The Buffalo Bills had a revamped secondary in 2016, swapping out all four starters and the slot corner in head coach Sean McDermott’s first season with the team. While veteran Leonard Johnson performed admirably in 2017, he has since moved on, and a new battle will emerge for the slot corner in 2018.
In the latest installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we examine the second cornerback drafted in the McDermott era, one who hopes to outperform the expectations that come with his small-school pedigree.
Name: Taron Johnson
Height/Weight: 5’11” 192 lbs.
College: Weber State
Draft: Selected in the fourth round (121st overall) by the Buffalo Bills in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Johnson’s rookie contract will pay him $3,106,608 over four years. In 2018, he will count $641,517 against the salary cap.
2017 Recap: As a senior at Weber State, Johnson had an excellent year. He was named the Big Sky Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, intercepting 3 passes and totaling 49 tackles. He also had 9 pass breakups, 3 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks on the season.
Positional outlook: Johnson joins a defensive secondary that seems to have a fairly obvious pecking order already established. Tre’Davious White and Vontae Davis are slated to start on the outside, and veteran free agent signee Phillip Gaines should begin the year as the nickel corner. Davis and Gaines, however, have not shown to be very durable over the last few seasons, so depth will be important here. Johnson will be in competition with Lafayette Pitts, Breon Borders, Levi Wallace, and Ryan Carter for what will ultimately amount to one or two roster spots.
2018 Offseason: Dan Lavoie wrote a solid piece on Johnson after he was drafted, and within that article, he included plenty of good scouting reports on Buffalo’s fourth-round choice. Give them a second read if you have a minute or three. Johnson also appeared on The Howard and Jeremy Show on WGR at the end of May. He discussed the learning curve associated with becoming an NFL corner, and how much his veteran teammates have helped him adjust during the process.
2018 season outlook: Johnson will probably make the opening-day roster, but nothing is guaranteed at what looks to be a fairly deep positional group for the Bills. If the team keeps five corners, it will probably come down to taking two of the Borders/Pitts/Johnson group, but Levi Wallace comes from the best college football program (and conference) in the country as an Alabama alumnus. If the team keeps six corners, then Johnson will almost certainly make the final roster. A lot will depend on how well Johnson performs in preseason games. If he can contribute on special teams in order to provide more versatility, then he will increase his odds of sticking on the final roster dramatically.