Heading into the 2024 NFL draft, the New York Giants were still uncertain about whether or not star tight end Darren Waller would ever play for them again.

Waller is still mulling his options while going through a tumultuous time in his personal life, including a divorce from his wife, WNBA star Kelsey Plum, after only a year.

After the second day of the draft, the Giants still had no clarity on Waller’s status.

“No, nothing’s changed there,” said Giants general manager Joe Schoen. “We’re still giving him space and when he’s ready to make a decision, we’ll have those conversations.”

Those conversations were suddenly rendered less imminent on Saturday when the Giants selected Penn State tight end Theo Johnson — a very Waller-like-looking player — with the 107th overall pick in Round 4.

After the draft, Schoen was asked if the Johnson pick was in direct response to Waller’s situation.

“We had to take that into account for sure,” he said. “But you know, Theo was the top player on our board. I’m trying to think, if there were any of these guys that we took that weren’t the top player on the board at the time…last night we left, he was sticking out for us.  You always think when you come in the next morning, he’s going to go sooner and may not be there and we’re excited to get Theo.”

Johnson did not visit with the Giants during the pre-draft process but said it was “clear” that the Giants had an interest in him. The only association he had with the Giants before Saturday was an interaction with quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney at the Senior Bowl but admitted he had another tie to the club.

“Went to school and worked with Christian Daboll, Brian Daboll’s son, when he was at Penn State,” Johnson revealed. “So pretty early on, they showed a lot of interest and it was clear that this was definitely a potential landing spot for me.”

The 6-foot-6, 257-pound Johnson said he had not yet talked to the Giants about what role he might play. He was also asked if he had watched a lot of Waller, who he has been compared to in several scouting reports.

“I’ve definitely watched Darren Waller,” Johnson said. “I have a lot of respect for his game. You know, he’s someone that has really established himself in the league, and I’m really looking forward to being in the same room as him and just hearing his wisdom from what he’s been through, not only in his career and his life but I’m really looking forward to being his teammate.”

That last part may not come to pass. The Giants, of course, will want a decision from Waller at some point this spring so they can sort out their roster and finances.

Johnson, by continuing to develop, can help the Giants ease into what appears to be Waller’s almost certain departure. He can only look forward, though. And he’s ready to help the Giants in any way he can.

“I think I’m definitely capable of being a tight end that you can’t take off the field with all the attributes that I have and I’m going to work for that,” he said. “I know I have work to do and I’m going to do the work it’s going to take to be a George Kittle and be a guy that you just don’t want to take off the field because I can do every single thing you’re asking your tight end to do.”


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