With their fourth selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills selected Taron Johnson, a cornerback from Weber State. Where does he come from, and how does his skill set fit with the Bills? Here’s the breakdown on Buffalo’s new corner.
Johnson grew up outside of Sacramento, California. His mother died of breast cancer when he was nine years old, and his dad and older sister helped raise him into adulthood. He played receiver in high school, and as he looked toward college, Johnson only had one scholarship offer - for FCS Weber State in Utah. He converted to cornerback as a freshman, became a starter that year, and would eventually set the school record for pass breakups with 41 in 45 games played. In 2017, he was a team captain and the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Johnson attended the Senior Bowl in January.
When I went searching for Johnson’s game cut-ups, all I could find was a four-minute video from 2016 and a 97-second highlight reel of five plays from 2017. Rather than pretend I’m an authority on Johnson, I’ll pass along the scouting report from services who (presumably) have more information than me.
Johnson is a physical player who isn’t afraid to deliver hits or tackle ballcarriers. His college coach compared him to Antoine Winfield, whom he played with for a short stint with the Buffalo Bills.
Underdog Dynasty, SB Nation’s site that covers lower-conference college football, noted that Johnson was effective in press coverage despite his size, and also gave him positive marks for his run support.
Writing for NFL.com, Lance Zierlein saw Johnson’s experience in many techniques, his “natural coverage skills,” his quick burst to the ball, his physicality, and his tendency to crowd the receiver’s catching space downfield.
Zierlein noted that Johnson’s 5’11” 192 frame looks maxed out, and is too small for most teams to start outside the numbers in the NFL. He also mentions that Johnson is too grabby in coverage, and that his lack of long speed (4.50 forty-yard dash) is a concern against vertical threats.
Underdog Dynasty echoed Zierlein’s concerns that Johnson’s physical play was likely to draw penalty flags in the NFL. They also agreed that his lack of deep speed could become a liability at the next level.
Johnson’s background and skillset mesh together well. He’s fought through adversity through much of his life, and he works through setbacks to adjust into a stronger individual. With the Bills losing good tacklers like E.J. Gaines and Leonard Johnson, they could use a cornerback who can provide run support from the slot. He’ll probably start the year on the bench behind a veteran like Phillip Gaines, but Johnson can make his way onto the field if he brings the stickiness he showed in college against NFL receivers.