Washington currently has 14 UDFAs and a pair of 7th round drafted rookies on the roster, but that list of players is subject to a lot of change. In previous years, we’ve put together profiles of players only to see them cut by the team a day before the profile was set to publish (or a day after it did publish). In fact, in just the 4 weeks or so that followed the 2022 draft, we saw a lot of churn in this part of the roster among both UDFAs and veteran free agents.
These articles about the bottom-of-the-roster players are not intended to suggest that any given player is bound for glory; rather, the articles are intended to celebrate the ongoing fight of each player to extend his NFL dream.
For those of you who appreciate the fight of the underdog, I hope you enjoy today’s article and the others that will follow in this “2022 UDFA Spotlight” series.
Devin Taylor, DB, Bowling Green/Va Tech/Illinois State
Devin Taylor’s story is not completely straightforward. The first thing that surprised me is that Taylor played football for three different colleges.
He played 3 seasons at Illinois State, where his best year came in 2019 when he started 15 games and collected five interceptions with 24 pass breakups, earning All-Missouri Valley Football Conference first-team honors as a cornerback.
Heading into his senior year (2020), Taylor transferred to Va Tech — known by many in these parts as “DBU”. This was a move that made sense to me. But things didn’t go great with the Hokies. Taylor initially struggled at cornerback before switching to safety, where he reportedly looked like a player in transition for the rest of the season. The 6’1”, 200 pounder played in 10 games, starting the final 8, and finished the season with 55 tackles and 2 interceptions.
With the COVID-related rules, Taylor was eligible to play in 2021, but he didn’t stay at Virginia Tech. When the Hokies coach Justin Fuente made the announcement, in August 2021, that Taylor wouldn’t be returning, he did not elaborate, except to say, “It was something over the last couple of days that we had dealt with and we are moving forward.”
Taylor changed schools again, ending up at Bowling Green, and arriving on campus just a week before the first game of the season. He returned to the CB position, started all 12 games and ended up with 43 tackles, 2 INTs and 8 PBUs. He was named 3rd-team All-MAC. One interesting point is that the Bowling Green head coach, Scot Loeffler, had been the Hokie’s Offensive Coordinator from 2013-15, so he may have had specific insight that led him to welcome Taylor to the team.
While this history isn’t terrible, it has a couple of red-flag issues, in my opinion, not the least of which was the late and unexplained transfer from Va Tech to Bowling Green. Also concerning is the fact that his 2021 play at CB for Bowling Green did not match his 2019 play at Illinois State. I’m never excited to see a college player’s production regress.
Draft profile & measurables
Still, the Commanders coaches and front office must have liked something about him; he was signed to a contract and survived the initial re-shuffling that took place around the time of rookie minicamp and OTAs.
Scouting reports on Taylor are scant, and the only detailed draft profile I found was based on his 2020 season at Va Tech, when he played out of position as a safety for most of the year. Here are a few quotes from that profile:
Football IQ: Taylor didn’t impress with his processing skills during his lone season at Virginia Tech. He looked like a player trying to acclimate to a new defense against a higher level of competition on a team that was in transition—because that’s exactly the scenario he was in. For the most part, Taylor stayed leveraged and did his job, but I didn’t find many examples of a quick read, fast trigger, or strong anticipatory skills.
Tackling: It’s not all bad when it comes to tackling and Taylor, but he does get caught flat-footed in space and ball-carriers make him look silly. He’s not overly enthusiastic when he gets chances to be physical and lacks hitting power and contact balance.
Range: Taylor is a good athlete with sufficient range. With that said, he isn’t a quick processor, which limits his range because he doesn’t often get a jump on plays. In addition, his angles are not consistently correct, which takes away from his ability to cover ground.
Ball Skills: Taylor’s ball skills shined in 2019 at Illinois State when he snagged five interceptions and logged 24 pass breakups. When Taylor is in position to disrupt at the catch point, he breaks on the football with good timing, technique, and he has secure mitts to take away the football.
Functional Athleticism: Taylor demonstrates good functional athleticism. I never got the sense studying him on film where I thought he was athletically deficient despite his play speed often being slow. He has the requisite athleticism to serve as a free safety in the NFL.
Flexibility: Taylor is a smooth athlete that has the fluidity to situationally turn and run in man coverage. His change of direction skills are easy and are not segmented. I don’t have concerns with Taylor being overly tight.
Skill Drills (numbers from Pro Day)
- 40-yard dash: 4.64 seconds
- 10-yard split: 1.68 seconds
- 20-yard split: 2.60 seconds
- Shuttle: 4.56 seconds
- Three-cone drill: 7.20 seconds
- Vertical jump: 31.5 inches
- Broad jump: nine feet, seven inches
This was the summary from NBC Sports:
[Devin Taylor] is a savvy DB who has the football intelligence to play at the next level, though awful testing numbers hurt his draft stock. His 4.64 40 and a 4.56 shuttle time resulted in a disastrous 1.45 Relative Athletic Score. Taylor does possess some great instincts, and is excellent at anticipating routes. He uses his size well, especially when making a play on the ball. He runs into trouble with his footwork and hip movement. He has a lot of work to do if he wants to find playing time in the NFL.
Devin Taylor and the Commanders
It’s not hard to see why Taylor wasn’t drafted; the question in my mind is what he brings to the Commanders. The team needs depth at the CB position, and Taylor shows some signs of being a ball hawk, collecting 12 interceptions playing in three different programs and 2 different positions in his final 4 years. While his testing numbers at his pro day were not impressive, and the scouting report of his safety play at Va Tech in 2020 is a bit of a mixed bag, Devin Taylor has good size and lots of experience at a position of need for Washington.
This is a player I’ll be keen to see in preseason. It’s possible that his on-field play belies his pro-day testing, and the concerns with processing skills mentioned in the scouting report may have been related to playing out of position in 2020.
I do find it interesting that the draft profile refers to him playing free safety in the NFL rather than cornerback. The Commanders website simply lists all secondary players as DBs, so there’s no clue to be found there as to whether coaches see him as a corner, free safety, or both.
In any event, it’s hard to look at the depth chart and see a path to the 53-man roster for Devin Taylor. If he has a future in the NFL, it will probably begin with a spot on the practice squad, which does seem achievable for Taylor in Washington.
How excited are you that Devin Taylor was signed by the Commanders?
This poll is closed
5 - Very excited!
4 - Looks good...for a UDFA
3 - I’m okay; let’s wait and see
2 - I’m doubtful about this guy’s prospects
1 - This guy doesn’t belong in an NFL training camp