6060 (Estimated) 285 (Estimated) 4.85 (Estimated)
One third of the way into the 2012 college season conference games have just begun. While Missouri has received a rude awakening in their first two SEC games, not all of the players they have faced have impressed as much as expected. This week I break down South Carolina defensive end Devin Taylor who has yet to become the dominant college player he was expected to be when he arrived in Columbia as one of the most recruited players in the country. Despite being hyped in the media as a likely first round pick, Taylor did not receive high grades this spring from the combines (Blesto and National) and has not shown us first round production or talent on film.
There is little question that Taylor looks the part of an NFL player “on the hoof” at over 6’6, with a muscular physique and long arms. However, the issue is that he is a “tweener” and does not play aggressively on a consistent basis, both of which have limited his production. In today’s NFL to play defensive end in a 43 defense you must be productive rushing the passer, while in a 34 scheme a defensive end has to consistently play strong at the point of attack, but Taylor has not proven he can make an impact doing either.
Taylor lacks the first step quickness and explosive burst to threaten the corner as a speed rusher and does not change directions fast enough to defeat pass blocker with quick pass rush moves. Additionally, while he has the natural strength to be an impact “bull rusher,” too often he gets upright and high rushing the passer and does not use hands aggressively to jolt pass blocker, which limits his strength as a pass rusher. Lacking consistency as a pass rusher makes him much better suited to be tried as a defensive end in a 34 defense, but then other issues with his play become concerns.
In the world of “line play” the two important rules are – “first hands win” and “low man always wins.” Taylor’s lack of aggressiveness with hands allows offensive linemen to “get a good fit” on him and they are able to tie him up and keep him out of the play too easily. By popping upright at the snap and taking on blockers high at the point of attack, Taylor loses leverage and allows himself to be tied up and driven off the ball too easily by run blockers. By playing without leverage, Taylor also gets stopped in his tracks when he tries to “bull rush.”
While Taylor’s lack of explosiveness and inconsistent technique limit his production, more concerning and debilitating are his inconsistent motor and often passive style of play. He does not attack the blocker in front of him or chase hard after the play to make plays in backside pursuit. His tendency to stop fighting to defeat blockers once they get ahold of him, leads to him being tied up and eliminated from the play way too easily for a player with his talent.
In terms of physical talent, Taylor reminds me of former Northwestern star and current Bears backup defensive end Corey Wooten, but Taylor does not play with the passion or competitiveness that Wooten displayed in college. In the end, many may expect Taylor to be a first round pick, but from what I have seen on film and heard from scouts, he is more likely to be a third to fifth round pick who will need to produce at a much higher level if he wants to be more than a backup in the NFL.
Email Russ at Russelllande@yahoo.com and Follow Russ on Twitter @RUSSLANDE