A foot injury had limited him to five late-season games during his freshman season, managing 69 yards on nine grabs, but he also completed two passes for 77 yards. The next year he led the Owls with 57 receptions for 826 yards, reaching the end zone three times. Because of his issues with the foot, it would be advisable for an interested team to have him undergo further medical evaluation leading up to the draft.
He extended his streak to 22 straight games with at least one catch, as the second-team All-Conference USA choice pulled down 55 tosses for 848 yards (15.4 ypc) and a career-high eight touchdowns during his junior season in 2013.
Despite lacking great speed, Taylor’s long legs get him into his patterns smoothly. He could use additional bulk and improve his strength, but he uses his hands effectively to defeat the jam. His long arms get him a good release vs. the hold-up and he is quicker than he is fast getting into his routes. He shows a strong initial release but does lack explosion coming off the line. Because of his size, he can slip past the smaller defenders.
Taylor presents a nice sized target on slants, hitches and other short routes. He has enough functional strength to get a decent push off the opponent and shows outstanding concentration looking the ball in, especially when working in a crowd. He doesn’t appear to present the deep speed needed to separate in the secondary, but he has the loose hips and body-contortion agility to maintain balance and somehow find the soft areas on the field. Because of his instincts and long stride, he is able to run up on the defenders.
While he is not sudden, Taylor is very smooth in his patterns. He is a long strider who can stick and weave the defender effectively to gain leverage. He runs more slants and underneath routes to compensate for his lack of a second gear coming out of his breaks. He is a master at recognizing movement, though, doing a great job of running up on his man when this happens. He never drops his hands coming out of his breaks, gathering well to make crisp cuts.
It is Taylor’s hip wiggle, lateral movement and deceptive quickness that allow him to separate after the catch. He won’t be capable of putting on the afterburners to leave defenders grasping at air, so he compensates with his long stride and hip snap to separate. He just seems to excel at sneaking up on his opponent, and while he lacks the vertical speed he uses his body well to elude.
Taylor excels making the tough catches in a crowd or along the sidelines. He has a great feel for sticks and boundaries, doing a nice job of keeping his feet in bounds. There is just no flinch to him going for the ball in a crowd. He never seems to have concentration lapses and he does a fine job of tracking the ball in flight. He uses his size well to shield defenders from the ball and knows depth on his routes.
The Rice Owl excels at catching the ball and not breaking stride. He can extend and reach the ball at its high point and does a fine job of adjusting to the ball, whether high, low or behind him. When he goes up for the jump ball, his size lets him win most of those battles. He knows he won’t win any foot races based on pure speed, but he is a long strider with good hip snap to elude. He shows good forward body lean in his stride and has the wiggle to separate after the catch.
Taylor is more of a pester-type blocker, but he will get walled off and walked back into the pocket when trying to block in-line. His lack of power prevents him from sustaining or finishing. He is a willing blocker and tries to get after second-level defenders to cut, but his tall, lanky frame lacks power behind his hits and he needs to sink his pads better to make more than just glancing blocks in the open.
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
SCOUT.COM DRAFT RANKINGS
Position: QB RB FB WR TE OT OG C DT DE OLB MLB S CB K P LS