As we count down the top Buffalo Bills aged 25 and under, we’ve reached the final four. Hopefully, as we move up the list, we identify players who could become household names, or those who could leave their mark on the history of the league. Today’s player may not have endorsement contracts or All-Pro nominations, but the cornerback was the star of two of the best plays of the 2020 NFL season.
The list so far
Honorable mentions: A.J. Epenesa, Zack Moss, Spencer Brown, Dawson Knox
Number 10: K Tyler Bass
Number 9: DE Carlos “Boogie” Basham Jr.
Number 8: OG Cody Ford
Number 7: DE Greg “Groot” Rousseau
Number 6: RB Devin Singletary
Number 5: WR Gabriel Davis
Number 4: Taron Johnson (turned 25 on July 27)
Since joining the Bills as a fourth-round pick in 2018, Johnson has steadily worked his way into the team’s defensive core. As a rookie, he looked like the perfect player for head coach Sean McDermott’s mentality. He lurked in the underneath zones, was fierce coming downhill in run support, and only allowed a 74.6 passer rating in coverage. However, a torn labrum lingered all season long, and he was only able to play 40 percent of snaps on defense in 2018.
In 2019, Johnson continued suffering from the injury bug, as a hamstring injury caused him to miss four games. When he was healthy, he was the primary nickel corner, but the Bills also used veterans like Dean Marlowe here and there. In 2020, Johnson finally played a full 16 games, and with Lorenzo Alexander retired, Buffalo made the nickel package into their base defense. Johnson would play 77 percent of snaps and rank third on the team with 94 total tackles. Although his season started shaky, with some notable losses to the deadly receivers on the Los Angeles Rams, he found his form later in the season. And of course, he made two of the best plays of the 2020 season, pick-sixes that triggered wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens.
Now entering the fourth year of his career, Johnson doesn’t seem like he’s done developing his game. He wasn’t gifted with great size, and he’s not an elite athlete. But he’s a tenacious player, holds up pretty well as a pass defender, and he might be building a reputation as a savvy opportunist in zone coverage. Based on his history of production and steady growth, he’s earned the number-four spot in our countdown.