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Bears Solidify Cornerback by Taking Utah's Jaylon Johnson

Utah's Jaylon Johnson underwent shoulder surgery after the NFL Scouting Combine and once healed is expected to improve the competition level at the right cornerback spot where Prince Amukamara played last year

The Bears still needed a cornerback after selecting Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet in the second round Friday and with their second pick in Round 2 they took Utah's Jaylon Johnson at No. 50 overall.

No. 50 definitely wasn't where Johnson expected to go in the NFL Draft.

He'll make it work.

"Definitely as a competitor and the expectations I had for myself, of course I expected to go a lot higher," Johnson said. 

The Bears passed on Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs to select Johnson, who is coming off of an injury.

"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," Johnson said.

It's the earliest they've taken a cornerback since they selected Kyle Fuller in the first round in 2014. GM Ryan Pace hadn't taken a cornerback higher than the sixth round in his previous five drafts.

Johnson liked his fit in the defense, even though he has usually been a left cornerback at Utah and not on the right side. The Bears' opening is on the right side where Prince Amukamara played 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."

The Bears like to play plenty of zone and Utah was in man to man but Johnson said he can play either coverage well enough.

"I'm very comfortable playing both," Johnson said. "If I was limited to only one, I'd definitely choose press man. But I'm definitely comfortable with both and I've definitely worked on technique and footwork to be able to play both at a high level. So I definitely like being balanced in that aspect."

Johnson, who is 6 feet tall and 193 pounds, ran a 4.5-second 40 at the NFL scouting combine with a 36 1/2-inch vertical leap.

The injury issue with Johnson was surgery to repair a torn labrum in early March after the NFL combine. He played through the injury last year. H still managed to go full tilt at the combine.

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"My shoulder is doing good," Johnson said. "I’ll definitely be ready to go. My shoulder is fixed and I’m ready to go."

It's actually his second shoulder injury. He had one to the other shoulder in the past.

Johnson was part of a dominant NCAA defense last year, one that finished fourth in yards allowed. So it won't be a foreign concept playing for another similarly dominant defense. The Bears were top 10 last year and the year before No. 1 in scoring defense.

"So just being able to be a part of that defense and add some value to their defense, to their organization, will be big time," Johnson said.

A productive cornerback in college with seven interceptions, he made two last year, four in 2018 and one in 2017. He had 21 passes defensed and made 88 tackles.

The situation Johnson finds himself in now in Chicago might mean a slow start considering the injury he's recovering from and the COVID-19 delay to offseason work.

Johnson will be competing with holdover cornerback Kevin Toliver, former CFL player Tre Roberson and former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Artie Burns. Burns has started 32 games in four seasons for the Steelers but his performance tailed off greatly last year.

"Honestly, I'm a baller, I'm a real strong competitor," Johnson said. "At Utah, I had to be the No. 1 corner and going out every week and shutting down No. 1 wide receivers. 

"I'm used to getting after it. I'm used to challenging guys. I never shy down from competition."

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