NFL Draft: Weber State’s Taron Johnson taken in 4th round by Buffalo Bills

Saturday , April 28, 2018 - 11:05 AM

For the first time since 2010, a Weber State Wildcat heard his name on draft day.

The Buffalo Bills selected defensive back Taron Johnson with the 121st overall pick Saturday in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Johnson’s selection is the highest for a Weber State player since lineman Paul McQuistan went in the third round, 69th overall, to the Oakland Raiders in 2006.

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Johnson, a 6-foot defensive back, was the first Wildcat invited to the NFL Scouting Combine since 2009 after being named a consensus First Team All-American and the Big Sky defensive MVP.

As a senior, Johnson played in 12 games at cornerback, totaling three interceptions, nine pass breakups and 49 tackles with three tackles for loss and two sacks. He also became Weber State’s career leader in pass breakups with 42.

WKBW Bills reporter Joe Buscaglia said the Bills hope Johnson can compete immediately for the team’s vacant nickel defensive back position. A nickel back is typically someone who plays on passing downs or against pass-heavy offensive schemes as an “extra” defensive back.

“At this point in the draft, the selection process becomes less about perceived needs and more about finding players that project well to a team's individual scheme, and has a chance for success down the line,” Buscaglia wrote. “When the team can blend the two, it makes for a solid situation for that player — and that was the case with the Bills and Taron Johnson.”

Buffalo had two first-round picks this year, taking Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen seventh overall and Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds 16th overall. The Bills finished the 2017 regular season 9-7 and lost 10-3 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the wild card round of the playoffs.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane addressed who might compete for starting spots when asked if the team sees anyone other than Edmunds as someone who could start next year.

“I’m not saying we’re giving a starting spot to Taron Johnson, but a nickel is pretty much a starter. He’s playing 65 to 70 percent of the snaps,” Beane said in a press conference. “So if he did win the nickel job, I call that a starter.”

Among Johnson’s strengths, his NFL.com draft bio profile lists: Burst to the ball is quick, possesses natural coverage skills, crowds receiver's catch space downfield, extremely aware in zone, and plays with good physicality and isn't afraid to tackle.

In WSU’s March 28 pro day, Johnson put his mobility on display in front of more than 20 scouts, participating in the three-cone agility drill and in backpedaling drills, changing direction with speed and precision at a scout’s command.

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