One of the many challenges confronting teams in the preparation for the 2021 NFL Draft is the disruption of the 2020 season. A number of prospects are entering the draft without any tape from the 2020 season, while others are entering the draft with just a few games.
Washington Huskies cornerback Keith Taylor Jr. is one of those players entering the draft with only a handful of games for teams to scout. He played just four games in 2020, giving him about a third as much tape as he would have had available in another year. Fortunately, he did get an invitation to the 2021 Senior Bowl, which holds pride of place as THE draft event this year. Taylor acquitted himself well, showing the NFL the size it tends to like in outside corners while also having the athleticism to keep up with the receivers against whom he was matched up.
But was that enough to balance his lack of recent tape and production?
The New York Giants could still be looking for cornerback depth. Could Taylor be a value pick later in the draft?
Prospect: Keith Taylor Jr.
Games Watched: vs. Stanford (2018), vs. Cal (2019), vs. Stanford (2020)
Games Played: 43
Tackles For a loss: 3.5
Forced Fumbles: 0.0
Passes Defensed: 10
Games Played: 4
Tackles For a loss: 0.0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Best: Length, foot quickness, man coverage, tackling
Worst: Off-man coverage, play strength, ball production
Projection: Primary cornerback depth, No. 2 corner in a man-heavy scheme.
(Taylor is CB number 8)
Keith Taylor Jr. is an outside cornerback prospect with the length, foot quickness, coverage skills, and athleticism to play corner in the NFL.
Taylor typically aligned at outside cornerback for the Washington defense, playing man, off-man, and zone coverages. He is at his best in man coverage, using his foot quickness and long speed to stay with receivers throughout their routes. Taylor is a physical player in tight man coverage, using his length to disrupt early in the route as well as to be disruptive at the catch point. He has the length to play around or through receivers, He shows solid awareness in zone coverage, with the range to get depth quickly and control a relatively large area of the field.
Taylor is a solid tackler, with good physicality and form. He generally wraps ball carriers up and is unafraid of contact. He is a willing run defender as well as a reliable tackler in space.
Taylor’s aggressiveness can get the better of him in particularly tight press-man coverage, as he can get overly grabby, which can result in pass interference calls. He can also be too quick to bail in off-man coverage, at times guessing and getting too much depth when the receiver runs a short route. He can also get caught looking in the backfield in those situations.
Taylor is a fairly high-cut corner and while his foot quickness is enough to compensate for high hips against most outside receivers. However, he shouldn’t be lined up inside against quicker slot receivers.
Overall Grade: 6.7 - This prospect has the potential to be a contributor early in his career as a sub-package player, with the upside to start in the correct scheme.
Keith Taylor projects best as an outside corner in a defense which calls a high volume of man coverage on the outside.
Taylor will need to clean up his hand usage in press-man coverage, as NFL officials give little leeway to defensive backs after five yards. However, he has the feet, length, and speed to be a tight man coverage corner in the NFL, and those players are valued.
He also has the ability to play in zone coverages, though man coverage is his strength. He shouldn’t be placed in situations where he is playing off-man or bail technique. In those situations he has a tendency to run himself out of the play, and or get caught looking into the backfield.
Taylor also has a distinct lack of ball production. Part of that is explained by a lack of targets in the tape watched, but it will be something teams will want to investigate and work on if they can. Turnovers are obviously important in the NFL, and a player not getting a single interception and just 10 passes defensed in four years could be a red flag for the NFL.
That being said, Taylor has the tools and experience to play significant snaps in the right scheme.