Like previous Tale of the Tape subject Titus Young, Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor boosted his stock with an impressive Senior Bowl week. The mammoth 6’3″, 337-pound prospect exhibited plenty of strength and a surprising amount of athleticism. Some even have speculated that those impressive physical tools could push Taylor all the way up to the first round.
Taylor’s recent stock surge is quite an accomplishment for a player who once appeared to be on the way to wrecking his football career. He started his college career at Penn State, but off the field issues led to his dismissal from the team. Taylor transferred to Baylor but had an underwhelming ’09 season, appearing out of shape and displaying inconsistent technique.
However, Taylor recommitted himself to developing his game last summer, dropping close to twenty pounds of excess weight. Also, he became a better overall football player, showing more discipline on the field.
As a result, Taylor has earned the respect and high praise of NFL scouts. While his 2010 stat line (7 TFL, 2 sacks) may be unimpressive, those numbers don’t adequately reflect his bigtime impact on the field.
For example, his stat line in the Oklahoma game is relatively modest: 7 tackles (5 solo), with no sacks or tackles for loss. But when you put on the tape, a very impressive prospect jumps off the screen, making it easy to understand why scouts are so high on him.
Taylor’s strength and surprising explosiveness for a big man are evident, with the defensive tackle out-quicking and overpowering Oklahoma’s offensive linemen. Also, Taylor shows off the speed to make plays in pursuit, which is rare for a nearly 340-pound 3-4 nose tackle prospect. In fact, Taylor’s quickness and above average lateral agility could make him a fit as a defensive end in a 3-4 as well.
Another impressive aspect of Taylor’s performance against Oklahoma is how he continued to play hard when the outcome of the game already was decided. The game was a blowout loss for Baylor, with their offense incapable of doing anything against Oklahoma’s D. But Taylor played hard for four quarters, perhaps signalling that he’s gotten past his old effort issues.
NFL teams will have to scrutinize Taylor’s past issues and current behavior very closely. Any big man can eat his way out of the NFL, and Taylor’s history suggests that he may be at greater risk for fattening up. But if teams are willing to overlook the past character concerns, Taylor could go very high in the draft. Even if that’s not the case, at least one team will fall in love with the Baylor defensive tackle’s upside, making him a lock to go somewhere in the top 100 picks.