When scouring smaller schools for talent, it is important that guys do not just produce, but are highly prolific and also possess NFL level traits. It is easier for "ok" NFL prospects to put up decent numbers at the mid majors, but it is when these guys are truly taking over games on a weekly basis that you know there is something more to them.
Taywan Taylor is that small school stud. The 6-1, 190 pound senior pass catcher has caught over 170 passes in the last two seasons for 3197 yards and 34 touchdowns at about 17 yards per reception. Right off the bat, those are insane numbers. Like I said, it is not enough for these small school guys to be productive to be highly touted. They also should posses quality athletic traits...
Well good news! Taywan Taylor was featured on Bruce Feldman's annual freak list with some truly incredible numbers:
"Coming out of high school in Louisville, Taylor had two other scholarship offers — from Colorado State and UT-Martin. Then WKU-assistant Jeff Brohm vouched for Taylor after being wowed by his toughness and athleticism while watching him play basketball. 'He had big, thick legs, could really jump and was explosive and really played good defense,' said Brohm. That athleticism has certainly been evident on the field, but also in his spring testing numbers — an 11-5 broad jump, a 39.5-inch vertical and a 4.33 40 — that figure to turn heads when the wideout gets to the NFL Combine next year."
Those are incredibly impressive numbers to go along with eye popping production for the senior receiver. So let's get down to business then and see what this guy is about.
Immediately, Taywan Taylor's speed is evident. Without much extra effort, Taylor burns past the secondary and a better throw would lead to six. Even with a nice cushion from the defensive back, he had no hope covering for Taylor's athletic ability. This is the sub 4.4 speed that Feldman talked about and that deep ability is sure to make NFL teams notice.
However, Taylor is not just a freak athlete, as he also has some impressive refinement to his game. He is a skilled route runner.
The combination of footwork and Taylor's use of head fakes to get open are impressive, savvy attributes that complement his athletic ability beautifully.
Of course with any small school guy, there is going to be concern about how they fare against higher levels of competition. Well, Taylor does a great job separating on the out route from the slot here against the best defense in the country. On the whole, Taylor posted 376 yards in the four games he faced SEC teams over the last two years, so level of competition is hardly a concern for him.
Another place where Taylor is impressive is the ability to track the ball in the air and extending his hands to make a grab.
The fade route is never easy, but Taylor executes it beautifully, making a one handed grab while being interfered with. It is encouraging when athletic receivers like Taylor have good ball skills because a lot of the time, speed does not immediately mean a player is a deep threat. Too often are there players who do a great job of getting downfield but are inconsistent actually locating and making a play on the ball.
One of my favorite parts about Taylor is his ability to get yards after the catch. As soon as the ball touches his hands, he does a great job positioning himself to turn up field and gain extra yardage. WKU loved using Taylor on drag routes to attack soft spots in coverage and pick up an extra five or ten yards.
This may not look like much, but Taylor slows down in the weak part of the coverage, secures the catch and immediately turns upfield for what is a first down on a third down play. Very savvy move.
Here is a beautiful stop and go by Taylor after the catch, making Alabama defenders look silly in the process.
Unfortunately, this yards after catch mentality is a double edged sword.
Here Taylor (towards the bottom of the screen), starts turning upfield before he secured the catch, which led to a drop. This is a persistent problem in his game, but it comes from a want to extend a play. Coaches are not going to want to take that part out of his game, but he will need to be more consistent in securing catches before trying to get yards after a reception.
Taylor has a good frame at 6-1, but he also is one of the lighter receivers in the class, which is worrying. His lack of upper body bulk and strength was rarely a problem in college since he was so much faster than everyone else. However, when players were able to get physical with him, it affected his game. Not that he himself is not a physical player, because he is, but a lack of natural strength hurts his ability to play with bodies around him.
NFL Comparison: In terms of potential, Taywan Taylor is not dissimilar to Torrey Smith early in his career. Like Smith, Taylor is an outstanding athlete with an ability to blow the top off of defenses and create yards after the catch. Also similar, his ability to play in traffic is limited. I do think Taylor has room to get better there if he can add some strength to his game, and overall he can be a lot better than Torrey Smith has been, but they Smith is a safe comparison for the type of player Taylor can become in the NFL.
His fit in Philadelphia is a logical one. He has impressive speed and the team is in need of a deep threat. Luckily his skill set is more balanced than limiting him to just be a deep receiver, but stretching the field will be a primary asset here. I think Taylor deserves more talk as a potential top five receiver in this class. He may not have the size or physicality as Mike Williams, Corey Davis or Ju Ju Smith Schuster, but his athletic ability, polish as a route runner and production should put him in conversation. Taylor has not gotten the hype he deserves to this point, but after the Senior Bowl and the combine, expect Taylor to shoot up draft boards as a potentially high day two pick.