Jaylon Johnson sat last Friday waiting and waiting for his phone to ring.
Widely expected to be a first round pick in the NFL draft, Thursday came and went without Johnson hearing his name called. And then in the beginning of the draft on Friday, the Chicago Bears passed on on Johnson and elected to go with Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet with their first pick.
But then Bears came up again at No. 50, and Johnson finally got the phone call he was wanting.
"Definitely as a competitor and the expectations I had for myself, of course I expected to go a lot higher," Johnson said. "I’m definitely forever grateful for the Bears to be that first team to believe in me and give me an opportunity to be able to provide for my family."
With the selection of Johnson, the Bears finally got the cornerback they were needing to play opposite Kyle Fuller — although they did go out and pluck free agent and former Pittsburgh Steeler Artie Burns this past offseason.
"We had some scenarios where we could have traded back out of that pick if we needed to," said Bears general manager Ryan Pace. "But when Jaylon was there, we turned the card in quickly because he's a guy we had graded high and it was a guy that fit our board as far as how the grades were coming off, and then it was a position of need for us as well. So we were really happy for that combination to take place."
Johnson's selection is the earliest Chicago has taken a cornerback since it selected Kyle Fuller in the first round of 2014. Pace hadn't taken a cornerback higher than the sixth round in his previous five drafts.
Johnson likes his fit in the Chicago defense, even though he was usually on the left side while at Utah and not on the right side. The Bears' opening is on the right side where Prince Amukamara played last season before being cut.
"I moved around pretty much all season depending on where the No. 1 wide receiver was and whether he was staying in one position or moving around, I followed him," Johnson said. "So it was kind of predicated on where the No. 1 wide receiver is. But I'm definitely familiar and comfortable playing on both sides."
Johnson will be competing with holdover cornerback Kevin Toliver, former CFL player Tre Roberson and Burns for that starting role. Burns has started 32 games in four seasons for the Steelers but his performance tailed off greatly last year, lending him to become a free agent.
Depending on how Johnson recovers from offseason surgery from repairing a torn labrum, his timetable to for football-related activities and being ready to compete could be put into disarray with the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless, once healthy and on the field, Johnson will prove to be too talented and should earn that starting role sooner rather than later