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New York Giants take Canadian Theo Johnson in fourth round of NFL draft

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Penn State tight end Theo Johnson participates in a drill during the NCAA college football team’s NFL Pro Day, Friday, March 15, 2024, in State College, Pa.Matt Freed/The Associated Press

Theo Johnson’s NFL career will begin with the New York Giants.

New York selected the Penn State tight end with the seventh pick of the fourth round, No. 107 overall, in the NFL draft Saturday.

Johnson became the second Canadian off the board. Isaiah Adams of Ajax, Ont., an offensive lineman at Illinois, was taken in the third round by the Arizona Cardinals on Friday

Nineteen selections later, the Detroit Lions took tackle Giovanni Manu of the University of British Columbia. Manu was born in Tonga and went to high school in Pitt Meadows, B.C.

The six-foot-six, 260-pound Johnson of Windsor, Ont., appeared in 45 games over four seasons at Penn State, recording 77 catches for 938 yards and 12 TDs.

Last season, he registered career highs in receptions (34), yards (341) and touchdowns (seven — tied for team lead) and was an honourable mention All-Big Ten selection.

After participating in the Senior Bowl, Johnson performed well at the NFL combine, posting a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, 39.5-inch vertical, 10 foot five inch broad jump — all second-best results — and a short-shuttle time of 4.19 seconds that topped the position group.

Johnson could fill a big need for the Giants with veteran tight end Darren Waller pondering retirement.

“He runs like a wide receiver, he ran 4.57 (at NFL combine) which is ridiculous time for a tight end,” said Daniel Jeremiah, the NFL Network’s draft guru. “I thought he aced the spring.

“From what we saw at the Senior Bowl, the all-star circuit, he was excellent there. Then the combine, pro day, you name it, that’s where he really upped his stock.”

Jeremiah had Johnson listed at No. 82 on his top-200 draft prospects.

Jeremiah had Arizona tight end Tanner McLachlan of Lethbridge Alta., at No. 68, but the Canadian was not selected in the top 100.

Earlier this month, Johnson was listed at second overall in the CFL Scouting Bureau’s list of the top-20 prospects for the league’s 2024 draft, which will be held Tuesday night.

The towering six-foot-eight, 350-pound Manu and highly touted teammate Theo Benedet anchored a UBC offensive line that allowed 15 sacks and helped the offence average 6.8 yards per rush.

The Thunderbirds reached the Vanier Cup last year, dropping a 16-9 decision to the Montreal Carabins.

Still, it was UBC’s first appearance in the Canadian university football championship game since 2015.

“A massive human being,” Jeremiah said. “As you could imagine this is going to very much be a work in progress.

“This is a big, powerful player that’s going to be a fun project for them to take on.”

Manu didn’t attend the NFL combine but 16 teams attended his workout during UBC’s pro day. He posted a 5.03-second 40-yard dash and had 23 reps in the 225-pound bench press.

Manu was also listed in eighth spot on the CFL Scouting Bureau’s list.

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