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Making the case: Zion Johnson or Kenyon Green?

Which interior lineman should the Giants select if they have the chance?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Colgate at Boston College Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New York Giants desperately needed offensive line help entering the 2022 free agent cycle. The additions of Matt Gono, Mark Glowinski, Jon Feliciano, and Jamil Douglas provide a reprieve to one of the more forlorn units in football. However, viable longevity is still a significant question, and there is a glaring need for right tackle.

New York owns the fifth and seventh picks in the upcoming draft. There are many directions they could pursue to better the franchise, but one is trading back in the draft for more assets. If that is the decision, New York could position themselves in an area of the draft where names like Boston College’s OL Zion Johnson or Texas A&M’s OL Kenyon Green are realistic options with more value than their contemporaries.

Both Johnson and Green are insanely versatile pieces that would automatically help the Giants offensive line room. The addition of either would make Giants’ offensive line coach Bobby Johnson a happy man. Here are the players’ snaps at each position from college:

Zion Johnson

  • LT 786
  • LG 1,496
  • OC 0
  • RG 0
  • RT 0

Total snaps: 2,288

*Johnson worked extensively at the Reese’s Senior Bowl as a center

Kenyon Green

  • LT 81
  • LG 1,098
  • OC 1
  • RG 853
  • RT 142

Total snaps: 2,175

The rushing system between Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka is relatively unknown. Since he entered the league, Daboll utilized pin-pul (power/gap) concepts but has shown much adaptability to his personnel and how the defense aligns.

Stylistically, the players differ. They both have experience at tackle. Green’s was a bit better than Johnson’s, but they will ideally play inside at the next level. Both players are good enough to succeed in schemes that may not maximize their strengths as blockers. Johnson would best fit in a zone scheme that can utilize his lateral quickness as a blocker.

Green could play in either as well but would best fit in a scheme that uses a lot of DUO blocking up front (form double teams, vertically displace, climb to linebacker). Both would be fine additions to New York, but let’s investigate the ideal option.

Zion Johnson

Johnson has some long tentacles on this spider graph. On tape and at the Combine, it was apparent that Johnson was a better athlete than Green. He had a unique path to Boston College; Johnson was under-recruited and initially played college football at Davidson. He dominated the smaller level of competition and jumped at the chance to transfer to Boston College because they’re academically renowned.

Johnson is balanced, quick, moves very well in space, and has excellent lower body flexion. His power steps into contact, and angles of pursuit are crisp. Johnson does a good job maximizing his strength by driving through the ground and exploding - low to high - into opponents on the line of scrimmage.

He has a natural feel of timing when executing combo blocks, and his hips are super smooth to swivel, hinge, and pick up unexpected twists in a prompt manner.

Johnson’s a better pass protector than a run blocker; his feet are quick to mirror, and he frames his blocks well. His lower-body flexibility lets him absorb contact and maximize his anchor when handling power rush moves. Johnson also has good pop on contact with his hands.

Between his pass protection ability, the nuances of run blocking that allow him to succeed, and his overall athletic profile, Johnson should be a top twenty pick - he very well might be. However, he’s not entirely perfect.

Johnson doesn’t possess the same bulldozer type of power as a guard. His anchor is good, but when he can’t fully bow his back to absorb - and he doesn’t hinder the defender’s rush with his hands - he can concede some ground with his anchor.

He may not have that same play strength or power that Green possesses, but it’s functional and not an issue with his tape. The Giants would be lucky to select Johnson after a trade down, and his presence would help complete this offensive line for years to come.

Kenyon Green

Unlike Johnson, Green was widely recruited. He’s a former five-star recruit and the number one recruit in Texas during the 2019 cycle.

Green isn’t the same level athlete as Johnson, but he’s a functional athlete with solid burst off the snap. He’s not stiff, and he possesses quick feet for a player that’s 323-pounds. Green is much wider than Johnson and looks significantly bigger than him when they’re in their presnap stance.

Green’s versatility and experience all along the offensive line in the SEC are excellent assets to any offensive line room. Green is a better run blocker than he is a pass protector; he’s got strong hands, exceptional pop-on contact, plays with solid leverage at the point of attack, and his ability to wash players down the line of scrimmage is evident. Green quickly fires his hands as a run blocker, dictating the rep with aggressiveness and power.

He’s quick to combo and climb. His paths to contact at the second level aren’t as crisp as Johnson’s, but they’re effective. When he’s uncovered, he quickly climbs and does a very good job closing width on opponents and putting second-level defenders into an unfortunate position to lose gap integrity by evading Green or attempting to stack and shed - which doesn’t always go well for them.

Green is a much better run blocker than he is a pass protector, and that’s where some of my issues are with him. His hands aren’t very consistent; they can be erratic, high, and wide. His hands were also late at times. He tended to hold because of these issues. It wasn’t always called, but he was flagged 15 times in college to Johnson’s four (a testament to Johnson’s refinement).

Technically speaking, Johnson is more efficient with his hands and feet. Green’s footwork was better when aligned at guard - not just in pass protection but also as a run blocker. Unmaximized steps weren’t a prevailing theme throughout Green’s film, but they reared their ugly head more with Green than Johnson. Green also had a knack to lean and get his chest over his toes in pass protection which led to vulnerabilities.

He’s not a straight liability in pass protection, espcially at guard. He can be successful and an impact player who helps any offensive line room. There’s just room for improvement, which isn’t always bad.

Green has enough athletic ability to succeed in horizontally based rushing attacks like wide/stretch zone. He can cross the face of playside 4i-Techniques at guard and get to the outside shoulder while delivering good power moving laterally. However, his skills are best utilized in a more downhill system.

Final thoughts

I like Kenyon Green, but I’m choosing Zion Johnson for a few reasons. Both players are versatile, and I really appreciate Green’s raw power on film. However, Johnson’s technique (hands and feet) are better, he’s much more fluid as a mover, and he’s a better overall pass protector who is a good run blocker. New York would be in a good position adding either player. Still, if I had to pick one, it’s Zion Johnson.