Starting this week, we will crank out the draft profiles of the hopeful Vols looking to land on a NFL roster. Measureables, career stats, the overall career, pros, cons, and then a final draft projection will be the topic points covered in these profiles.
First up is one of Tennessee’s top-10 career sack masters: Darrell Taylor.
Measurables and Career Stats
- 6-foot-4, 267-pounds
- 33” arms
- 9-3/4” hands
If you’ve watched Taylor then you know he has all the tools to be successful at the next level. He’s a really good athlete, but offseason surgery on a stress fracture in his foot caused him to miss the NFL Combine and the COVID-19 pandemic halted any type of Pro Day that would’ve allowed him to showcase his skills and talent.
But, career stats are set in stone. You don’t need a workout to view those. Taylor finished his five-year career in Knoxville with the following stat line:
- Appeared and/or started in 43 games
- 19.5 sacks
- 118 total tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss
- Six forced fumbles, four recovered fumbles
- Seven passes defensed
Darrell Taylor’s Career On Rocky Top
Taylor was recruited by Butch Jones in 2015, but had to redshirt his freshman year and didn’t play in any games. He was able to get on the field in a limited capacity in 2016, but was mostly a spectator throughout the season.
He finally notched his first career sack against the Florida Gators in 2017 and finished second on the team with three total sacks, but his suspension for attacking teammate Trey Smith during practice was really the highlight of Taylor’s redshirt sophomore campaign, unfortunately. Taylor was already suspended for the first half of that week’s game against the South Carolina Gamecocks for fighting in the previous week’s game against the Georgia Bulldogs, so Jones initially suspended him for an indefinite amount of time. Taylor returned to the team after missing two games.
It was pretty obvious that the 2018 season was going to determine what happened with Taylor in both the near- and far-distant future. Fortunately, he thrived in his first year under Jeremy Pruitt. He led the team with eight sacks, which was also the second-best total in the SEC.
Taylor set a career-high with 8.5 sacks in a single season the next year (his senior year). The mark was good enough to lead the team and finish second in the SEC for the second year in a row.
It was obvious that Pruitt was able to get the most out of the former kid from Virginia. Now, he’ll test his luck at the next level in 2020.
As I mentioned earlier, Taylor has the tools to be a solid player in the NFL. He has the bend, the explosion off the snap, the speed, the strength, and the hands to take down quarterbacks at the next level.
Darrell Taylor - Tennessee— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) March 12, 2020
High Side Rushes
Last 2yrs: 21 TFL, 16.5 sacks
Great get-off, flexibility to turn corner, burst to close. Starts w/ speed rushes, then works in speed-to-power & inside moves. Highly touted recruit
Vols ended ‘19 on 6 game win streak! pic.twitter.com/Px5otlkD8u
Darrell Taylor records a sack. pic.twitter.com/xfxCbiHpq9— Dan Harralson (@danharralson) September 16, 2017
Taylor will pop you, too. The Vols saw him lay some vicious hits during his time in Knoxville.
He can play as a 4-3 EDGE or a 3-4 EDGE, which is obviously another valuable trait. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Taylor goes earlier than expected.
There aren’t many cons when it comes to Taylor’s game, but the one that stands out the most is consistency. It’s just simply not there over the course of his career. Seven of his eight sacks in 2018 came in two games. He showed more consistency in 2019 after recording at least one sack in six of 12 games, but it’s clear that he will need to continue to work on this aspect of his game in order to have bonafide success in the NFL.
Taylor’s issue with consistency boils down to the simple fact that he just hasn’t put it all together yet. One step in the right direction would be to work on his counter moves. He doesn’t have many counters and is stood up when he doesn’t win with his first move. His instincts aren’t that great, either. Improving these two areas would go a long way in shaping Taylor into the player he could be.
His run defense is a bit iffy, too. He’s shown the ability to set the edge and play the run, but there are other times where he is swallowed up by his assignments. I haven’t seen him drop back in coverage too often, so that area of his game is suspect, as well.
And, of course, you have the suspension. Look, it’s football, outbursts happen. But when you attack another teammate and cause them to get stitches, that’s certainly something you need to monitor.
2020 NFL Draft Projection
Taylor seems like an ideal fit in the fourth round, but when you combine his talent and the lack of EDGE rushers in the draft, it’s not unrealistic to think he could go as high as Round 3.
Final projection: Early third round