Reputation as a leader and good locker-room presence
Ball skills are a little lacking
Will have to guard against penalties in the NFL
Physical style could lead to fines, suspensions
Summary: Taylor is a sleeper prospect who could surprise in the NFL. He was overshadowed by the likes of Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu at LSU. However, those who watched the Tigers throughout the 2011 season saw that Taylor is an NFL-caliber safety who could become a starter early on at the next level. It wouldn't be surprising to me if he has a better pro career than he did in college. Taylor is very underrated and could surprise in the NFL.
Taylor had 71 tackles with 7.5 tackles for a loss, five passes broken up, one sack and two interceptions this year. He really stood out and played well against West Virginia, Florida and Alabama. He was the third-leading tackler for LSU, and he was only six tackles away from the team lead.
Taylor had a strong week of practice at the Senior Bowl. His physicality stood out along with quality instincts and anticipation. He did a good job of patrolling the deep part of the field. He followed that up with a good Combine. His 40-yard dash time of 4.50 was very impressive. In the field drills, Taylor executed well and demonstrated the agility to flip his hips and run downfield.
Taylor flies around the football field and is a striker. Even though he is not a huge safety, he hits with violence. Taylor plays physical football. He gets in extra hits on receivers when they try and block him, plus hits through the whistle. Taylor doesn't back down and plays with a tenacious attitude. He is extremely aggressive on the field. He operates well in zone coverage and has good instincts that help him to find the football. He has the reputation of being a good guy in the locker room and a team leader.
Taylor looks like an ideal safety for defenses that like to play hybrid safeties. Many teams view their safeties as interchangeable, with the free safety and strong safety having to cover the same set of responsibilities. Before the snap, those defenses may audible or make an adjustment that switches which safety is playing free safety and which is playing strong safety. Taylor would fit that perfectly. He has the speed and instincts to be a centerfielder-type free safety. He also has enough size and is tough enough to play in the tackle box. He can cover tight ends in man-to-man coverage, and that is another trait that is growing in demand. His versatility is a great attribute for him to transition to the NFL.
There seems to be some momentum for Taylor's stock in the weeks since the Combine. He has been moving up draft boards as teams take a closer look at his senior-year tape. Taylor now projects to having a shot at being a second-round pick. At worst, he should go in the third round.
Player Comparison: Ryan Clark. Taylor is similar to Clark, a fellow LSU product. Clark has had a quality NFL career and made the Pro Bowl after the 2011 season at the age of 32. Clark (5-11, 205) is not only a solid defender against the pass, but he is also a good tackler against the run. Both Clark and Taylor are physical safeties who don't hesitate to pop an offensive player when given the opportunity. Clark went undrafted, but clearly that was a mistake made by scouting staffs across the NFL. Taylor should go on the second day of the 2012 NFL Draft.
NFL Matches: Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Dallas, New York Jets, Miami, New England, Kansas City
There are a number of teams that need safety help and could consider Taylor. The Bengals released Chris Crocker and could use another safety to pair with Reggie Nelson. The Buccaneers badly need safety help, as they lost both starters from 2011 and haven't replaced either one.
The Cowboys have to land a safety, and if they don't take Mark Barron in the first round, they could target Taylor on the second day. He would be a nice fit in Dallas' defense. The Chiefs could use a safety to pair with Eric Berry in the long term. Taylor and Berry would be a nice duo given their flexibility.
The Jets have a huge need at safety as well. Taylor would be a good pick for them in the second or third round. New England is another team that badly needs help at safety. Taylor would fit the team's defense well and could be a quick upgrade for the Patriots. Miami released veteran Yeremiah Bell and will need to find his replacement. The team could hope to land Taylor in the third round.
Taylor has pre-draft visits with the Chiefs, Dolphins, Patriots and Jets.