By and large, the best pass rushers in the NFL are found in the first round. Teams recognize that if they want a player with the traits to succeed at one of the most important positions on the field, they need to invest draft capital in them. They’re players with elite athleticism, technical refinement, and track records of production to prove they can do it.
Moving down the draft boards we find players with more issues. Either more pedestrian athleticism, technical issues, or a lack of production to create questions as to whether or not they can develop at the NFL level.
Darrell Taylor out of Tennessee is one of those early-mid round prospects. He has the traits to be a good pass rusher and a versatile player at the NFL level, as well as good production over the last two years. However, he has yet to put it all together on a consistent down-to-down basis.
But still, if the New York Giants haven’t found a pass rusher early in the draft, could they decide to try and develop Taylor’s traits?
Prospect: Darrell Taylor (EDGE, Tennessee)
Games Watched: vs. Georgia (2018), vs. BYU (2019), vs. Florida (2019), vs. Georgia (2019)
Red Flags: Suspended (2017 - Fight in practice)
Games Played: 38
Tackles For a loss: 26.5
Forced Fumbles: 6
Passes Defensed: 7
Games Played: 13
Tackles For a loss: 10.0
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 4
Best: First step, short-area quickness, bend, versatility
Worst: Run defense, snap timing, consistency
Projection: A rotational EDGE in a multiple defense. Has starter upside in the right situation.
Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor has a good blend of size, athleticism, flexibility, lower-body explosiveness, and versatility for an EDGE player at the NFL level. Taylor played in a variety of fronts and alignments for Tennessee’s defense, at times lining up as a defensive end in a 3-4, 4-3, and 5-2 front. He was also frequently played as a standing rusher in a 3-4 front as well as an off-ball linebacker in both 3 and 4-man fronts.
Taylor flashes a good, and explosive, first step as a pass rusher, using a good get-off to stress offensive tackles and get penetration into the backfield. He flashes a number of pass rushing moves, including a club-rip move, an arm-over move, a spin move, and a long-arm move to capitalize on his speed. Taylor has good ankle and hip flexibility to go with his lower-body explosiveness, allowing him to corner sharply, bend around the edge, and carry speed into the backfield.
He shows a good closing burst when finishing plays, consistently attacking the football as he tackles. Though his forced fumble total is down in 2019, he showed a good sense for jarring the football loose in 2018.
Taylor has the ability to drop into coverage, getting good depth and moving well enough as a zone defender. He also showed the ability to run with some tight ends and running backs in man coverage.
Taylor typically plays with good hip and pad level as a run defender and showed improved hand usage to seize inside leverage when dealing with offensive tackles.
He needs to show more consistency as a run defender, however. Taylor has a tendency to not leverage his gaps and to stay blocked. If he doesn’t neutralize blocks right away he can find himself pushed out of the play. Taylor also needs to do a better job of timing the snap and making more consistent use of his first step.
Taylor was suspended in 2017 for a fight during practice.
Overall Grade: 6.2 - Should be a good, reliable back-up right away. Has the upside to be a starter in the right situation with development. A late Day 2 value. [Grading Scale]
As of right now, Tennessee EDGE Darrell Taylor projects as a good rotational EDGE in a multiple-front defense. He could have an immediate impact as a third edge and the player subbed onto the field in passing situations.
Taylor flashes a number of exciting traits as an EDGE player and has the upside to become a starter with some development. But for right now he is too inconsistent in the finer aspects of EDGE play to be on the field on an every-down basis. That being said, his traits — namely his explosiveness and bend — should be worked onto the field early in his career. Taylor seemingly played heavier and thicker in 2019 than in 2018, and coaches might want him to shed 10 (or so) pounds to further improve his quickness and fluidity. Even so he is capable of dropping in space effectively to create confusion and disguise blitz packages.
Taylor’s play strength and leverage suggest upside as a run defender and a “complete” EDGE prospect. But as of now, he needs to become better at shedding blocks and more aggressive in making plays in the run game.
Teams will also want to investigate a 2017 incident in which Taylor kicked a teammate during a fight in practice — which earned him a suspension.
If a team is able to put together a good plan for Taylor — making use of his current skill set as a pass rusher while developing his weaknesses — he has the potential of out-playing his draft slot and becoming a steal.