With the NFL Draft now just ten days away, boards are starting to crystallize and fans may even have a solid idea of whom their team will pick in the first round.
But for the Falcons, nothing is certain yet, especially at the cornerback position.
We have Desmond Trufant, a sure-fire selection if he falls to Atlanta at 30. We have Johnthan Banks, who I painted as the team's "plan B" option at corner in the draft. Those haven't changed, in my humble opinion.
The wild card here, though, is a defensive back initially slated to go in the second or third round. Many now have him slipping into the late first thanks to strong intangibles and a good Combine. His name is Jamar Taylor.
School: Boise State
Projection: 2nd round
Measurables: 5'11, 192 lbs.
40-yard dash: 4.39 sec
Bench press: 22 reps
20-yard shuttle: 4.06 sec
Comparison: Ronde Barber
Stats (Senior): 31 solo tackles, 9 pass deflections, 4 INT, 3.5 TFL, 3 FF, 2.5 sacks (13 games)
Why He'll Work:
He generally fits the mold of a Dimitroff corner: a little small, but tough and praised for his work ethic. All the intangibles check out: his ability to play outside or in the slot, his familiarity with both man and zone coverage schemes, and his likeliness to fit into just about any NFL defense.
Like some of the other top guys in this year's class, Taylor has great instincts in coverage, and he possesses that "kill factor" when it comes to making big plays and forcing turnovers. He's phenomenal when it comes to reading the ball in zone, and he's found success defending the deep pass and (more importantly) those tough underneath routes that are run in the NFL so often.
With a good 40-time and an impressive 20-yd shuttle, he obviously has the quickness you look for in a top corner. But what stands out on tape is his physical play: he fights for the ball in the air like a receiver, and he has great wrap-up ability in the open field.
That brings me to his run-stopping skills, which definitely look better than either Banks or Trufant in my opinion. The Broncos used him as an outside blitzer from time to time because of his consistent tackling. He hits hard, too, even turning a few of those hits into forced fumbles or sacks.
Why He Won't Work:
The biggest concern with Taylor is probably man coverage. His ability to read and react to a play is naturally diminished when you stick him on an island, and his press skills are not great. He has his hands on opposing receivers way too much when in man, too, making him a liability to draw PI penalties at the next level.
He's also aggressive in coverage, which can be positive or negative depending on how you look at it. The negative comes from the increased likeliness that he'll get burned by double moves or play action.
He's not the biggest guy, certainly not a Richard Sherman-type of corner, meaning he could have trouble with some of the larger receivers. Wasn't the healthiest guy during his career at Boise State.
There are also some concerns (though I think this is just nit-picking) that he didn't face top-end competition on a consistent basis at Boise, an area where Banks would no-doubt hold an advantage. But hey, he looked fine against Georgia in 2011.
Taylor's the type of guy I could see struggling a bit as a rookie, but ultimately turning into a reliable No. 2 corner in the NFL. The plus side here is that the Falcons could possibly trade back into the early second and still nab Taylor with their top pick.
The man coverage issues are a little worrying, and I certainly hope he'll learn to use his hands a little less at the next level, of only because pass interference penalties have become borderline ridiculous lately (unless you are Roddy White).
But at the end of the day, Taylor possesses the traits you can't really teach: good coverage instincts, sound fundamentals, aggression and athleticism. He'd make a fine corner.