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Dallas Cowboys Potential Draft Pick in 2011: Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

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Jonathan Bales

Thus far in my scouting reports, I’ve detailed the play of two defensive tackles (Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward and Cal’s Cameron Jordan), but both of those guys would move to defensive end in the Cowboys’ 3-4 scheme.  There are only so many college prospects who possess the size and athleticism to be nose tackles in the NFL.

The Cowboys definitely need to upgrade their defensive line.  In my 2010 Defensive Line Grades, the highest grade I gave to any defensive end was a 79.8 percent to Stephen Bowen.

The Cowboys could certainly use a space-eating nose tackle.  Acquiring one would allow the team to move Jay Ratliff to defensive end–a position at which he could more effectively utilize his skill set.  Thus, grabbing a “true” 3-4 nose tackle would probably allow the Cowboys to upgrade two positions.

Scouting Report

Phil Taylor is a rare “pure” 3-4 nose tackle.  At 6’4”, 337 pounds, he’s what the Cowboys seek in a space-eater.  Taylor displays excellent anticipation and burst for such a big guy, getting off the snap very well.  He’s incredibly athletic for his size.  Check out the 54-second mark below when Taylor initially gets pushed back but locates the ball-carrier, spins off a block and makes the tackle.

Taylor’s play recognition is superb, as evidenced by the play he makes on a screen pass at the 20-second mark.  He fights off of blocks extremely well, utilizing excellent hand placement and quickness to make plays, even when he’s initially neutralized (2:48 mark).

While others argue that Taylor excels against the run and struggles in his pass rush, I disagree.  I think some look at his size and simply assume he’s “only” a space-eater, but that’s not the case.  In my opinion, the push Taylor generates against the run is only average for a man his size, even against single-teams.  He has great balance, but he uses poor leverage at times right off the snap, allowing smaller, weaker players to control him.  This doesn’t happen all the time, but Taylor will need to be more consistent in his run-stopping ability.  The good news is it isn’t something that can’t be fixed–Taylor has what you can’t coach and lacks what can be taught.

The penetration Taylor gets in his pass rush or when he doesn’t have much gap responsibility is superb (2:31 mark).  Mike Mayock and Co. commented that a man of Taylor’s size “shouldn’t have those moves.”

There are concerns about Taylor’s conditioning.  He reportedly weighed close to 390 pounds at one point during his college career.  When he’s at full stamina, however, I think the concerns about his motor are unwarranted.  Check out his pursuit down the line of scrimmage at the 3:20 mark.

There are also potential character issues with Taylor.  He got kicked off of Penn State’s team before enrolling at Baylor.  Is he committed to football?  The answer to that question will determine the success of Taylor’s NFL career, as he has first-round talent.

Projection

Taylor seems to be rising up boards a bit and I think that trend will continue.  If he shows up to the NFL Combine in great shape, I believe he’ll be a first-round pick.  Actually, Taylor has top-10 or 15 ability, in my opinion, but needs to prove his dedication to the game.

If the Cowboys deem Taylor’s conditioning and character concerns as unfounded, then he’d be a tremendous pick for the ‘Boys in the early second-round.  Right now, I’d place the chances of him dropping that far at about 50/50.  With so few “true” 3-4 nose tackles (in the world, really), the acquisition of Taylor might become a priority for the ‘Boys.  We’ll know more about Taylor’s draft stock in a few weeks.

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39 Responses to Dallas Cowboys Potential Draft Pick in 2011: Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

  1. willis says:

    I really didn’t know anything about this guy before watching the tape, but even with what seems to be an average d-line around him, he was all over the place; batting the ball down, stopping the run, and making plays against one of the best teams in the country.

    If he stays in shape and is committed, which I guess is the big question, I think bringing him in would be a great move.

  2. willis says:

    I think it would be good because we we need a guy who eats up double teams and is an anchor in the middle. Jay Ratliff is great because he is so athletic, but I think our pass rush would immediatly improve if we put him at end. There were quite a few plays this season where the defensive ends(especially Igor) had one on one opportunities in the passing game and were just hadled, I mean no push at all. and I remember thinking if Ratliff had more opportunities like that he could possibly surpass the 10 sack mark. Ok, ok, I know its wishful thinking, but something has to be done about the defensive line, and I believe that starts with getting a true 3-4 nose tackle.

  3. Willis–I agree, but now the issue might be where Taylor gets selected. I really think this guy is going to rise, and I do believe he’ll be a first-round pick. He’s really projected to be in a poor spot for Dallas..if it is around pick 25-30..that’s really far to move down, but also really far to move up from the 2nd.

  4. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Good video.

    Agreed w/ you JB that consistency is a factor for him. Lots of times he’s too upright off the ball and is handled more effectively by the opposing O lineman. Other times, 1:57 and 2:40, he stays low, fires off the ball into his gap and is much more effective.

    Since he played in a 4-3, he will have to learn NT technique which I’m told by those who know that it isn’t easy. However, if he’s truly worthy of a 1st round grade, I’m assuming potential suitors will do their homework and probe deeper into his potential for that position.

    To be perfectly honest, I’d have absolutely ZERO problem w/ the Boys picking this guy up at #9 IF and ONLY IF they can’t find a worthy NT in free agency before the draft. NT or DE is a must have position next year and I’d much rather spend $ on a proven RT and draft a NT than the other way around. RT in free agency is a must – no one in the draft, so far, is ready to start at RT whereas Taylor may be.

  5. willis says:

    Tyrone, I would love to have this guy, but I think we could trade down and get him.
    Check out this clip from 1:10
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulGQFguhRBY

  6. Vince_Grey says:

    I’d say unless this kid comes into the combine out of shape, or blows the interview process, the chances of him slipping to the 2nd round are slim and none.

    My question, JB, is assuming he does come to the combine in great condition and wows everyone, is he remotely close to a guy we could take at #9 and feel good about it, or would he be a guy we could trade down to, say, the mid teens and get good value?

  7. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Ya know, I’m a little concerned about this draft in that there might not be the greatest opportunity to trade down out of #9. Given that this draft is weak for the Boys (in that everyone they’d be interested in will probably be gone by #9 leaving guys that aren’t worthy of a ninth overall contract), it is much the same for other teams. Draft order after Dallas is:

    10 – Washington
    11 – Houston
    12 – Minn
    13 – Detroit
    14 – St Louis

    It’s widely thought that Houston is looking for an OLB to complete the transition to the 3-4 w/ Wade now being their D coord. IF Von Miller is still on the board at 9, there will be interest from other teams to move up to get him before them (my thoughts are that Miller goes sooner to Az). Same situation w/ Minnesota – speculation will be that their in the market for a QB (if they don’t pick up one in FA and/or D linemen). A lot depends on how well interviews go for the likes of Gabbert, Newton and perhaps even Locker and Mallet. Ingram is likely to go to Miami at 15 so some teams may be looking to get him at 9 as well. However, I really don’t think there will be an over abundance of interest for the Boys to trade down and get favorable compensation.

  8. Ty–I would have a problem with Taylor at No. 9 ONLY because of perceived valued. As of now, he’s a mid-first AT BEST, so try to trade down if possible. But I would have no problem with him as the Cowboys’ first selections..love the guy.

  9. Vince–Like I told Tyrone, I think we can trade down. If Dez Bryant’s character concerns caused a drop that far, I think a less talented player (although highly talented IMO) with REAL character concerns won’t possibly be a top 15 guy. He’s a top 10 talent though, IMO.

  10. Tyrone–You’re right about the trade down scenarios, but if the Cowboys desperately want a guy they are fairly certain will be available in the mid to late teens (Phil Taylor, Carimi, etc), what is “favorable compensation?” To me, it is almost ANYTHING. That might sound dumb, but if a guy is so high on your board that you’re going to take him at No. 9 anyway, ANY compensation is something “free.” It’s just a math game..does the value of the compensation exceed the chance your player gets selected if you trade down? If you put the chance of his selection (by another team) at 0 percent, ANY compensation make that deal favorable.

  11. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Good point – i guess i never really looked at it that way…

  12. Vince_Grey says:

    What would be ideal for us, as so far as dropping down, would be for one of the 1st round grade QB’s (IMO, there’s none that I see, but there you go) to be there at #9 and have 2-3 teams in the teens hot to trade up for one.

    If there’s one player teams will way over-pay for, it’s a perceived franchise QB.

  13. john coleman says:

    VG-You nailed it. A team reaching for a QB is our best hope of moving. I would say that no less than 5 teams have serious QB issues. I mean the whole NFC West minus St. Louis needs one. Then there is Minnesota and Miami. What about Carolina.

    WRs and RBs could also figure in teams being foolish.

    As far as Taylor goes #9 is ridiculous. If he goes in rd 1, it is a reach. I’ve been screaming his name for months now, but IMO he is a 2nd rd talent.

    Kenrick Ellis has a little better size and measurables, although he is from a small school(Hampton). He did start his career at South Carolina though. He could be around in the 4th. So before I overpay for Taylor, I’ll get Ellis.

    Honestly I’d love to have Taylor and Ellis. WE MUST MOVE DOWN if at all possible and garner some more picks in the 2nd.

  14. Doesn’t trading down just seem like a more exciting draft day option as well? You get more anticipation from the later pick, plus (hopefully) another 2nd or 3rd to get excited about on Friday.

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