Johnson made sense for the Rams beyond the simple context of the team's need at his position. Johnson played with Rams coach Jeff Fisher's son, Brandon, at Montana. When the Rams selected Johnson, both Fishers had a strong working knowledge of his ability and turned an easy connection into a draft pick.
Many times, those close ties don't turn into NFL relationships but every once in a while the needs of a team and the ability of a player meet at just the right intersection and previous knowledge of the player can tip the scales in the favor of the known commodity.
The 2014 NFL draft could provide another opportunity for the Rams to rely on long-standing relationships as a sort of tiebreaker to make a selection.
Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews is the son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews. The elder Matthews played 19 seasons for the Houston/Tennessee franchise, including eight years under the guidance of Jeff Fisher.
Jake Matthews is already considered a top-five caliber player in this year's draft and perhaps the best tackle in the class. The Rams just so happen to have a need on the offensive line with Jake Long recovering from a torn ACL and MCL and Rodger Saffold scheduled for unrestricted free agency.
It's a connection Matthews is well aware of, even if his relationship with Fisher is limited because of how young he was when his dad played for the Rams coach.
"I knew him a little bit, not too well," Matthews said. "Obviously my dad played for him, I know he’s got a great relationship with him. I was just a kid running around when my dad was playing. I know him but not really too well. There is that connection for sure but I would love to play for him."
There will, of course, be plenty of competition to be the top tackle taken in this year's draft. Auburn's Greg Robinson and Michigan's Taylor Lewan are also thought of as contenders for that title. Like any good competitor, Matthews isn't denying that he wants to be the first lineman to have his name called in May.
"Being considered a polished player and someone who has done well and played well, I take that as a big honor," Matthews said. "But at the same time, I still feel like there’s a lot I can get better at. I definitely wouldn’t say I’m at my peak. I think there’s a lot more I can learn, a lot more I can get better at so it’s one of those things that is motivating me. I’m just trying to come out here and put up good numbers and prove that I am capable of being the best lineman here."
Matthews has been oft-mocked to the Rams in recent weeks and he said he has a formal interview set up with the Rams on Friday. Nothing is guaranteed but one would think if a tie needs breaking in the coming months, the Matthews name could carry enough weight to make a decision.