Rashawn Slater with their first round pick. Fast forward to 2022, and Telesco and his team focused their efforts on the right side of the offensive line.
Although Johnson has cross-trained multiple positions across the line playing snaps at center, guard and tackle in college, Telesco sees him best fitting at right guard for the time being.
"He's really, really strong, like powerfully strong lower body, so he can anchor on big people inside in pass protection, but he's also a very good athlete and he's really smart," Telesco said. "Those are the qualities you really need in an offensive lineman. He's versatile. We see him as a guard, he could be a center down the road, I don't think tackle, but really solid interior offensive lineman with some versatility down the road."
Staley talked about finding 'power players' on the offensive side of the ball and the potential Johnson brings to the Bolts line coupled with veteran leaders already on the roster.
"We were really looking for power players on offense, particularly inside," Staley mentioned. "Now, we feel like we have that. You have [G] Matt [Feiler], [C] Corey [Linsley] and Zion. That's a really impressive trio in there. Then, this guy's got all the smarts that you're looking forward. We really felt like this was a well-rounded, complete football player. We're really excited to have him."
High on Johnson's 'smarts' and personality
While Staley and Telesco spoke highly of Johnson's on-field skillset, they were just as impressed with his personality and 'smarts.' Staley talked about meeting Johnson for the first time at his pro day and what stood out to him the most.
"When he came into the room, this guy had a real calm presence, real confidence, real poise," Staley said. "You see that presence when you're with him. Then, when he starts to talk, this guy's had a really unique path to being a first-round draft pick...It's one of those great stories of a guy that really worked at it, really developed his game. He worked at it, and here he is today."
Telesco recalled the pre-draft work done on Johnson and discussed the type of teammate he is and how he'll be a great fit for the already 'tight-knit' offensive line.
"All of the work we did on Zion, he's a great teammate and that's a big part of playing here," Telesco mentioned. "He walks in here and he was a great college player — one of the best players on his college team. He walks through our locker room and he is the youngest player here and he has got to earn his role again, but we think he got some great ability to be a good teammate, to learn from the guys that are older than him, do what he is supposed to do and gradually, he will kind of grow into that leadership role some time way down the road, like they all do."
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