Tennessee edge Darrell Taylor could be Chiefs newest pass rusher

KNOXVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 10: Darrell Taylor #19 of the Tennessee Volunteers reacts to a play during the second half of the game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on November 10, 2018 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee won the game 24-7. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)
KNOXVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 10: Darrell Taylor #19 of the Tennessee Volunteers reacts to a play during the second half of the game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on November 10, 2018 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee won the game 24-7. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images) /

The Kansas City Chiefs have shown interest in Tennessee pass rusher Darrell Taylor, who could be a nice addition to an already talented line.

Darrell Taylor is not a fit for the Kansas City Chiefs, as least if you’re listening to any pre-draft related talk.

As the 2020 NFL Draft creeps closer, the Chiefs have been connected to dozens of prospects as potential selections in the first, second, or third rounds as an endless parade of mock drafts have made their way down the information superhighway for the last few months. Even on Chiefs-specific sites (such as our own), Taylor’s name will never be found. It’s as if Taylor to the Chiefs shouldn’t even be a consideration.

But here’s the thing. The Chiefs themselves held a formal meeting with him at the NFL Combine. In an interview with Justin Melo of Draft Wire, Taylor says he’s been in touch with several of the AFC’s expected contenders: the Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, and Tennessee Titans.

So why the disconnect on the part of draft analysts or fans? This is likely for a couple reasons?

One, Taylor’s stock is typically considered to be further down the food chain than most mock drafts will go. The average mock draft online is a first-round draft only, and Taylor is very unlikely to hear his name called on the draft’s opening night. At the same time, some draft analysts wouldn’t even consider Taylor a Day 2 prospect, which means that, at some outlets, Taylor also won’t appear in two- or perhaps even three-round mocks.

The other disconnecting element here has to do with Taylor’s position. An edge rusher for the Chiefs is simply not a position of need compared to others. The Chiefs have three cornerbacks they could rely upon under contract at this point. Linebacker play has been lacking for two seasons. The Chiefs were reportedly interested in an upgrade at guard (Andrus Peat), so interior o-line is also a popular position to fill.

For those reasons, Taylor is a new name in draft circles for Chiefs fans to consider.

Certainly Taylor needs no introduction to anyone who watched SEC football last year. Taylor was second in the conference with sacks at 8.5 as a senior for the Volunteers. That came one year after he had 8 sacks (5th in SEC) during his junior campaign. His 19.5 career sacks ranks 21st all time in the conference.

Taylor weighed in at the NFL Combine at 6’4, 267 lbs., so he’s likely going to want to add a bit more weight to hold down the end as a multi-down defender. As a rookie, however, he could offer the Chiefs an immediate rotational presence to play behind Alex Okafor and Frank Clark and alongside Breeland Speaks and Tanoh Kpassagnon.

Taylor also comes with the versatility that could get him selected much earlier than draftniks have him. He played outside linebacker in a 3-4 base this year, but he comes with years of experience as a 4-3 end before his senior year.

Against the run, Taylor has shown himself to be a competent defender at times although he’s got to become a bit more patient (and less willing to gamble on the wrong gap). However, the size, anchor, burst, and skill set are there with coaching to shed blocks and set the edge. Taylor is also underrated at using his hands well at the line if taken out of the rush, and he batted away 4 passes last season.

Most importantly, however, Taylor has serious skills at getting after the passer. His first step is excellent, which gives him the advantage against most blockers, and he matches it with serious physical strength. From there, he’s got a nice range of pass rush moves upon which he can attempt, although there’s a lot of room to grow here in terms of usage and counters. Consistency is an issue, and pro linemen with excellent technique will be able to stymie him until he’s coached up.

Taylor’s sacks also came in bunches during his college career. Last year, he had more than one against Mississippi State, Indiana, and South Carolina and didn’t even touch the quarterback against Alabama. A bit more consistency, especially early when Tennessee struggled, would have propelled Taylor into a much larger pre-draft conversation.

Let’s take a closer look at a few plays. Here, Taylor gets the best of a fellow draft hopeful in Mississippi State tackle Tyre Phillips (projected as a mid-round pick).

Here you see his rush from the opposite site and his bend really comes into play against South Carolina along with awareness to get his hands up on a key fourth quarter play to cinch the game.

For the Chiefs, it’s important to remember that while Clark and Okafor are in place as the assumed starters on the edge, the only proven players behind them in the base depth chart are Speaks and Kpassagnon. Of course, players can slide inside and kick out (a la Chris Jones if kept), but injuries will happen and the Chiefs could run thin. Speaks, after all, was injured all of last season and is a completely unknown commodity. Kpassagnon is headed for unrestricted free agency next spring.

We also saw how successful a player like Emmanuel Ogbah was for the Chiefs as a rotational pass rusher last season. He led the team in sacks before his season-ending injury. Ogbah is the same height as Taylor and weighs only 8 more pounds. He also boasts the same speed-to-power combination that marks Taylor’s game. Taylor could be a great replacement on the cheap for the next four seasons.

While the Chiefs have greater perceived needs, every general manager will tell you the best way to draft is to stick with the board and not reach for need. In that case, a deep draft like this is going to push Taylor out of the first and maybe even the second as well. While mocks don’t have the Chiefs going with Taylor at all, a player with this unteachable initial burst along with this bend and power inside is a rare find in the third round—especially one with so much experience against top competition.

Next. Three RB targets for the Chiefs to consider drafting. dark