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NFL Draft Q&A: Alligator Army on Taven Bryan

NCAA Football: Missouri at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve worked all the way down from the seventh round in our Rookie Q&A Series, and now we have reached the final installment in the series, as we discuss Jacksonville Jaguars first-round pick, Taven Bryan!

We brought in Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army, SB Nation’s Florida Gators community — though it probably needs no introduction to you Florida folks.

There were not many people connecting Bryan to the Jaguars pre-draft. Many expected Bryan to be gone by pick No. 29, plus defensive line was already one of Jacksonville’s deepest position groups. Nonetheless, Bryan is now a Jaguar, and I believe many are excited about his potential.

So, let’s learn more about the Wyoming Wildman through Andy’s insights, observations and thoughts on Bryan after covering him for the past few years.

RO: Taven Bryan was a bit of a surprise pick for the Jaguars in the first round, but Jacksonville couldn’t pass up his value at pick No. 29. He’s mainly viewed by Jacksonville as a 3-technique interior pass-rusher, and will rotate in on an already stacked defensive line. What aspects of Bryan’s game will allow him to carve out a role along the Jaguars defensive line and see early playing time?

AH: Bryan’s best asset as a defensive lineman is his quickness, which is occasionally alarming for a man of his size. Much like previous Florida products Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley, Bryan has gotten very good at timing snaps and getting leverage on his blocker in an instant, which sometimes led to him knifing through the line and blowing up a play and sometimes led him to just creating a threat that had to be neutralized by the offense. If he can simply do the latter, he should at least draw the sort of respect that will allow other Jaguars linemen to make plays; if he can do the former, he could get a handful of sacks even while playing inside.

RO: There is no denying Bryan’s athletic ability and explosiveness, but what does he need to improve on technique-wise and do you consider him a “raw,” developmental prospect like some analysts do?

AH: I think “raw” is fair for Bryan in a way it isn’t for a lot of prospects because of what are, at times, perplexingly poor instincts and a lack of sound tackling. Bryan can get into the backfield routinely — or could, even in the SEC’s best-in-college football trenches — but sometimes does not know what to do what he gets there. And while Bryan suplexing an Alabama runner in the SEC Championship Game is admittedly funny, it also belies an inability to make simple, flash-less tackles that do not cost his team 15 yards.

Of course, “raw” might just be code for something else, because while Bryan possibly did not have top-quality high school coaching in Wyoming, he did have what most thought were pretty good position coaches over his collegiate career, and yet he still has flaws that you might expect from a less seasoned prospect.

Editor’s note: For those who are curious, here is the suplex:

RO: I think Jacksonville could also use Bryan at end and have him rush the passer from the edge in addition to playing in the interior. Can you describe Bryan as a pass-rusher versus as a run-stuffer, and which one do you think he’ll be more successful at in the pros?

AH: I think he has the ability to get off the ball in a hurry, which is about half of what I think being a successful NFL pass-rusher requires, and of the other two parts, I’m sure he has the strength to bull-rush some guards, and I’d like to think he could also demonstrate the sort of bend to get around a tackle. So while I don’t know whether he’s actually a great fit at end — and would caution, that while he’s often compared to J.J. Watt (and some of the measurables support that), Watt has phenomenal instincts, and his long arms and enormous hands that have helped him be the player he’s been are not actually duplicated in Bryan — I do think there’s promise there.

RO: Did you expect Bryan to go earlier than pick No. 29? Where did you see him being drafted at, and did you think Jacksonville was a good fit for him once he was selected? Why or why not?

AH: Pre-draft, we heard that Bryan was linked to the Cowboys, Falcons, and Vikings, and most thought that he wouldn’t slip by Dan Quinn — who helped recruit him to Florida — when Atlanta picked. So, yes, it was a bit surprising to see him go lower than that Falcons spot.

But I do think Jacksonville’s a really good spot for him, both because he’s not going to be asked to be a game-changer by himself and because the quality of defensive coaching in Sacksonville appears to be very, very good. As a player who probably needs some time and instruction to maximize his potential, Bryan stands to benefit significantly from landing somewhere where both should be available.

RO: Bryan has the advantage of learning from veterans and Pro Bowlers such as Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson and Marcell Dareus before he’s really expected to be an every-down player. How do you think this helps Bryan’s development both as a rookie and for the long term for his NFL career?

AH: I think he’s set up to be a good rookie and a greater player down the road, which is probably the best path for him. Learning from savvy veterans should do a lot for him — he didn’t really get that at Florida, where Floyd and Easley left before he arrived, (fellow Jaguar) Dante Fowler Jr. and Jonathan Bullard were on their way out when he came to town, and no player in the interim has been the same sort of unit-defining lineman who could provide leadership.

But, moreover, Bryan developing the ability to flash (and the constituent abilities permitting that) without being expected to start is something I think could be a reason he ultimately succeeds instead of failing. A lesser franchise, or one further from contention, would have to throw him into the deep end and hope he swims. Now, he can learn and grow without needing to cut corners, and I can be far more bullish on his chances of eventually becoming the great player he has the potential to be.

It’s easy to see Bryan’s pure athleticism that we’ve mentioned in this highlight video below:

Thank you to Andy providing us with all of this knowledge about Bryan as a player. Follow him on Twitter and for you Gator fans out there, be sure to follow Alligator Army if you’re not already.

How are we feeling about Bryan? Love his potential, or are the failures of former Gators wearing Jaguar uniforms in the pros scaring you? Does Bryan have a better shot than those former players given the fact that he isn’t expected to be a big contributor right away? Comments section is open.