After surprising on the first day of the 2020 NFL Draft by looking away from the defensive line, the Seahawks struck to address their biggest need on day two. Evoking memories of previous draft day trades to move up for Jarran Reed and Tyler Lockett, Seattle moved up from the 59th overall selection to pick 48. In their new spot University of Tennessee EDGE Darrell Taylor was added to the team.
Taylor’s arrival will help to fill a glaring hole on the Seahawks’ roster, but what will he be in the short- and long-term?
Though Seattle did add a pair of EDGEs in free agency, in Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa, the path is there for Taylor to play a considerable amount right away. A strong, disciplined run defender at the point of attack—with speed in pursuit from the backside—the Seahawks won’t hesitate to roll him out on early downs. As a pass rusher, Taylor already brings a lethal long arm and the physical ability to convert speed to power with success. Seattle has a number of EDGEs, but Taylor will be in the mix to rush on passing downs, too.
Speaking to reporters after day two of the draft concluded, Pete Carroll was asked about where Taylor fits in. His response was supremely encouraging:
Pete Carroll on if Darrell Taylor fits their traditional LEO mold. "He's exactly that. He's right in that mold. ... We thought he was an absolute in the pocket guy for us."— Curtis Crabtree (@Curtis_Crabtree) April 25, 2020
Taylor’s explosive athleticism and physique is perfectly suited to LEO—especially if he improves his get off in the NFL. Taylor’s athleticism and ability allow for him to project as a long-term, three-down starter with legitimate difference-making ability against the run and pass.
With already polished pass rush moves and the size and strength to defend the run well, Taylor’s floor is relatively safe. If he only remains the player he was for the Vols, he should comfortably be a rotational EDGE throughout his rookie deal and stick in the NFL well beyond that. There are off-field question marks reportedly surrounding him, so perhaps his floor lowers for reasons we aren’t aware of, but speaking to what we can analyze—he has a safe floor.
Immediately after Taylor was selected, I began to look at Frank Clark as the comparison for Taylor’s ceiling as a player. Both came into the league with high-level athleticism, great size, and intriguing physical tools, but yet to put it all together. Taylor is an absolutely fantastically built EDGE with the foundation of a great player. If he can improve his get off—and his speed suggests he can—he’ll be able to threaten the edge, already flashing great bend. In turn, that would further his ability to convert speed to power and overwhelm tackles. Improving the use of his hands would allow him to vary his pass rush and continue to improve as a run defender, turning tackles at or just past the line into tackles for loss.
Taylor’s ceiling is that of a game-changing talent on the edge of the defensive line.
Due to an injury, Taylor was unable to participate at the Scouting Combine. Had he been able to, however, he surely would’ve cleared the Seahawks’ athletic thresholds for EDGEs with ease. What we know for certain is he has the requisite size and length; once he hits the field, his athleticism will be made clear.
Seattle had to land an impact EDGE in this year’s draft, and they appeared to have done so in round two. In 2020, he’ll provide the pass rush with an immediate boost; in the long run, he can be a cornerstone piece of a revamped Seahawks defense.