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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

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Can the 49ers find their next Dontae Johnson?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Apr 18, 2022 at 2:30 PM--

One year ago, many 49er fans would've laughed at the title of this piece.

But, in 2021, veteran defensive back Dontae Johnson played an extremely crucial role for the 49ers, slotting in key reps at nickelback, cornerback, safety, and special teams, especially during San Francisco's must-win Week 18 matchup with the Los Angeles Rams to secure a playoff spot and again in the divisional round matchup against the Green Bay Packers.

With Johnson reaching his age-31 season, can the 49ers find their next Dontae Johnson to eventually replace the 2014 fourth-rounder?

Meet Alcorn State defensive back Juwan Taylor.

Taylor, who stands at 5'11 and weighs 200 pounds, was selected to both the HBCU combine, reserved for the top 40 HBCU prospects, and the HBCU Legacy Bowl, where he showcased his versatility playing cornerback in addition to his primary position of safety.

In the early stages of his career, Taylor functioned primarily as an in-the-box safety, garnering 89 tackles during his 2019 season, which led Alcorn State, despite being a defensive back. Additionally, Taylor was named the 2019 SWAC Championship Defensive MVP, when he put on a masterclass box-score performance, tying a career-high 11 tackles to go with an interception and a forced fumble in the Alcorn State victory.

After the 2020 season was derailed by COVID-19, Taylor transitioned into a leader for the Alcorn State locker room, not only through his vocal input, but also via the example he showcased every Saturday on the field.

Originally starting at community college prior to transferring to Alcorn State, Taylor embraces the chip on his shoulder and understands the difficulties of being drafted from a lesser-known college. However, his confidence in his ability remains unwavering, and he's willing to continue working for a roster or practice squad spot, where he'll look to take advantage of any opportunity thrown his way.

As a versatile safety, Taylor models his game after former All-Pro Tyrann Mathieu, whose tenacity in the run game, as well as his ability to cover made him the figurehead of the Kansas City Chiefs defense over the past few seasons.

Taylor plays with aggression and swagger, similar to Los Angeles Rams defensive back Jalen Ramsey, indicating that there isn't a moment too big for the young player as he matures ahead of the NFL Draft.

In addition to Ramsey, Taylor's a fan of newly-acquired 49ers cornerback Charvarius Ward, who himself came from a lesser-known university in Middle Tennessee State after transferring from Hinds Community College.

While Taylor might not have the résumé of higher-ranked cornerbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft, his frame and tackling ability makes him an intriguing candidate for the 49ers as an undrafted rookie, where they've had much success in evaluating talent.

While he may not make the roster in 2022, his versatility could prove him to be the next Dontae Johnson in the NFL, who the 49ers have clearly valued during his time in San Francisco.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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