The Tennessee Volunteers haven’t drafted a cornerback into the NFL since 2018, but Alontae Taylor has an excellent chance of changing that fact in 2022 NFL draft. A former offensive weapon who switched to CB upon arrival in Tennessee, he is a physical playmaker with next-level potential. Taylor’s scouting report details that potential as well as his journey to the NFL Draft.
Alontae Taylor NFL draft profile
- Position: cornerback
- School: Tennessee
- Present year: Senior
- Height: 6’0″
- Weight: 196 pounds
- Span: 75″
- Poor: 31 7/8″
- Hand: 9″
Alontae Taylor Scouting Report
The cornerback class promises to be one of the strengths of the 2022 NFL draft. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see five first-round picks at the position. But wait, there’s more! On Day 2, even tougher cornerbacks are available to make starters in the NFL. On Day 3, there are a variety of playmakers in position who can become starters, make significant impact, and even become long-term backup options for NFL teams.
In this group we find Tennessee CB Taylor. As we’ll discover in a moment, his scouting record highlights the talents that will allow him to remain on an NFL roster for years to come. Although Taylor only played the position for four years, he was able to make an impact on the NFL.
Taylor plays primarily off the field and border for Tennessee and has the size to transition into that role at the NFL level. As you can see from the measurements above, Taylor is the required height. Importantly, he has the length to make an impact in coverage, along with some other advantages specific to the cornerback position.
Obviously, length matters when it comes to playing with the ball. Taylor is able to routinely get his hands on the ball, whether he’s pointing high at the catch point or getting his arms through his man. The Tennessee CB also makes good use of his arm length to break away from blockers in the running game and to search for his opponent on the route. He can also use the length and physicality to push his man to the sidelines.
Physical and intelligent cornerback with scheme versatility
From a sporting perspective, there’s a lot to enjoy about Taylor’s game. While he won’t knock anyone out in the 40m sprint, he has enough speed to go down with his man. He also shows enough speed to recover when initially hit. In addition, it impressively demonstrates the ability to click and close in the cover.
Against the running game, Taylor is a physical and willing fighter. There are a few areas for improvement, which we’ll cover shortly. However, he demonstrates the physicality to overcome most blockers on his way to becoming a ball carrier. The Tennessee CB isn’t afraid to step in and do the dirty work, devoting all their might to disrupting the ball carrier.
A long-time academic honoree, Taylor’s off-field intelligence is evident in his football IQ. The Tennessee CB has experience with both man and zone coverage systems. He has demonstrated an understanding of route concepts, which may be aided by his offensive experience. Taylor can read and react quickly, and has good zone coverage awareness.
As a result, Taylor is projecting a versatile and physical perspective in the 2022 NFL Draft. Currently, the Tennessee CB is the 135th player on the leaderboard Pro Football Network Top 300 Big Board, making him a fourth-round prospect. While his initial projection is a backup in the NFL, as he advances he has the potential to make his mark as a starter.
Areas for Improvement
While Taylor’s scouting report has some enticing elements, there are caveats that lead to the overall projection of an NFL backup early in his career. However, some of these are fully trainable, leading to claims that he could be in contention for a starting role.
The biggest problem with Taylor’s prediction ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft is his inconsistency as a tackler. While its readiness has previously been praised, significant improvements could be made in terms of capability. His overly aggressive nature resulted in a large number of missed tackles. He can fly past his opponent in search of a big hit. Additionally, Taylor regularly fails to pack up and take the right angles.
Though his physicality is one of the exciting elements of his scouting report, Taylor needs to understand where to draw the line. He can grab at multiple points along the route, which will inevitably result in penalties in the NFL. Additionally, he is able to remain physical after the play, although he has witnessed some hilarious scuffles during his film studies.
While Taylor has exciting sporting potential, there are limitations here. He seems to be struggling to get his hips covered. As a result, he does not always change direction quickly. That would expose him against faster, twitchy wide receivers in man marking at the next level.
Taylor’s player profile
While Taylor has had a collegiate career disrupting quarterbacks, the Tennessee CB started his career as an offensive gun for Coffee County Central High School. He also combined football with baseball and basketball as a multisport standout during his freshman season.
When he turned his attention exclusively to football as a sophomore in high school, Taylor became a multi-position threat that could impact the game in a variety of ways. During his four seasons, he totaled 8,225 yards in offense dominated by over 6,000 rushing yards. Meanwhile, he added 75 touchdowns spread across passing, rushing, and receiving.
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A highly decorated high school player, Taylor was named the 2017 Region 3-6A Athlete of the Year and received TWSA Class 6A All-State honors. After an outstanding performance at the 2017 Toyota East-West Tennessee All-Star Classic, the promising prospect was named Team East’s MVP. He was also invited to the Under Armor All-American Game.
As his high school career unfolded, a bitter battle was fought over his college future. A four-star wide receiver, Taylor was also drafted as quarterback and safety. He had offers from 25 teams including Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Originally hired at Vanderbilt in 2015, he had an on-off relationship with Tennessee as the program went through coaching changes.
Taylor’s career in Tennessee
Taylor signed with the Vols in December 2017 and went to Tennessee to play wide receiver. However, with the size and skills to play cornerback, he transitioned into secondary school ahead of his freshman season in 2018.
Taylor made an instant impression at cornerback for Tennessee. Starting in the season opener against West Virginia, he became the first true Tennessee defenseman to start in the first game of the season since Cameron Sutton in 2013. On his second start, he recorded a forced fumble against a Florida team that had been trying to recruit him out of high school.
Other notable performances in his freshman season came against Auburn and Missouri. Two tigers have both been tamed to some extent by just one Taylor. He secured a fumbling recovery for a touchdown against Auburn. Against Missouri, the physical cornerback led all Tennessee players with 7 tackles. Taylor finished the season with 40 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 forced fumbles and 2 pass breakups.
After securing his first forced fumble against Florida, Taylor returned to chase the Gators as a sophomore and secured his first interception of his career. Missouri would feel his physicality again, and the Tennessee CB recorded the first sack of his career. In addition to his influence on the field (3 tackles, 1 interception, 3 pass breakups), Taylor showed his intelligence with a spot on the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
Taylor’s NFL draft promotion
Despite struggling with the suspension of the 2020 season and a hamstring injury that left him missing two games as a junior, Taylor began his rise as a potential NFL draft. In the season opener against South Carolina, he had 6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 1 pass break. He finished the season with 5 tackles and 1 interception against Texas A&M. In between, he broke passes against Alabama and Florida on his way to 5 pass breakups and 29 tackles for the season.
Although Taylor drew attention for the 2021 NFL Draft, he returned to Tennessee for his senior campaign. As a result, he continued to expand his portfolio as a full-time starter at the SEC. During the statistically most successful of his career, the Tennessee CB had 60 tackles, 6 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions (Tennessee Tech and Kentucky). Taylor continued his efforts off the field and also served as vice chair of the SEC Football Leadership Council.
However, it was his performances on the field that earned the Tennessee CB an opportunity to further his journey. Taylor received a Senior Bowl invite that allowed him to represent the Vols one last time (he missed the Music City Bowl in preparation for the 2022 NFL Draft).
While at Mobile, Taylor displayed some of the intriguing skills that would lead to the Tennessee CB hearing his name in the 2022 NFL Draft. “Taylor showed some explosions and the ability to fire the ball out of his facility,” read one of the comments Pro Football Network coverage of Senior Bowl practices. With those qualities combined with an aggressive approach, Taylor has the potential to make a difference in the NFL.