If there’s anything that the Petersen/Lake era staff doesn’t get enough credit for, it might be just how successful they’ve been in preparing players to make a career in the NFL regardless of role or individual talent. To date, there are roughly 30 former Huskies who played under Petersen/Lake that are on an active roster, and while most were stars on Montlake, many were steady contributors in college who have since been able to stick around on rosters as reserve and special teams players long enough to earn the opportunity to breakout in the NFL.
Despite being the less-well-known of the two UW DBs heading to the NFL draft, Keith Taylor has a chance to join the ranks of these Pro Dawgs this year.
Weight: 191 lbs
Arm Length: 31 1/8”
40: 4.41u (UW Pro Day)
Vertical: 33.5” (UW Pro Day)
As was mentioned above, Keith Taylor was a steady contributor throughout his college career. Out of high school, Taylor was a highly regarded 4-star DB out of Southern California who, with a long & lean DB frame, looked like a natural successor to the then recently-departed CB duo of Sidney Jones and Kevin King. As expected, Taylor immediately earned reps, making appearances in 12 games his freshman year in a special teams capacity.
During his sophomore campaign, Taylor continued to grow his role by securing a sub package role in a deep DB room that included 4 guys who would make an NFL offseason roster in the next year. Despite not seeing a lot of game time, Taylor continued to contribute on special teams and made an appearance in 14 games that season.
His junior year is when he began to find his footing on defense by becoming a regular member of the starting defense. Stepping into a larger role on the outside, Taylor (and the young secondary as a whole) had some growing pains. Somewhat surprisingly for Taylor, a significant portion of the season he played as a perimeter CB who in dime packages would kick inside to the slot. In this role, he was asked to frequently cover flexed TEs, but sometimes had to cover shiftier slot receivers. This did not always set Taylor up for success as his coverage game is built around physicality in vertical coverage rather than twitchy short area burst in slot or underneath coverage. However, this role closer to the box allowed him to show his skills as a willing and able tackler in the run game to the tune of 59 tackles in 14 games.
Despite solid production in his inside-outside role junior year, Taylor shifted back to playing primarily on the perimeter during his senior year. In the 4 games played during the 2020 season, the combination of a perimeter-centric role and facing 3 run-heavy opponents limited Taylor’s opportunities to rack up box score statistics. However, there was a noticeable decline in penalties and solid and consistent coverage that showed continued refining of his techniques.
- Long reach aids in press techniques and tackling range
- Willing tackler with experience playing near the box
- Experience playing inside and outside CB
- 4-year player with ample playing and starting experience in defensive system with NFL development track record
- Steady season-over-season development offers a projectable career arc
- Special teams experience provides end of roster value
- Lack of turnover production could be an indicator of poor ball skills
- Poor change of direction skills with shiftier route runners posing challenges
- Stiff hips in transition
- Tended to draw coverage penalties when unable to successfully reroute receiver
- Eye and zone responsibility discipline were an issue at times
Taylor’s physical attributes are solidly within the ranges that you’d expect of an NFL corner, but corners are often some of the most physically talented players on the field. His long frame, paired with average to slightly above-average straight line speed/explosiveness is probably his most outstanding combination of traits. However, in aggregate, his athletic traits aren’t so unique that they’d vault him up draft boards.
Production-wise, Taylor had a fairly quiet career at UW with no career interceptions and unspectacular box score coverage stats. He’s typically graded out well using advanced statistics, but his most consistent contributions were when he played a larger role in the run defense out of the slot. That experience playing inside and outside could make him an enticing option to NFL teams looking for a coverage-versatile DB project who could be groomed into a sub package role. Taylor could be seen as a DB with a CB1 or CB2 ceiling, but in the meantime could be a “Big Slot” defender in sub packages. Having what amounts to a “Swing Corner” (similar to a Swing Tackle), especially one with special teams experience, could be valuable enough to a roster build that it could buy Taylor some time to find his footing in the NFL.
This is a pretty wide range to project Taylor into, but this is a classic example of “it only takes one team”. Taylor had a strong week at the Senior Bowl, and the added exposure could’ve caught the eye of a team or two that has a need that he could fill. The tools are all there for Taylor to succeed in the NFL, but it’d take a special situation for him to become an instant impact player. A more patient team with a defined role for him to fill and a clear development track to follow would be ideal. Rounds 5-7 might be in the best interest of all parties as it comes with lower expectations and allows him to be able to start off in a reserve role.