Summary: Every year there seems to be a cornerback prospect who has a late rise up draft boards to be a first-round pick. Stephon Gilmore went all the way into the top half of the first round in the 2012 NFL Draft. In previous years, Jimmy Smith and Devin McCourty were late first-rounders. Taylor looks like the prime target to crack the top 32 picks of the 2013 NFL Draft after being regarded as a second-day prospect for a long stretch of time.
Taylor broke into the starting lineup for Boise State in his sophomore season. He totaled 35 tackles with two passes broken up and three forced fumbles. Taylor started his junior season strong before missing the majority of the second half of the year with a broken leg. He returned to play Arizona State in the Bowl game and returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown. It was his second pick of 2011. He also totaled 27 tackles with six passes broken for the year.
The senior totaled 51 tackles with four interceptions, nine passes broken up, three forced fumbles and 2.5 sacks in 2012. He had a strong season and was very consistent.
A strong week at the Senior Bowl really put a charge into Taylor's draft stock. He showed some man-coverage skills and was a gritty defender. Taylor did well in the coverage one-on-ones as he ran with receivers and kept them from getting separation. He was a scrappy defender who never hesitated to get physical with receivers.
Taylor followed up his stellar Senior Bowl with a good performance at the Combine. He had a very impressive 40 time of 4.39 seconds while looking fast and fluid in the field drills. He also did well on the bench press with 22 reps.
Taylor looks like a future NFL starter and should turn into a solid pro. He can function well as a man-cover corner and in zone coverage. Additionally, Taylor has some ball skills and could increase his interceptions as a pro. He looks like a late first-round pick or early second-round pick who could become a starter early in his career.
Player Comparison: Devin McCourty. Taylor and McCourty (5-10, 195) are almost identical size with similar skill sets. Both are quick athletes who have some strength. Each can play man coverage and zone. McCourty enjoyed a late rise to be a first-round pick (27th overall) for New England in the 2010 NFL Draft. The same thing looks like it is happening for Taylor. He could be a similar NFL player to McCourty.
NFL Matches: Atlanta, New England, Denver, San Francisco, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Carolina
The two most likely landing spots for Taylor are the Falcons and Patriots. Atlanta has to get a corner after losing some veterans. If Taylor is the best corner available, he could easily land with the Falcons. New England needs cornerback help and is supposedly hot for Taylor. He makes a lot of sense for the Patriots late in the first round.
The Broncos need a young cornerback to eventually replace Champ Bailey. Taylor would offer the defense some nice continuity as a man corner to replace Bailey.
San Francisco could use a young corner to develop behind its veterans. Taylor would fit the 49ers' defense well, too.
The Jaguars have a huge need at corner, so if Taylor is still available after the first round, he could easily land in Jacksonville with the first selection of Friday night.
Tampa Bay had one of the worst pass defenses in NFL history in 2012, and the team is in dire need of some talent at corner. Taylor is a scheme fit in Greg Schiano's defense. If Taylor falls in the second round, the Bucs taking him would surprise nobody.
The Panthers need cornerback help after Chris Gamble was released and retired. Carolina would be very fortunate to land Taylor in the second round.
I also think free safety is the big need, not necessarily strong safety. We can live another year with Devon Kindred and Ibraheim Campbell at strong safety. Maybe if we didn't have so many other more pressing needs I wouldn't mind addressing SS, but there are other priorities on this team.