From a receiver prospect to a likely NFL draft pick as a cornerback, the last four years years have been quite the ride for Alontae Taylor. When Jeremy Pruitt arrived at Tennessee back in 2018, he quite literally didn’t have any options at cornerback. This forced his hand, moving a couple of athletes over to the defensive side of the ball.
Those two athletes will now both be in the NFL, as Taylor joins Bryce Thompson this season. The duo was thrown into the fire as true freshmen out of pure necessity. Though the two took their lumps early, the move was a pretty big success.
Taylor became the top corner for Tennessee as a senior in 2021, providing a steadying presence for a defense that needed it. He sat out during the bowl game to start draft prep, and it was painfully obvious how much Tennessee missed him.
He finished his college career with four career interceptions, none bigger than his pick six on the road against Kentucky this season.
Arms: 32 1/4
What he brings to the NFL
Taylor’s selling point is something you can’t teach — a size/speed combo that is ideal for the cornerback spot at the next level. His closing/recovery ability is a plus, paired with his 6-0 frame and strength to jam and reroute receivers. Taylor’s physicality is notable, particularly at the line of scrimmage in jam situations. He’s also shown flashes in zone situations, showing off some ability to anticipate routes.
Teams have questions about his ability to change direction and react in coverage, and Taylor did not participate in the agility portion of combine drills.
One thing Taylor has going for him is absolute upside, considering his physical tools. He’s only been playing cornerback for four years now and will likely need some more seasoning. But Taylor feels like a guy that the NFL likes to bet on, and I’d guess he comes off the board sometime early on Saturday.
NFL Draft Projection: Round 4