To get to know Detroit Lions fourth-round pick Devin Taylor, a defensive end from South Carolina, I sent five questions to Gamecock Man from Garnet And Black Attack, SB Nation's Gamecocks blog. Here's a look at what he had to say about Taylor:
1. Taylor had quite a redshirt sophomore season, recording 7.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss. He wasn't quite able to replicate those numbers in his final two seasons at South Carolina, though. Was there something behind his drop in production?
My read on the drop in pass-rush production is that Taylor didn't really evolve as a pass rusher over the course of his career. He is an amazing athlete, but he's not a player who keeps you guessing with a wide array of rush moves, and he never became that player over the course of his career. Opposing coaches got tape on him, figured him out to some degree and did a better job containing him.
Another issue was that he drew a lot of double-teams in 2011, which is part of the reason Melvin Ingram was able to have such a breakout season that year. Jadeveon Clowney was the one who got the double teams in 2012, though.
2. Do you think Taylor was overshadowed at all at defensive end by Jadeveon Clowney?
If anything, I think Clowney's emergence as one of the premier college defenders in 2012 made it somewhat more surprising that Taylor didn't have a better season. Clowney drew the lion's share of our opponents' blocking schemes, and Taylor had more one-on-one opportunities against the lesser tackles.
3. What would you say Taylor's top attribute is as a defensive end: his awareness, speed, ability to get to the opposing quarterback or something else?
He's great in run support for a defensive end. He shows good recognition and response when the ball comes his way. His speed and motor allow him to get into a play if it goes the other way, or back into a play if the runner gets past him. He has a very long wingspan, which is helpful not only for getting a hand up at the line of scrimmage on a passing play but also for getting a hand on and slowing down a running back even if Taylor isn't the primary tackler.
4. A big criticism of certain Lions defensive ends in the past has been their inability to stop the run. How did Taylor do against the run at South Carolina?
See above -- he was excellent. This was surely one of the reasons that the Lions drafted him.
5. Taylor seems like quite the athlete considering he's 6'7", 266 lbs. and ran a 4.72 40-yard dash at the combine. How does his athleticism and size translate to the football field?
Yeah, definitely. As I said, his speed allows him to get into plays other players might never get into. His height and wingspan make him formidable for tipping passes at the LOS. I would say that while he's definitely a strong player, he's kind of rangy and can sort of get stood up or sucked inside by the stockier, stronger offensive linemen.