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What are the Jaguars getting in Jawaan Taylor?

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I’ll be doing comprehensive scouting reports on each of the Jacksonville Jaguars draft selections from now up until OTAs.

Last week, I spotlighted Kentucky defensive end and linebacker Josh Allen.

This week, I break down new Jaguars right tackle Jawaan Taylor.

Background and character

By the time Jawaan Taylor reached eighth grade, he was 6’3” 325-pounds.

After attending University of Florida’s summer camp as a three-star guard recruit out of Cocoa High School, a then-383-pound Taylor “labored and limped” through his workout and knew he had to lose a substantial amount of weight to earn a spot on the Gators roster. Through a serious diet regimen where he cut out chips and hostess cakes and three daily workouts, he dropped 50 pounds and got down to 335 his senior year at Cocoa, earning an offer from Florida in late November.

Not only did Taylor earn an offer from his dream school, he became the first true freshman since 2007 to start the season opener on the Gators’ offensive line. Taylor’s high school coach, John Wilkinson, said he’s “never seen a transformation like that – ever. It’s not even close.” If Taylor can bring the same determination to the Jaguars as he did to his own personal metamorphosis to earn a spot with the Florida Gators, the Jaguars should literally be in good shape.

Despite reported medical red flags with concerns about Taylor’s knee and back, Taylor was one of the most durable offensive lineman in the SEC over the last three years, never missing a game and playing through a torn meniscus as a junior. Taylor maintains that he is “100% healthy” and said after the draft that no team addressed medical as a concern for him during the draft process. In fact, Taylor’s trainers at EXOS in Pensacola (where he trained to prepare for the draft) said Taylor showed up at 312 pounds with “six pack abs.”

Taylor’s teammates echo his remarkable aesthetic transformation. Defensive end Cece Jefferson has stated “That’s a grown man, dude…That’s the only guy I’ve almost broken my wrist with when I punched. His chest is like steel. Did you see him with his shirt off? He’s got a 12-pack, man.”

In an interview with Brian McCallum and Luis Torres of Florida Today, Taylor described himself as follows:

“(I’m) very nasty, I’m very aggressive. That’s just how I play football. That’s just how they play the game. I’m going to make sure I’m coming in and work from Day 1. … A guy that loves to win and very passionate and loves the game. I’m just going to bring that every single day.”

Taylor may be nasty on the gridiron, but he’s been described as a “teddy bear” off the field. Taylor spends Sundays playing drums at his church and he comes from a strong family and support system.

Taylor is well-spoken and seems hungry to prove he can be a stalwart on the right side of the Jaguars offensive line. Taylor showed great courage and character to show back up for day two of the draft in Nashville despite being “devastated” about not going in the first round and seems determined to prove that all those teams that passed are wrong with an enormous chip on his shoulder.

Physical traits and production

Taylor is an impressive physical specimen with extremely long, strong 35”+ arms, 10” hand, 20” neck and explosive lower body that affords him tremendous leg drive off the snap as a run blocker. Taylor’s athletic profile is incomplete as he was unable to compete in the NFL draft process, but he did manage to put up 24 reps on the bench despite nagging soft tissue injuries.

From a measurables perspective, it’s obvious the Jaguars have a type at offensive tackle as Demetrius Harvey of Locked On Jaguars has pointed out. That’s because Taylor’s mockdraftable web has the two other current Jaguars vying for the starting right tackle position in 2019 in Cedric Ogbuehi and Will Richardson, which is wild. Another former Jaguars offensive lineman in Maurice Williams is also on the comparables list, and the overall names on the list are favorable as far as Mockdraftable goes.

In terms of production, Taylor has a reputation of being a mauler in the run game and was one of the highest-rated run blockers (83.4 behind Jonah Williams and Dalton Risner) and the highest graded run blocker out of power concepts (90.3) in the country per Pro Football Focus. Additionally, PFF had Taylor down for only 10 pressures allowed and the Gators offensive line as a unit only allowed 18 sacks on the season in 2018.

Player report

Taylor has started 33 career games right tackle for the Gators with a few spot starts at left tackle as injuries required.

Taylor is a good mental processor and understands the mission of play design. Here, he cheats inside off the snap to offer additional help to his guard, and once he realizes he’s not needed on that assignment, his inside positioning forces the rusher to run the arc, which Taylor stifles quite easily as he becomes the dictator of the play.

Taylor shows expedient footwork for his size and does a great job of mirroring in space.

Taylor is so supremely confident in his upper body strength that he will swivel his head to see if he can pick up additional blocks while still engaged with his direct assignment.

As strong as Taylor’s upper body is, he also possesses a heavy anchor and seldom gets walked back into the lap of his quarterback. Even if he gets surprised by a strong initial surge, he does well to re-center and plant into the ground to wane the rusher’s advance.

Taylor has heavy hands and packs a punch, but must consolidate his initial stab to not telegraph it to opposing pass rushers who can exploit this on film. Luckily for Taylor, he possesses the quick footwork to recover and get back in the path of the rusher and do his job, but he will need to refine this at the NFL level.

Once Taylor gets his vice grips on a defender, he is very difficult to disengage from due to his arm length and spirited hand fighting to combat counter moves. Taylor actually looks like he has Velcro attached to his gloves on some reps.

In this rep, Taylor will gives too much cushion and respect to Josh Allen, dropping too far back in his kick slide and allowing Allen an inside lane off a counter spin to the quarterback where Taylor has to resort to grabbing. To be fair, it’s a great effort by Allen, but these are the caliber pass rushers Taylor will be going up against week-in and week-out.

Fortunately for Taylor, he’s a quick study. Here is Allen trying to beat Taylor inside later in the game in the third quarter, and Taylor suffocates the space with urgency in his footwork to seal off Allen from his pursuit.

In the run game, Taylor’s best asset is not necessarily his leg drive and “mauler mentality,” but rather his ability to maintain upfield control and the ability to “pivot” out defenders to create clear rushing lanes for his runner. This usually requires tremendous core strength and upper body/hip flexibility to be able to dictate where you’re going to spindle the run of play.

Taylor may not have the athletic profile of a Lane Johnson, but he has enough athleticism to be a factor on pulls. Look here as gets all the way to the opposite C gap to plow the way for his runner.

Taylor can also expediently get out in space to block on screens – something he will likely be asked to do often in John DeFilippo’s offense this year.

That’s not to say he’s not good at using his leg drive to push defenders off the line and impose his will.

While Taylor has shown ability to finish blocks (as seen directly above), I’d like to see him do this more consistently and make it more of a mentality staple.

Perhaps I’m affected from having to study the Oklahoma offensive lines and Dalton Risner from my Big 12 review (Risner, Ben Powers, Cody Ford, Dru Samia all looked to bury guys every other play), but maybe Taylor can unlock some of that pent up rage from being passed over in the first round on some divisional opponents.

Taylor needs more mental refinement and discipline in his game as early movement/false starts could be a potential issue, and with that being one of Cam Robinson’s issues as a rookie, this could be a less than an ideal pairing in this regard.

Projection

NFL teams have discussed moving Taylor to guard, and the Baltimore Ravens were reportedly split 50/50 between Taylor and Marquise Brown, with Ravens beat reporter Jeff Zrebiec revealing the Ravens would have moved Taylor inside to guard if selected.

In Jacksonville, Taylor will compete with Will Richardson (and Cedric Ogbuehi) at right tackle with the Taylor/Richardson loser being kicked inside to right guard after the sun sets on A.J. Cann’s eventual boot from Jacksonville. I don’t expect Taylor to lose that battle, which means Will Richardson better show some urgency in OTAs and training camp to prove his long-term value to the team with some positional versatility.

Outside of medical, the concern for Taylor would be whether he would fall back to his old eating habits after having life-changing money and becoming too comfortable as a professional, but his focus seems to have shifted to make the most of his opportunity and try to earn a second contract with the team. If you’ve perused through the background/character section of this report, you’ll know that backslide is unlikely with Taylor’s renewed dedication to being great and proving the other 31 teams that they were wrong.

After a thorough evaluation of Taylor, I see the right tackle position to be, at the minimum, as productive for the Jaguars in 2019 as it was with Jermey Parnell even with Taylor being an inexperienced rookie. The ceiling is quite high for Taylor to grow in 2020 and beyond and it will ultimately be up to him how good he wants to be since he has the physical tools and athleticism to be a top five right tackle in the NFL if he develops.

Ultimately, the Jaguars front office was ecstatic with Taylor being selected in the second round.

Fans should be too.