For the last several weeks, there has been a mixed opinion of “when” the Chargers should select a wide receiver in the 2017 draft. Some would consider taking a wide out as a “luxury” considering the crop of receivers that currently make up the Chargers roster and that a WR shouldn’t be selected before round 3. Others would make the claim that with the rash of injuries that the receiving core suffered last season and Philip Rivers in the twilight of his career, it's time to invest a high pick in a new offensive threat.
WR Taywan Taylor isn’t the biggest receiver on the field, he didn’t come from a high profile college and is no stranger to being overlooked. However, Taylor’s play on the field has given notice to onlookers and making sure they will remember his name come draft day.
Standing 5’11, 203lbs Taylor won’t be intimidating defensive backs with his size. What will force defensive units to prepare for him, however, is his intangibles and big play capability. At Western Kentucky, Taylor put up numbers and broke school records. As a senior, Taylor recorded 98 passes for 1,730 yards and 17 touchdowns. His 2015 campaign was similar in production as the former Hilltopper notched 86 receptions for 1,467 yards and made 17 trips into the end zone. Over the past two seasons, Taylor averaged 17.7 yds per catch and broke almost every receiving record at WKU hauling in 26 catches for 40-plus yards, which is the highest number in the 2017 receiver class.
Drawing a comparison to Minnesota Vikings WR Stefon Diggs, Taylor can play inside or outside and lives to create yards after the catch. Showing terrific explosion off the snap, Taylor possesses starting potential as a receiver, displaying quick feet and top end speed. The young receiver creates separation from defensive backs and is capable of winning battles for contested catches.
Some scouts believe that Taylor’s numbers were inflated because of the level of competition he faced at WKU. Some of those critics were silenced when Taylor had one of his best games of 2016, recording nine catches for 121 yards against Alabama. While that kind of performance is starting to generate draft buzz for Taylor around the league, there are others that have held him in high regard since the very beginning. Taylor has been receiving high praise for some time as one of the favorite draft prospects of NBC Sports writer Josh Norris.
If I were to fill this out...— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) March 30, 2017
1. Taywan Taylor
2. Malik McDowell
3. Josh Reynolds
4. Eric Saubert
5. Antonio Garcia https://t.co/N3fZ9jUz0l
Below, Norris tweeted this video displaying the kind of skills that Taylor possesses inside the red zone.
Play 1: inside to outside move for the TD. Easy separation.— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) February 9, 2017
Play 2: perfect throw and one handed body catch for the TD.
Taywan Taylor pic.twitter.com/ts1XYWQYCm
Making routine trips to the end zone is nothing new for Taylor, but it's the work he does between the 20’s that is equally impressive. A perfect example of Taylor’s great first step, separation and ball catching capability can be seen here:
Those wondering why we like Taywan Taylor so much. Speed and hands. What's not to like. pic.twitter.com/m7U5MFNiFd— realbucstalk (@realbucstalk) March 4, 2017
The game tape would have been enough to justify the intangibles that Taylor is capable of on the field. But when the young wideout received an invite to the NFL Combine, Taylor didn’t disappoint. Taylor tested in the 82nd percentile among wide receivers, posting a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash, coupled with an 11-foot broad jump and was the top performer in the 3-cone drill with a 6.57 run. On his pro-day, Taylor improved his vertical jump from 33.5 inches to 38 inches.
I spoke with USA Today Eagles Wire Draft Analyst, Turron Davenport. Davenport, who has been carefully observing Taylor for the last several months, had this to say regarding the young receiver prospect:
The injury bug has taken a toll on its fair share of Chargers players the last few years and in 2016, the receiving core was no exception. The first causality was WR Stevie Williams, who was lost for the season after suffering a tear to his MCL during last year’s training camp. The second and arguably biggest loss of the season came in Week 1 when star wideout Keenan Allen suffered an ACL tear and put on IR for the remainder of the year. That left Philip Rivers without two offensive weapons that made up 34% of his offensive scoring total from the previous season. The remaining cache of receivers was forced to step up. Travis Benjamin underperformed in his first year in San Diego after signing a 4-year, $24 million contract in 2016. Tyrell Williams enjoyed a breakout campaign in his 2nd season going for 69 receptions 1,059 yds and seven touchdowns. Third-year receiver, Dontrelle Inman recorded another serviceable season adding 4 touchdowns to his season stat record.
Regardless of how the Chargers front office feels about its current crop of wide receivers, with a new head coach and a quarterback on the tail end of a career, change is on the horizon for the franchise. Adding a playmaker like Taylor in the draft, will not only assist in the change in philosophy but enhance its offensive potential.