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Saints Alontae Taylor Should Make an Impact Despite a Crowded Defensive Backfield

Former Tennessee standout Alontae Taylor joins fellow Volunteers Alvin Kamara, Marquez Callaway, Shy Tuttle, and Bryce Thompson in New Orleans as he looks to make an impact in a loaded Saints secondary.
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Much has been made about the affinity that the New Orleans Saints have with Ohio State players. In their 56-year draft history, the Saints have selected 17 players from Ohio State, with 10 of those coming in the last 20 years. Other former Buckeyes like WR Ted Ginn Jr. CB Eli Apple, S Kurt Coleman, TE Nick Vannett have been with the team as free-agent signings, with mixed results.

The recent draft history of Ohio State players has been much kinder to New Orleans, netting stars like DE Will Smith, WR Michael Thomas, S Malcolm Jenkins and Vonn Bell, CB Marshon Lattimore, LB Pete Werner, and this year’s top pick Chris Olave.

The Saints have also had a great deal of success drafting players out of the University of Tennessee. Twelve Tennessee players have been drafted by New Orleans since 1967. That includes three former first-round picks in LB Alvin Toles (1985), WR Donte’ Stallworth (2002), and WR Robert Meachem (2007).

Running back Alvin Kamara, a third-round choice in 2017, has already been the most successful former Volunteer in franchise history. Kamara is one of five former Tennessee players on the current roster, including former undrafted players WR Marquez Callaway, DT Shy Tuttle, and S Bryce Thompson. That list also includes the topic of today's player spotlight.

ALONTAE TAYLOR, CB

Alontae Taylor of Tennessee (6) and fullback Connor Heyward of Michigan State (30) during American team practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Alontae Taylor of Tennessee (6) and fullback Connor Heyward of Michigan State (30) during American team practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

A surprise pick by the Saints in the second round of the draft, Taylor was the 49th overall selection and eighth corner off the board. Projected to be a late Day 2 or early Day 3 pick by prognosticators, many expected that Taylor would convert to safety because of his off-ball skills in college.

A high school quarterback, Taylor converted to corner upon his arrival to Tennessee. Taylor was a starter since his freshman year and dealt with some of the nation's most prolific receivers in the SEC conference. Over his collegiate career, he had 4 interceptions, broke up 15 throws, and recorded five tackles for loss among 162 total stops.

Taylor is a tall and physical corner, the type that Saints co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Kris Richard prefers. He has a lanky build at 6-feet and 200-Lbs., but plays with strength and aggressiveness. Taylor's physical jam at the line of scrimmage can throw receivers off their route or mess up timing patterns. He has a long stride and sub-4.4 speed to stay with wideouts all over the field.

Taylor's change-of-direction is a bit tight, allowing shifty receivers to get separation. His recovery quickness can be delayed, but he has long arms to disrupt throws. He smartly crowds sideline routes, using the boundary as an extra defender, and expertly re-routes receivers coming off the line.

In off-ball coverage, Taylor has excellent recognition of opposing routes. He reads quarterbacks and anticipates throws extremely well, allowing him to make up ground quickly. Understands zone responsibilities and cuts off areas of the field adequately. He rarely gets fooled by combination routes and has the size to bring down receivers one-on-one in the open field.

Taylor attacks from the edge as a run defender, another requirement of New Orleans defensive backs. He’ll need to shed blocks and wrap up better as a tackler, but has the motor to always be around the ball.

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The Saints have perhaps the deepest secondary in the NFL. Safeties Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu were signed this offseason to offset the losses of Marcus Williams in free agency and Malcolm Jenkins to retirement.

Maye and Mathieu will join Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, a versatile safety and the league's best nickel back. New Orleans also has a pair of shutdown corners in Marshon Lattimore and Paulson Adebo to go along with experienced depth in former starter Bradley Roby.

Tennessee defensive back Alontae Taylor (2) intercepts a pass intended for Kentucky wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson (1) and runs the ball for a touchdown. Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Tennessee defensive back Alontae Taylor (2) intercepts a pass intended for Kentucky wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson (1) and runs the ball for a touchdown. Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Despite some draft projections, coach Dennis Allen has said that Alontae Taylor will play outside corner and get some work in the slot. The 23-year-old Taylor was impressive against the team's receiving corps in recent OTA and mini-camp sessions. He also remains unsigned, something that must be rectified before the start of training camp next month.

Reps will be hard-earned in a deep and talented New Orleans secondary. If physical attributes and early camp practices are any indicator, then we can expect Alontae Taylor to have a big role in an already elite Saints defense in 2022.

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