Seahawks NFL Draft Profile: Darrell Taylor
Over the course of the next several months, the Seahawks and 31 other teams will be evaluating the latest crop of incoming talent in preparation for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Up next in our prospect profiles series, the Seahawks had a dreadful time getting to the quarterback consistently in 2019. Especially if they cannot bring a certain back Pro Bowl pass rusher, Seattle needs an infusion of talent to rush the passer and Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor could be of assistance.
Taylor led the Volunteers in sacks both in 2018 and 2019, with 8.0 and 8.5 sacks respectively, the latter good enough for second in the vaunted SEC. A three-year starter for the Vols, the Virginia native was named defensive captain in 2019 on a resurgent squad at Rocky Top.
Productivity was not an issue for Taylor in his four years at school, as he produced 118 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss, and 19.5 sacks in 38 games. He deploys a strong combination of pass rushing moves including swim moves, spin moves, bull rushing, and just flat out speeding past offensive tackles.
Taylor fits the bill of a “freak” athlete who is naturally strong and put on about 10 pounds between his junior and senior seasons without losing athleticism or speed. He explodes off the line of scrimmage, whether he is being used as a stand-up linebacker or having his hand on the turf as a defensive end.
The Volunteers even used Taylor in coverage occasionally, with mostly favorable results, as he had four passes defensed. At times, he was even a quarterback spy in the middle of Tennessee's defense. His versatility on the edge should attract most teams, regardless of defensive scheme.
Taylor’ biggest weakness is his run defense, especially against counters and misdirection where his aggressive nature can get the best of him. He seems to get sucked up into blocks when his initial move isn't towards the football and he was buried on a few plays on film as a result.
While he's not necessarily undersized, most premier NFL ends tend to hover closer to 270 pounds and Taylor has had to work to keep himself in the 250-255 pound range. He did show up at the combine at 267 pounds, which may be too heavy for his frame. However, he is big enough to hold his own on the edge if he can sustain that weight during the course of a season.
When rushing the passer, Taylor tends to get stuck using the same move repeatedly, even when it’s ineffective. It can look like a broken record playing over and over again. He needs to do a better job of developing a pass rush plan and utilizing his vast array of counters to keep tackles off-balance.
In some aspects, despite spending five years with the Volunteers' program, Taylor still has some rawness to his game and may take a year of seasoning to reach his full potential. He does not seem to possess natural instincts or pocket presence as he often wins with brute strength and athleticism.
Where He Fits in Seattle
With 28 sacks as a team, Seattle was tied for 28th in the NFL, so they can’t afford to be picky about their pass rushers. Taylor may not be the traditional 4-3 defensive end the organization prefers, but Tennessee mixed it up enough to where Taylor got plenty of experience with his hand in the dirt.
Seattle could lose 17 of their 28 sacks this offseason, as two former Pro Bowlers in Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah along with Jarran Reed are all set to hit free agency in March. Even if a few of those players are brought back, Seattle has some serious work to do to replace already underwhelming production.
If Seattle cannot bring Clowney back, it would behoove them to select multiple pass rushers in April. Taylor is likely not a first-round caliber player, but could offer day two value as a second or third round selection.
Being raw in some regards, Taylor projects to be in a similar situation to Rasheem Green, who, after a disappointing rookie year, was Seattle’s sack leader in 2019. The only difference? He's an older prospect, which also could impact when he's selected.
Between the large amounts of turnover along with the lack of production by those returning to the team, Seattle needs to address the pass rush multiple times this offseason and though he isn't an elite prospect, Taylor would be a quality depth addition to help address the team's pass rush struggles.