A big part of Chip Kelly's first offseason with the Eagles has been dedicated toward adding size to the roster. With still a few holes to fill among the defensive line, it is important to keep size in mind when looking at prospects. While there is a bit of an outcry for Star Lotulelei, Shariff Floyd and John Hankins to be the 5-tech of the future, there are still plenty of options in this deep defensive line class.
South Carolina's Devin Taylor has fallen out of the spotlight with his team and fellow pass rusher, Jadeveon Clowney, coming off like the next Lawerence Taylor. However, he has shown over the past few years that he has tons of talent and belongs in the big leagues. The 6'7," 266-pound beast (featuring 36-inch arms) produced 18.5 sacks, 35.5 tackles for loss, 18 passes defended and two interceptions (both taken back for touchdowns) while at South Carolina. He was an SEC All-Freshman and was an All-SEC First Team selection in 2010. He was among the top defensive linemen at Combine in the vertical jump (35"), broad jump (128"), 3-cone (6.89 secs), and short shuttle (4.30 sec).
Draft analysts are obviously impressed by Taylor's body measurements, but they also love his athleticism. NFL.com says his "long strides can eat up grass quickly once he gets started. Fights through the B-gap on inside rushes. Height, length and big hands make him capable of regularly knocking down passes or at least obscuring his vision." CBS sports notes that he has "very good straight-line speed for his size with good chase skills. Experience standing up and dropping in coverage as well as in a 3-point stance at defensive end."
CBS is especially fond of Taylor, mentioning that he does a "nice job holding the edge against the run and keeps his eyes elevated. Usually plays smart with good recognition skills, displaying very good discipline." The side also recognizes his experience, mentioning that he was a four-year starter and graduates as a redshirt senior.
Unfortunately, size is not all it is cracked up to be with Taylor. NFL.com states that Taylor's "height and long legs prevent him from having elite short-area agility, change of direction ability, and closing speed. Often times can be lethargic in coming off the ball." CBS agrees and goes further, saying that he has "tight hips, ankles and lacks natural fluidity to burst to the play, struggling to smoothly redirect. Lean-muscled and will get pushed around, lacking natural power on his frame."
NFL.com compares Taylor to Kenny Iwebema, who played for the Cardinals from 2008-2010 (no sure where they got that comparison as Taylor is 3-inches taller than Iwebema and much more athletic). CBS Sports expects Taylor to be taken in the 3rd or 4th round.
Devin Taylor is huge. He is a bit thin but has the versatility that Chip Kelly covets. He does seem have room to grow in both size and his game. He has the ability to anchor and tackle in open space (could be an asset as a 5-tech). He is an expert at batting down passes and his ability to do so is J.J. Watt-esque. He is strong against the run and is not afraid to stick a guy. The key with Taylor is patience. He one of the most patient attackers you will find. Does wrap up when making open field tackles and will do so in the backfield. He's not extremely fast but he can get past defense line and get to the ball quick enough. He has the ability to stand up and cover at times, depending on the match up and can put his hand down as a rusher. He has a ton of experience, having started more than 40 games at South Carolina.
The issue with Taylor is he has declined in sack totals over the last three years. He is does also get stiff at times despite a great 3-cone. Taylor is not as strong as you would like (gets dragged at times), but could fill out easy over an offseason or two. With him, you want to see more of an aggression, as he seems too patient at times. Has good instincts but is not really immune to biting on the occasional misdirect.
I see Taylor as a poor man's Calais Campbell. Both have very good reach, size and are patient rushers. I project him as a third round pick and would not be surprised if he was taken in the late-2nd during a run on defensive linemen.
As always, check out Taylor for yourself, before you start getting on his bandwagon:
Now that you know more about Taylor, are you down to snatch him up in the middle rounds, if the Eagles pass on Lotulelei, Hankins, Sly Williams, Richardson, and Floyd?