The Tennessee Volunteers haven’t had a cornerback drafted to the NFL since 2018, but Alontae Taylor has an excellent chance of changing that fact in the 2022 NFL Draft. A former offensive weapon who transitioned to CB on arrival at Tennessee, he’s a physical playmaker with some 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
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’0″
- Weight: 196 pounds
- Wingspan: 75″
- Arm: 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! Even more combative cornerbacks are available on Day 2 that can become starters in the NFL. Into Day 3, there are a plethora of playmakers at the position who can become starters, make a significant impact, and even become long-term backup options for NFL teams.
It’s in this group that we find Tennessee CB Taylor. As we’re about to discover, his scouting report showcases the talents to stick on an NFL roster for years to come. Despite only playing the position for four years, Taylor could make an impact on the NFL.
Predominantly playing outside to both the field and boundary side for Tennessee, Taylor has the size to transition to this role at the NFL level. As you can see from the measurements above, Taylor has the requisite height. Importantly, he has the length to make an impact in coverage in addition to some other benefits specific to the cornerback position.
Obviously, length is important in terms of making plays on the ball. Taylor is able to routinely get his hands on the ball, whether high-pointing at the catch point or getting his arms through his man. The Tennessee CB also uses his arm length well to disengage from blockers in the run game, as well as feeling for his opponent down the route. Furthermore, he can use the length and physicality to squeeze his man to the sideline.
Physical and intelligent cornerback with scheme versatility
From an athletic standpoint, there’s plenty to enjoy about Taylor’s game. While he won’t blow anyone away in the 40-yard dash, he has enough speed to go with his man downfield. He also demonstrates enough speed to recover when initially beaten. Furthermore, he showcases the ability to click and close impressively in coverage.
Against the run game, Taylor is a physical and willing combatant. There are some areas for improvement which we’ll get to shortly. However, he showcases the physicality to overcome most blockers on his way to the ball carrier. The Tennessee CB is not afraid to get involved and do the dirty work, putting his full force into disrupting the ball carrier.
A multi-year academic honoree, Taylor’s off-field intelligence is evidenced in his football IQ. The Tennessee CB has experience both in man and zone-coverage schemes. He’s showcased the understanding of route concepts, potentially helped by his offensive experience. Taylor is quick to read and react, and he possesses good awareness in zone coverage.
As a result, Taylor projects as a versatile and physical prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. At present, the Tennessee CB is the 135th-ranked player on the Pro Football Network Top 300 Big Board, making him a fourth-round prospect. While his initial projection is a backup in the NFL, he has the potential with further development to compete to be a starter.
Areas for improvement
Although there are some alluring elements to Taylor’s scouting report, there are limitations that lead to the overall projection of an NFL backup early in his career. That said, some of those are entirely coachable, leading to the assertion that he could compete for a starting role.
The biggest issue for Taylor’s projection ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft is his inconsistency as a tackler. While praising his willingness earlier, definite improvements could be made as far as being able is concerned. His overaggressiveness resulted in a large number of missed tackles. In looking to lay a big hit, he can fly past his opponent. Additionally, Taylor regularly fails to wrap up and take the correct angles.
Despite his physicality being one of the exciting elements of his scouting report, Taylor needs to understand where to draw the line. He can be grabby at multiple points of the route, which will inevitably result in penalties in the NFL. Furthermore, he can remain physical after the play, with some off-the-ball tussles witnessed during his film study.
While Taylor has some exciting athletic potential, there are limitations here. He appears to struggle to flip his hips in coverage. As a result, he isn’t always quick to change direction. That would see him exposed against more speedy, twitchy wide receivers in man coverage at the next level.
Taylor’s Player Profile
While Taylor has forged a college career disrupting quarterbacks, the Tennessee CB began his career as an offensive weapon for Coffee County Central High School. During his freshman season, he also combined football with baseball and basketball as a multi-sport standout.
Turning his attention solely to football as a high school sophomore, Taylor became a multi-position threat who could impact the game in multiple ways. During his four playing seasons, he tallied 8,225 yards of total offense that was dominated by over 6,000 rushing yards. Meanwhile, he added 75 touchdowns spread across passing, rushing, and receiving.
A heavily decorated high school player, Taylor was named the Region 3-6A Athlete of the Year in 2017 and earned TWSA Class 6A All-State honors. Following a standout performance at the 2017 Toyota East-West Tennessee All-Star Classic, the promising prospect was named the MVP of the East team. He was also invited to the Under Armour All-American Game.
While his high school career played out, a fierce battle waged for his college future. A four-star wide receiver, Taylor was also recruited as a quarterback and safety. He held offers from 25 teams, including Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Originally committed to Vanderbilt in 2015, he held an on/off relationship with Tennessee as the program underwent coaching changes.
Taylor’s career at Tennessee
Committing to the Vols in December 2017, Taylor headed to Tennessee intending to play wide receiver. However, with the size and skill set to play cornerback, he transitioned to the secondary ahead of his freshman season in 2018.
Taylor made an immediate impact at cornerback for Tennessee. In starting the season opener against West Virginia, he became the first true-freshman Tennessee defensive back to start in the first game of the season since Cameron Sutton in 2013. In his second start, he logged a forced fumble against a Florida team that had tried to recruit him out of high school.
Other standout performances in his freshman season came against Auburn and Missouri. Two Tigers were both tamed to an extent by just one Taylor. He secured a fumble 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.
Having secured his first forced fumble against Florida, Taylor returned to haunt the Gators as a sophomore, securing his first career interception. Missouri would once again feel his physicality, with the Tennessee CB recording the first sack of his career. In addition to his impact on the field (3 tackles, 1 interception, 3 pass breakups), Taylor displayed his intelligence with a place on the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
Taylor’s NFL Draft ascension
Although he battled the disruption of the 2020 season and a hamstring injury that saw him miss two games as a junior, Taylor began his ascent as an NFL Draft prospect. In the season opener against South Carolina, he tallied 6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass breakup. He finished the season with 5 tackles and 1 interception against Texas A&M. In between, he broke up passes against Alabama and Florida on his way to 5 pass breakups and 29 tackles for the season.
Despite earning attention for the 2021 NFL Draft, Taylor returned to Tennessee for his senior campaign. In doing so, he elevated his stock further as a full-time starter in the SEC. During the most statistically successful of his career, the Tennessee CB tallied 60 tackles, 6 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions (Tennessee Tech and Kentucky). Continuing his off-field endeavors, Taylor was also the vice chair of the SEC Football Leadership Council.
However, it was his performances on the field that would earn the Tennessee CB the opportunity to advance his journey. Taylor earned an invite to the Senior Bowl, allowing him to represent the Vols one last time (he missed the Music City Bowl to prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft).
While in Mobile, Taylor showcased some of the intriguing skill set that should result in the Tennessee CB hearing his name called in the 2022 NFL Draft. “Taylor showed some explosion and the ability to fire to the ball out of his plant,” was one of the comments from Pro Football Network’s coverage of Senior Bowl practices. With those qualities combined with an aggressive approach, Taylor has the potential to make an impact in the NFL.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Alontae Taylor
Positives: Nice-sized cornerback with a terrific head for the position. Stays with coverage assignments, is effective when facing the action, and displays a closing burst. Physical, jams receivers at the line of scrimmage, and battles them throughout the route. Works well with safeties and effectively communicates with teammates in the secondary. Displays good footwork in reverse and a solid burst to the ball out of his plant. Works hard to make plays against the run.
Negatives: Not a stout tackler. Bites on receivers’ moves, which results in him being a half-step behind opponents in transition.
Analysis: Taylor is a tough, athletic corner who excels facing the action. He offers possibilities as a dime back and plays with a special-teams mentality.