NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. held a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning to discuss this year's crop of college standouts preparing for the next level, and Beaufort High graduate Devin Taylor was among those mentioned by the ESPN analyst.
Taylor, who has spent the last several seasons as a force on the South Carolina defensive line, didn't warrant much praise from the longtime evaluator. The redshirt senior has all the tools to be a productive player in the NFL, Kiper said, but hasn't seen those skills translate as much to the field.
Here's what Kiper said, courtesy of Daryl Slater of The (Charleston) Post and Courier:
“Devin Taylor, you kept expecting for some things," Kiper said. "Everyone said, ‘Oh, he’s so great in practice and did so many good things there.’ But when he’s out on the field, he’s not the productive player you need to be."
Taylor -- who is listed at 6-foot-8 and 267 pounds -- has tallied 40 total tackles, eight stops for loss and three sacks this season. His best year came in 2010, when as a sophomore he netted 46 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks to go along with an interception returned for a touchdown. Last season he was almost equally as productive, tallying 42 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and another pick-six.
"He looks the part. He’s got all the physical talent," Kiper said. "Maybe in the NFL, you coach him up there. Maybe you find something there that’s not showing there at South Carolina in game situations."
As for where he projects Taylor to go come April, Kiper said he has the ability to go as high as the second round but has ultimately been held back by his on-field production. A strong showing at the NFL Combine, should he be invited, could help him return to that projected slot.
"I thought he could be a second-round pick," Kiper said. "He hasn’t been productive enough to go that high, in my opinion. I project him more in that third-, fourth-round discussion, just because he’s so physically gifted. But the production doesn’t equal the talent."
Taylor, who graduated from Beaufort High in 2008, helped lead the Eagles to the Class 4-A state championship game as a senior when he tallied 110 tackles, 10 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.