This is the tape many of you have been waiting for. Thank you once again to the irreplaceable Aaron Aloysius for delivering.
I’ve mocked Phil Taylor to the Seahawks in my last two projections. Let’s look at the footage and see what he offers.
This is tape from Baylor vs Oklahoma and includes every snap directly involving Taylor – positive or negative.
The first thing that really stands out is how well Taylor carries his 337lbs frame. He doesn’t look sloppy at that weight – he’s a pretty compact build. The comparisons to B.J. Raji are legit in that both have unnatural movement for a prospect carrying that size. The key difference between the pair, however, is that Raji is a much more flaccid body type.
That could be crucial if you’re considering endurance as a determining factor on whether this is a logical option for Seattle. A lot of people argue against selecting a prospect in round one who can only play 25-30 downs per game.
You can see Taylor’s mobility clearly in this video. At 0:21 you see a play where the ball is dumped off to the running back in the backfield. Taylor tracks the play and pursues the ball carrier, eventually making the tackle for a loss. There are guys 40-50lbs lighter who don’t move like that who are currently starting in the NFL.
Perhaps the best play in the entire video comes at the 1:32 mark. Landry Jones calls a play action boot leg to the right. Taylor disengages from his block and sprints to the left hand side. Jones can’t see a viable passing option so pumps perhaps with the intention of selling out a scramble. He initially ducks to run, but senses Taylor’s presence and ducks out of bounds for no gain.
Elite mobility for 337lbs.
The next play on the tape shows the main issue I have with Taylor – leverage. When he gets low and uses proper hand technique he’s nearly unblockable. When he goes high he’s easily washed out – and it’s the guard shifting his frame out of the way which leads to the rushing score. It’s a technique problem he really has to work on.
Even so, we see at the 0:55 mark the benefit of having that big force up the middle on run plays. Taylor takes up two blocks (center and right guard) and still manages to wrestle free and tackle the running back for only a short gain. His ability to carry two blockers is again flashed on 1:21 and when stuffing the run on 1:42, 2:47 and 3:20.
This is crucial in Seattle’s current defensive scheme. You want the LEO to find one-on-one battles with the offensive tackle and that means persistent pressure up the middle on passing downs. If one guy is able to take up two blocks, it’s going to create opportunities not just for the LEO but also the three technique.
The play at 2:07 excites me from a Seahawks perspective. Taylor lines up slightly exaggerated to the left and ends up rushing the passer from the outside. He beats his man for speed and forces the QB out of the pocket. The end result is a broken play and Jones throws the ball out of bounds.
Why is that exciting? It’s further evidence that this guy can play the 5-technique (or Red Bryant role). If he can show speed like that off the edge and provide excellent run support, it means he can absolutely play the two most important positions on Seattle’s defensive line (5-tech and nose tackle). At the five he has the size of Bryant but could be an upgrade as a rusher. As a nose tackle he carries blocks and eats up space. Realistically you could start or spell him as a rookie for either of Seattle’s current starters – Bryant or Colin Cole.
The pass rushing skills flashed at 2:27 also make me wonder if the guy can play some snaps at the three-technique. He swats the left guard away with an incredible punch and flies into the backfield. Jones senses the pressure and just gets an incomplete pass away before Taylor makes a crushing tackle.
Both announcers over react by saying it’d be a penalty in the NFL – Jones isn’t driven into the ground. The combination of powerful right hook and explosive speed stand out in a big way.
His penetration skills are further emphasised when he breaks through the LT and LG to block a pass on 3:32.
It’s only one game’s evidence and I would rather do full game research on at least 2-3 times before coming to a respectable conclusion. However, the skills flashed on this tape scream top-20 talent.
Obviously there are some background issues. Taylor was kicked off Penn State’s roster for an ‘off the field’ incident and academic struggles. Will this put off teams? B.J. Raji was similarly held back a year at Boston College for academic reasons and had some other incidents on and off the field - he still went in the top-ten to Green Bay.
Taylor only recorded two sacks in two-years with Baylor. Is this lack of real production a concern? Perhaps – after all Raji had seven sacks in his senior year and nine total in the two seasons before turning pro.
Having said that, I still look at the potential with this prospect and wonder if he’s going to make a big rise up the boards. If the 3-4 teams see him as a defining nose tackle (like Green Bay did with Raji) then he won’t last very long. If teams are not entirely convinced, he will last into the 20′s as Dan Williams did last year (#26, Arizona).
On this evidence there’s no doubt what so ever that Taylor is a first round pick – and he could be a much higher selection than a lot of people are grading at the moment. Time to do more study.
But if he’s available when the Seahawks are on the clock this April he has to be a strong consideration.