He also garnered Freshman All-SEC accolades for his play the rest of the season (28 tackles, 5.5 for loss, two sacks). In 2010, SEC media named him first-team all-conference (the coaches voted him second-team) after he started all 14 games, made 46 tackles, 13 for loss and a SEC fourth-best 7.5 sacks. The tall, lanky defender also broke up eight passes, returned an interception for a touchdown against Tennessee, and was credited with 11 quarterback pressures during the season.
Since South Carolina uses Taylor standing up regularly, it is easy for NFL scouts to project him doing the same at the next level--even at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds. His relative fluidity in space and ability to hold the edge with his length and strength make him a nice candidate for teams using him in a 3-4 alignment, while 4-3 teams believe he could play with his hand on the ground with additional strength training. That sort of versatility should earn him early-round grades if he plays well in 2011 and elects to leave Columbia a season early.
Pass Rush: Possesses obvious length and speed to track down quarterbacks. Pushes his man upfield, rips back to reach the passer. Lacks bend to turn the corner, however, resulting in more hustle sacks than those coming from an initial rush. Rushes the passer standing up quite often, can jolt tackles with his hands and take the inside path to the quarterback. Height and long arms allow him to affect passing lanes if not able to reach the passer. Regularly drops into outside zone, looks fluid and has quick feet, and secures tackles on underneath throws. Can shake or rip off running back blocks, but also gets stopped cold at times for no reason.
Run Defense: Doesn't make a lot of tackles vs. the run, but does his job forcing plays inside to the linebackers and containing against misdirection and outside runs. Plays relatively low for a tall end, getting lower in his stance than expected and showing some bend when working uncovered down the line to stop cutbacks. Once stood up, however, it is difficult for him to keep leverage. Good chaser, follows plays down the line while engaged and uses his length and speed to get to the sideline on runs to his side. Stands up to regular double-teams. Needs to find the ball consistently, looks for contact at times while ballcarrier runs right by him.
Explosion: Flashes a quickness off the line and strong punch, but doesn't come hard off the edge trying to turn the corner.
Strength: Wiry strong build and plays with better leverage than you'd expect at his height. Stands up to double teams well on the edge. Struggles to get off blocks more often than he should, though, as he lacks the brute strength and quick recoil to reset hands after initial contact. Forces college tackles back a bit but does not own a true bull rush.
Tackling: His height gives him great length to wrap up ballcarriers in space, sometimes bringing down smaller backs by their jerseys with one hand, but also makes it difficult for him to break down and bend for adjustments (which he must do more often at the next level). Also susceptible to cut blocks, though he recovers nicely and chases after the play. Closing speed is very good on the edge. Gives nice hustle to the sideline and downfield to help teammates.
Intangibles: Not a vocal player, leads by example. No known character or work ethic issues. Good on-field effort."
He was named a First Team All-SEC performer by the Associated Press and was named to the All-SEC Second Team by the conference's coaches.
Taylor has been seeing a lot more attention from offensive linemen this season and his stats are down as a junior -- three tackles for loss and two sacks through seven games (although he does lead the team with five quarterback hurries).
NFL scouts are not so much worried about the numbers (because they know what Taylor can do) and they love his upside. The Beaufort, SC native stands at 6'6'' and weighs in at 260 pounds. He has been clocked as fast as 4.68 in the 40-yard dash, so to say this guy is a physical specimen would be an understatement.
Taylor would do well to add a little bit more bulk to his tall frame, because while he can often manhandle college offensive linemen, that may not be the case in the NFL. If not, he will have to improve his around-the-end speed.
Despite lackluster stats, Taylor should still be a first-round selection (assuming he leaves early for the 2012 draft) and he could be one of the first few DEs off the board."
Those traits combined with his short area burst make him a very dangerous pass rusher. Taylor is not all athletic ability as his high motor really enhances his pass rush ability. He is always giving 100% while he works to the football. This hustle also comes in handy in the running game allowing him to purse and close the back door.
While the athletic ability is present for Taylor to be successful he still needs to work at his craft. He is a very raw player that relies on his suddenness to get to the football. His lack of hand usage limits his versatility as a pass rusher and player. In order to be considered a defensive end he needs to improve his strength and ability to anchor.
Ultimately, Taylor appears to be headed to the outside linebacker position in the NFL where he will be asked to rush the quarterback and cover. He appears fluid enough to hold up in coverage but like much of his game it needs technical improvements.
Bold Statement: Taylor will have a big season and lead the SEC in sacks
Games Viewed: Kentucky ('10), Auburn ('10), Alabama ('10), Georgia ('10)
- Taylor is a tall and lean defensive end/linebacker prospect
- He possesses good speed and a quick first step
- His short area burst and 2nd gear help him create pressure
- Taylor plays with a high motor and is constant chasing the football
- He is an excellent athlete with good fluid motions
- Very raw w/ technique
- Plays a little high but that is due to his 6'7 height
- Taylor needs to improve his hand usage and overall strength"
Long, lean player with a huge wingspan and can really clog up passing lanes with his long arms; in fact, was credited with knocking down 8 passes last season; still growing into his body and has the frame to add another 15-20 pounds; freakish athlete with good balance and body control;
Also has a very quick first step and good lateral agility; can plant and change direction and can also spin out of blocks; long strider who will track the ball from behind, but lacks track-type speed for DE; also needs to add some upper body strength as he will struggle at times to hold the point of attack;
Interesting prospect who could end up as a traditional 4-3 DE in the Julius Peppers mode with the ability to even slide inside on passing downs, but also has enough athleticism to play as a 3-4 rush-LB; missed a game in 2009 due to a bruised sternum; good athlete who was a state champion triple jumper in high school as well as a star basketball player."