The first day of the 2011 NFL Draft proved to be a mixed bag for the Cleveland Browns. After trading down from the sixth overall selection swapping multiple future picks with Atlanta, general manager Tom Heckert traded back to 21st overall to get "their guy," Baylor's Phil Taylor.
The trade itself proved tremendous for a team looking at the long-term health of the franchise's future. Multiple first, second, and fourth rounders will help as the front office continues to build in the right direction. After Dareus, Green, and Peterson were off the board; it was the correct move to make to address multiple issues.
The Browns then targeted a massive 6-3 and svelte 337-pound lane clogger.
Those aforementioned mixed feelings enter the conversation regarding Taylor's background.
Let's discuss his negatives first.
The defensive tackle was dismissed from Penn State earlier in this career due to academic issues, plus an assault charge. He was a late transfer into Baylor and never got in shape as a junior. It was rumored his girth ballooned to near 400-pounds. In 2009 because he never got into playing shape.
Then an added concern came about late in the process as a potential medical issue reared its ugly head. Taylor has fused bones in one of his feet. Very few teams were concerned with the issue, and the story smelled of last minute posturing by teams like Kansas City or the New York Jets who valued Taylor highly.
On the plus side, Taylor did get himself in shape during his senior campaign. His play really caught fire at the Senior Bowl.
Phil Taylor, DL, Baylor, 6-foot 3/4, 337 pounds
Monday Practice Notes: The massive interior defender ate up double-teams and clogged the middle of the line. He also displayed a very nice swim move while rushing the passer.
Tuesday Practice Notes: A bull in the middle of the line, Taylor gets good push and can move offensive linemen off their spot. He did need to recognize pressure more quickly and fight against it.
Wednesday Practice Notes: Taylor started the day by blowing up the first run play of practice. He then was washed down the line the next play. He was hard to handle in the middle, but his hand play is suspect.
Analysis: Taylor has been automatically labeled a true nose tackle simply because he is 337 pounds (and much more throughout his career). He will need to improve his hands and make his hat reads more consistently. The physical ability and the inability of linemen to budge him throughout the week was impressive, but Taylor will require technique work to accompany his staggering natural ability.
Two points, which I originally wrote in January, must be elaborated.
First, hand play was somewhat of an issue in Mobile. Upon further review, particularly the Texas Bowl, Taylor's hands were much better upon further review. He continually controlled offensive linemen. He shot his hands and he hustled throughout the entire game. Two positives that were questioned earlier.
Second, Taylor has been labeled as a pure two-gap performer. That's the furthest thing from the truth after watching him in person. He was continually shooting gaps and has the needed athleticism to be a 3-technique in the Browns new four man front. Physically, his potential play and size remind scouts of former Brown Shaun Rogers.
As Cleveland transitions into said scheme, one only has to look at history to see the type of defense new coordinator Dick Jauron prefers. Ted Washington and Keith Traylor were mammoth interior defenders which were impossible to budge as Chicago jumped out to a 13-3 record during the 2002 season. Taylor's size has already been mentioned, but he will pair with one of the best interior defenders in the NFL, the 335-pound Ahytba Rubin.
Cleveland is making a concerted effort to stop the run and allowing its young and talented secondary to make plays when opposing teams are put in obvious passing situations.
Now round two should help further a burgeoning defensive identity.