Did you feel it? That season-long itch with boyish charm and good looks? That itch you could never scratch, but could trust to convert on a 3rd and 6 in crunch time? Well, if you did, you certainly weren’t the only one.
At 32 years old and facing free agency this offseason, Chargers’ RB Danny Woodhead has become a fixture of the Chargers offense after signing with the team prior to the 2013 season. He wasted little time creating chemistry with QB Philip Rivers, which was evident during the 2015 campaign. He hauled in 80 balls for 755 yards and six touchdowns. His receptions and yardage were career-highs, while his six touchdown catches matched his career-high, which was set back in his first season with San Diego. However, die-hard fans know that the value of Woodhead extends far beyond the numbers he may put up on the field. His value lies as a sure-handed, play-making underdog who always seems to come through when his team needs him the most. But, what will happen when he is no longer donning the Bolt?
Fortunately, for us, we got a glimpse of that future when Woodhead landed on IR following the Week Two game against Jacksonville. Without another competent back on the roster, RB Melvin Gordon got to prove to everyone once and for all that he can shoulder the load of an every-down back in the NFL.
I know what you all are probably thinking.
"But, we LOVE Danny, we don't want him to go."
Trust me, I feel your pain. I get as much of a kick out of seeing him score a touchdown as I do seeing him and Rivers carry out their bromance on the sidelines. However, the NFL is a business. If it is not in the best interest of the team, we must have a plan to move on without him. Good news for all you Woodhead-heads out there, I already have a contingency plan.
It comes in the form of Trent Taylor, the ultra-productive and versatile wide receiver out of Louisiana Tech University.
I know, I know. WHO?
Well, according to Bleacher Report, he is "The best college football player you’ve never heard of." Intrigued yet? If not, let us dive a little deeper.
(And yes, I understand Woodhead isn’t a wide receiver but, as most of his production comes through the air, I am going to view him as a general "pass-catcher.")
At face value, the similarities between Taylor and Woodhead are apparent. They are considered undersized, (both are listed at 5’8") although, Woodhead is a little thicker at 200 pounds compared to Taylor’s slender frame of 178 pounds.
Both were extremely productive in college. Taylor is leaving the college ranks as the No. 3 active wide receiver among major colleges. He’s also the school’s all-time reception leader with 327 in his career. His 4,179 receiving yards and 32 touchdowns are second in school history behind only LA Tech Hall of Famer, Troy Edwards. Taylor also finished his 2016 campaign as the nation’s leader in receiving yards with 1,803 on 136 catches. He also returned kicks and punts, which was a big reason why he saw playing time as a true freshman. This type of versatility and consistency would be welcomed with open arms after the injury carousel the Chargers experienced this past season.
Taylor was also invited to the Senior Bowl, where he continued to turn heads and showed us just how his game shadows that of #39. Analysts and scouts alike were consistently talking up Taylor’s play-making ability out of the slot that would give NFL corners fits.
After the second day of practice in Mobile, Deuce Windham of SB Nation had this to say about Taylor’s performance:
"His routes are crisp, his feet are quick and he catches everything."
Short, sweet and simple. Sold yet? No? Cool. Let us continue.
Will Reeve Jr. from Raiderswire.com would agree with Mr. Windham. After watching film of LA Tech’s game against Mississippi State, he says there was one catch that stood out that also told you everything you need to know about this absolute gamer. On a 3rd and 10, Taylor catches a 12 yard out route against tight coverage which exemplifies his natural ability to get separation in crucial periods during games.
Reeves also had this to say about Taylor:
"Taylor has proven to be great in space as well as an exceptional route runner at his size. The ability to run most (if not all) of the wide receiver route tree, in addition to his elite run after the catch skills, should make Taylor the ultimate weapon in the slot."
One of the only knocks against Taylor, besides his size, would be his level of competition during college. However, if you remember that Danny Woodhead came from Division II Chadron State, you would be quick to sweep that argument back under the rug.
If you also happened to view some of the film that came out of the Senior Bowl practices, you would have seen Taylor routinely beat some of the more highly-touted defensive prospects in this year’s draft, such as Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis and Iowa’s Desmond King. Just like Woody, the chip on Taylor’s shoulder can be seen from space and he seems to thrive in high-pressure situations.
In the form of the Patriots’ Julian Edelman or the former Patriots/Broncos WR Wes Welker, Trent Taylor could be that check-down nightmare that opposing teams loathe with a passion. He is that player who shows up like clockwork on 3rd and long when the entire defense thinks they just threw a blanket over the entire offense.
Even after putting some doubts to rest on how Taylor would fare against some of the best talent in the country, he will still likely be a day three selection. To me, this is great news. It’s crucial that the team addresses the more glaring needs on the roster, such as the secondary on offensive line. If the Chargers choose to wait on a receiver until later in the draft, I believe Trent Taylor could add to the growing list of draft diamonds that General Manager Tom Telesco has been able to string together these past few years.