Earlier Invictus brought us a great breakdown of his man-crush (this year) Sheldon Richardson (DT, Mizzou). He's encouraged me to do the same for my man-crush, and favorite under the radar prospect, Devin Taylor (DE, South Carolina).
For me, Taylor is an incredibly intriguing prospect. He possesses incredibly rare measurables, and flashes the ability to be a disruptive force, but he has never seemed to put it all together. In fact, his production has declined every year since becoming a starter. What I, and I hope Jerry Reese, have been trying to figure out is "Why". Is it just that he has been overshadowed by former 1st rounder Melvin Ingram and Super-Stud Jadeveon Clowney? Was he coached that way or does he not take coaching well?
Height - 6'7"
Weight - 270lbs (266 at The Combine, 270 at the Shrine Game)
Arm Length - 36 inches
40 Time - 4.68 (low of 4.62, high of 4.72)
3-Cone Drill - 6.89s
Short Shuttle - 4.30s
Vertical - 35"
Broad Jump - 10'8"
For those playing the home game:
JPP's arms are 34.5"
Super Freak Dion Joran's 3-cone drill was 7.02 (CB Tyrann Mathieu's was 6.87)
Ziggy Ansah's broad jump was 9'10"
Barkevious Mingo's short shuttle was 4.39s.
In terms of pure freakyness, Taylor hangs with the freakiest.
But enough with the Underwear Olympics, lets get to the tape.
What I look for
First and foremost is what front are they using, 3 man or 4 man? Next, where is he lined up? RDE and LDE have different responsibilities. The RDE, or Right Defensive End is the primary pass-rushing defensive end in a 43 front. He gets matched up against the Left Tackle on a right handed QB's blind side. The LDE, or Left Defensive End, is primarily a run-stopper. He goes against Right Tackles, and occasionally Full Backs and/or Tight Ends as teams are more likely to run to the right, behind the bigger and stronger RT's.
After that I want to look at his stance: Is he in a 3 or 4 point stance (1 or 2 hands on the ground). Generally, when a DE is in a 4 point stance, they're looking to fire off the ball as quickly and violently as they can, sacrificing change of direction for speed. The 3 point stance gives a D-lineman more options when it comes to being able to move around after firing out of their stance while maintaining leverage. When looking at their stance, you want to see how flexible he is: Can he set down into the stance like a coiled spring, or do his hips, knees, and ankles look too stiff?
After The Snap:
- First thing you want to see from a DE is how he comes out of his stance. Does he fire out of his stance with a great first step, or does he simply saunter out?
- Next, does he immediately stand up or does he keep his pads down to maintain leverage?
- After that, you want to see how he uses his hands. Does he get his hands on the OL first to keep him OL's hands off of him, or are they lazy?
- From there we get into moves: Does he have a an arsenal of them or does he rely on just 1 move? In the run game does he shed his blocker, or at least play off him?
- Next is awareness. If its a passing down, if he doesn't beat his blocker, does he get his hands up? Does he recognize play-action/option runs? Can he recognize a cut-back and seal the edge or make a play on the runner?
- Finally: Does he finish the play? If the play is on the other side of the field, does he motor over to help, or does he just watch?
Devin Taylor vs Michigan (2013 Bowl) (via Adrian Ahufinger)
(It sometimes gets hard to see the box. Taylor is #98, and usually at LDE)
0:00-0:07) 4-point stance, Taylor sits down in his stance well and fires off the ball. He tries an inside spin move and pushes the G back, but the pass is complete.
0:08-0:18) Stands up out of his stance, but is aware enough to jump up and gets a hand on the pass. Incomplete.
0:19-0:30) 4-point stance He runs into a double team. Play is to the other side and he loops around the trash. S came up to make the play.
0:31-0:41) Fires out of his stance, and slips the chip block. Gets hit by the RB's block but powers through. The QB just gets the pass off, but has to float it due to Taylor's pressure. Intercepted
0:42-0:51) Quick out of his stance, and beats the OT, but allows himself to get rerouted around the QB. Quick pass.
0:52-1:00) Recognizes the run to the other side. He tries to stand up and scrape over to help, but the OT latches on. Still manages to hustle down and make the tackle 10yrds down field.
1:03-1:09) Gets out of his stance OK, but the QB rolls to the left. Not much to see
1:10-1:22) Nice get off, and slips the block well with a swim move. Too bad its a screen pass to the other side.
1:23-1:30) Gets out of his stance and drives the OT back, but its a run up the middle, and he over-runs (pushes?) the play. A little Osi-esque there, but nice power.
1:31-1:53) Great get off. Unblocked at the LOS, but he blows right past the RB assigned to him. Forgets to tackle the QB though. Incomplete pass.
1:55-2:02) 4-point stance, gets out of the blocks well, but over-runs the QB. Incomplete pass though.
2:04-2:33) Fires out of his stance, but recognizes the hand-off and takes off at a right angle. Slips under/round the DT being blocked to run the RB down from behind and finishes the tackle. Great play.
2:34-2:46) Gets a bit high out of his stance and pushes the OT back, but also gets pushed out of the action. Tries to fight back inside, but it doesn't work in time.
2:47-2:54) Fires out of his stance, but its a screen pass. Recognizes it and tries to get back to help out, but it happens too fast.
2:55-3:11) Wide-9 4 point stance. Great get off, but when he tries for the inside spin move he stumbles over the RB that comes up to help.
3:11-3:20) 4-point stance. Stands up and recognizes the wild-cat play, but he gets caught by the cut block and winds up on the ground. Gets up and comes down to help though.
3:21-3:28) 4-point stance, but stands up in coverage for the zone-blitz. Maintains the edge and forces the play back inside. Nice discipline. Would have been a good play if the LB made the tackle at the LOS.
3:29-3:38) 4-point stance. Uses his hands really nicely with the swim move, but he goes over the RB too. Puts his foot in the ground and turns around to make the tackle before the RB can pick up the 1st down or the TD. Very nice play.
3:39-3:59) Gets off the ball and is unblocked at the LOS. Uses his hands well to keep the RB from getting any part of him. Keeps the QB in front of him for the roll out.
4:00-4:19) Wide-9 setup, 4-point stance. Gets off okay, but isn't blocked... And promptly runs right past the Denard Robinson, but like before, plants his foot in the ground turns a 180 on a dime and runs Robinson down from behind. Great play.
4:20-4:38) Same setup as last play. Gets off well, sees the guard pulling towards him, pulls up and jukes him, then runs Robinson down from behind again. This time with an assist from DJ Swearinger.
4:39-5:02) 3-point stance, stands up and drops in coverage for the zone blitz. Recognizes the running play and comes down to make the stop after the back slips the first tackler. Very nice
5:03-5:10) 4-point stance. Gets off well and keeps his pads low, but runs into a G/T double team and the QB gets the quick pass off.
5:11-5:29) 3 man line, 2 blitzers on the left side. Taylor tries to shoot the A gap (between the Guard and Center), but gets shoved out of the play by the G. Definitely could have done a better job with his hands.
5:30-5:40) Wide-9 setup. Tries the speed rush but gets re-routed by the OT and sealed out of the play by the RB.
5:41-5:49) Wide-9 again. Uses a little inside swim move on the OT, but gets hung up on him and can't make it to the QB before the pass gets off.
5:50-5:57) 4-DE front, Taylor is at DT. Tries stunting outside, but just winds up behind a wall of bodies. That just didn't work.
5:58-6:16) Back to DE, Taylor does a great power rush and pushes the OT back and forces the RB to the outside to assist, opening a canyon between inside, but he recognizes it too late and doesn't get off the block to make the sack.
6:17-6:23) Speed rush from the 4-point stance. Osi-like run to the out side. Can't get around the OT and RB. Quick pass anyway. Michigan is pretty much doubling him every play now.
6:24-6:36) 3 man front, Taylor is at 5-tech. Stunts outside with a stand up rusher going inside. Great speed rush, and just misses the sack when the RB and RT make it back to push him away from the QB (who threw it WAY away)
6:37-6:51) Nice get off and inside move. Forces Robinson to stop and juke outside, allowing the tackle to be made behind the LOS.
6:52-7:07) Stunts inside from the DE position. Nicely done and has a clear shot to the QB, but Clowney (who just abused his blocker) takes a tad shallow angle in, and they get in each other's way.
7:08-7:20) Nice speed rush, but gets pushed/runs past the play. Does help to keep the play inside though. Tough scrambling by the QB there.
7:21-7:29) Tries for an inside move, but gets caught in the garbage ball. Moving on.
7:30-7:38) Unblocked out of his stance. Great get-off, but runs right past the play... Not that he really would have been a factor anyway. Inside run.
7:39-7:59) GREAT get off. Blows right past the RT and the RB. Too bad he blew right past the QB too. With arms as long as his, he has to make that sack. Credit for not giving up on the play. He comes back to help out on the tackle.
8:00-8:08) Doesn't fire off the ball like he has been, and gets stood up by the RT. Gets his hands up and jumps in the passing lane though. QB sails the ball incomplete.
8:09-8:19) Recognizes the sweep, but gets caught in the trash and can't get to Robinson to make the play before he gets the 1st down. Makes the tackle though.
8:20-8:28) Double teamed and rode to the turf off the snap by the G/T.
8:29-8:36) Running play. Doesn't get caught in the downblock and holds his gap. Keeps the running play contained and it goes for the loss. Not sexy but nice.
8:38-8:53) Speed rush on the outside. Recognizes the pass and elevates. Clogs the passing lane and forces the overthrow
8:54-9:00) A little slow off the snap, and can't quite fight off the block. He got handled.
9:02-9:09) Recognizes the direct snap and slips his blocker really well. Gets in front of the play but maintains discipline. Doesn't over-commit or get too aggressive and leaves Robinson nowhere to go.
9:10-9:20) Gets off well, but over-runs the play again. Looks like a designed QB run up the middle.
9:21-9:32) End around to the opposite side, but Taylor stays with the play and makes the stop. Not before the 1st down, but shows a nice motor and nice movement skills staying with the play long enough to make the tackle.
9:33-9:42) 4-point stance at DE. Gets off the ball fairly well, but gets blocked by the G, keeps working and draws the double team from the RB while the QB gets sacked by the DT working off the 1-on-1.
9:43-9:52) Decent get off. Direct snap to Robinson, and Taylor gets stuck behind Jerideau (#70) when he gets cut-blocked. Still tries to stay with the play though.
9:53-10:01) Bull rush from the 4-point stance. Lets his pads get too high and lets the OT get into his body, but still manages to push him back to the QB.
10:02-10:12) Short Yardage situation. Its tough to make out, but Taylor lines up VERY low in his stance. He fires off the ball and collapses the blocker inward. The whole line does a good job from keeping the Michigan OL from getting any kind of a push.
10:13-10:20) Explodes off the ball, but over-runs the play again. OT and RB do a nice job rerouting him.
10:21-10:29) Nice get off, but gets held by the OT... I mean... His jersey jumps off his chest and attacks the OT's hands.
10:30-10:37) Another nice burst off the snap, but can't quite work his way to the QB before he (the QB) gets the throw off. He's sitting lower in his stance as the game wears on
10:38-10:47) Recognizes the run and sets his edge. Can't do anything about the inside gap not getting filled (or well blocked by the OL, depending on you point of view).
10:48-11:00) Gets nice and low in that 4-point stance, and gets off the snap well. Sees the option toss and gets fires back to make the stop for short gain. Very nice, yet again.
11:01-11:13) Really gets down in his stance again. Fires off the ball and just abuses the OT. Just misses the LT tomahawk strip, but once again plants his foot doubles back and gets there in time to hit the QB's arm (or the ball) as he throws to seal the game.
Now, like I said before, Taylor is a tough guy to figure out. You see some fantastic plays. Great awareness and awesome athelticism... Then you don't. So, I want to include a game where he wasn't under Steve Spurrior:
Devin Taylor 2013 East West Shrine Game (via rutanmike79)
(This time there isn't a box to highlight him, so I'll point him out for each play)
0:00-0:30) RDE, 4-point stance. Gets a nice jump off the snap, and fights through the LT's block, pushing him into the QB. Taylor slips the block and comes around for the Strip.
0:31-0:47 ) RDE again. 3 point stance. Fires off the ball and slightly outruns the play, but plants his foot and comes back to tackle the runner from behind and forces the fumble.
0:48) Replay just before going to break (IIRC, the play itself happened while somebody was talking). Taylor slips the RT's block and gets in the QB's face forcing the bad throw/INT.
0:54-1:20) RDE, 4-point stance. Unblocked read option play. Taylor plays the hand-off, but recognizes the QB kept it and just runs him down from behind before the QB can make the edge.
1:22-1:50) RDE in a low 4-point stance again. Straight explodes off the ball, throws the LT out of the way and pulls the QB to the ground. Straight dominance. Needs to work on squaring up and tackling the QB though.
1:51-2:00) RDE, 4-point stance. Quick catch & throw by the QB. Taylor hustles over to make the tackle almost before the CB can get there.
Ziggy Ansah, Lane Johnson, Margus Hunt, Dion Jordan... They get all the press as athletic freaks this draft, but Taylor deserves to get mention along with them... But he doesn't.
Well in all honesty his tape hasn't been that great lately. He flashes truly amazing upside and abilities. His reactions aren't bad and he is pretty much always one of the most athletic guys on the field. So why doesn't he put up the stats that some of the other, less freaky DE's do?
IMO, the answer is provided by Jon Gruden at (about) the 4:00 mark in the 1st tape. Spurrior uses Taylor's length and athleticism as a set-up man for Clowney. When Taylor is at his best, he commands double teams. Blockers that otherwise would be devoted to Clowney. As well, he keeps the play inside or force them back to the DT's or Clowney. This was backed up by an interview he did during the Shrine Game when he said that it was nice to just go out and play without being reigned in.
So, does he fit the Giants? A big, long, high motor, athletic freak DE? I'd say "Yes". Taylor needs some polishing technique wise. He does have a variety of pass-rush moves, but they don't get much use. Likewise he needs to work on his tackling and hand usage. However, I think he would almost ideal to understudy Justin Tuck at LDE then bookend across from JPP. I'm not crazy about him almost exclusively using the 4-point stance, but that seems like its coached by SC's DC.
His upside is simply rare. Defensive Ends 6'7", 270lbs simply should not be able to move like 6'0" 195lb Corner Backs. That makes him a weapon against the read-option offenses that seem to be infesting the NFCE.
He isn't a 1st rounder. Upside wise, sure. But a 4 year player from an SEC school needs better tape than Taylor's to be considered a 1st round draft pick. That being said, I'm comfortable taking him in the 2nd round, and consider anything after that a steal. He can play the run, rush the passer, has enough awareness to diagnose play fakes and the athleticism to do something about it, or clog passing lanes with his length. I do think he'll be a lot higher on the Giants' board than anywhere else.