Weber State’s eight-year NFL draft drought is over. The Wildcats have the reigning Big Sky Conference Defensive MVP to thank for that.
With Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas announcing the selection, the Buffalo Bills took former Weber State cornerback Taron Johnson with the 121st overall pick in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft Saturday in Arlington, Texas.
Johnson, a four-year starter for the Wildcats, was graded by most draft analysts as a late-round pick but beat those projections by going in the fourth round.
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah praised Johnson for his physicality.
“I love what he does against the run. I know you’re paying him to cover but you watch him get off blocks as a force player delivering big hits. This is a tough kid,” Jeremiah said during the draft telecast.
Johnson is the first Weber State player taken in an NFL draft since 2010, when wide receiver Tim Toone went to the Detroit Lions with the final pick that year. He becomes the highest drafted Wildcat since guard Paul McQuistan was taken 69th overall in the third round by the Oakland Raiders in 2006.
“Excited to be a buffalo bill!!!!,” Johnson tweeted after being selected.
The 5-foot-11, 192-pounder could fill a role in nickel situations for a Bills team that is led at cornerback by 10-year veteran Vontae Davis, who signed a one-year deal with the team this offseason, and second-year corner Tre’Davious White, who started every game in 2017 as a rookie.
“Cornerback wasn’t a pressing need for the Bills, but Johnson is a good value here. He is talented enough to compete for starting reps as a nickel corner once he’s adjusted to the jump in competition,” NFL.com analyst Mark Dulgerian wrote.
Johnson was a consensus first-team FCS All-American as a senior, helping the Wildcats go 11-3, reach the FCS quarterfinals and finish the year ranked No. 5 in both national polls in the school’s most successful season in history. He was also named the Big Sky's top defensive player.
In his final season, Johnson had 49 tackles, nine pass breakups and three interceptions to go along with three tackles for loss and two sacks.
Johnson ran a 4.5-second 40 at the NFL Combine and had 17 reps on the bench press, tying for fifth among cornerbacks. He also participated in the Senior Bowl and was seen as one of the top FCS-level corners in this year’s draft class.
“Johnson was a productive four-year player at the small-school level and possesses the athleticism and ball skills to line up in nickel situations,” Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline wrote. “Most effective facing the action, he can be used in zone or backed off the line of scrimmage.”