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Penn State TE Theo Johnson selected by the New York Giants in the fourth round of the 2024 NFL draft



Theo Johnson is continuing Penn State’s tight end pipeline to the NFL.

Johnson was selected by the New York Giants with the No. 107 overall pick in the fourth round of the 2024 NFL draft on Saturday.

Johnson was the fifth Penn State player selected after offensive tackle Olu Fashanu (No. 11, New York Jets), edge rusher Chop Robinson (No. 21 overall, Miami Dolphins), tackle Caedan Wallace (No. 68, New England Patriots) and defensive end Adisa Isaac (No. 93 overall, Baltimore Ravens).

Johnson is the fifth Penn State tight end selected in the James Franklin era, joining Brenton Strange (2023), Pat Freiermuth (2021), Mike Gesicki (2018) and Jesse James (2015).

Johnson was one of the top players at his position in the 2024 draft class. He was the No. 3 tight end, behind Georgia’ Brock Bowers and Texas’ Ja’Tavion Sanders, according to The Athletic’s Dane Brugler. He was ranked as the draft’s No. 80 overall prospect.

Johnson solidified himself as one of the top options at tight end at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, where he tested through the roof. His stellar 40-yard dash, 10-yard split and other speed drills led to a 9.99 out of 10 “relative athletic score,” per RAS. Johnson’s RAS figure is the second-highest among tight ends over the last 37 years.

Johnson being drafted as high as he did was a classic case of an NFL scouting motto coming true: “traits over production.”

Johnson wasn’t featured as much as he could have in Penn State’s offense last year. Brugler pointed that out when speaking to PennLive in February. “But that offense had its own issues,” he said. The Nittany Lions struggled to generate explosive plays in the passing game in 2023, leading to offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich’s in-season dismissal.

Johnson found the end zone frequently; his seven touchdowns were tied for the second-most in the FBS. But he had only 34 catches for 341 yards last year. Johnson logged four catches of 20 yards or more, two fewer than he did in 2022. It was obvious that the athletic, 6-foot-6 target could provide more for the Nittany Lions if afforded the opportunity.

“When you’re drafting a four-year tight end, you expect him to have more than 350 yards in any of those four seasons, and he didn’t,” Brugler said. “He didn’t have over 1,000 yards in his career. That’s not ideal.”

But Johnson’s potential proved to be too great to ignore.

“You look at the traits, and you see a good looking athlete with size who’s smooth in his routes, smooth at the catch point, has acceleration to get down the seam and run away from coverage,” Brugler said. “He has a decent catch radius, catches the ball well in stride, has no problem climbing the ladder and can adjust to inaccurate passes.

“He needs to be more consistent as a blocker, understanding leverage, showing he has the toughness to take on NFL d-ends. But as a pass catcher, it’s what teams are looking for.”

In this case, Johnson is what the Giants were looking for — and now he brings his unique skillset to New York.

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