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I know for a fact that the Vikings defense will feel the impact of Antoine Winfield’s absence, but I am not so sure that the move was really a game changer in terms of the Vikings draft plans, as the need for more quality cornerbacks is something the Vikings have struggled with since, well… forever.
Still, it couldn’t hurt to try and find someone of the same mold as Winfield, and Boise State’s Jamar Taylor seems like a natural fit for Rick Spielman to target in an effort to ease the loss of his veteran tackling corner.
Taylor (5′ 11″ and 192 pounds) played in every game as a freshman and registered 24 tackles, two for a loss, and a pick. Then, for no other reason than Boise’s depth chart, Taylor redshirted as a sophomore before becoming a full time starter in 2010 and his ability to be a complete corner began to shine through. That season he had 35 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, two sacks, two defended passes, and three forced fumbles.
Taylor was only able to start the first nine games of 2011 because of a leg fracture but he still managed 27 tackles, two for a loss, two picks, and six defended passes. He was able to return for the Las Vegas Bowl where he scored on a 100 yard interception return.
After getting healthy, Taylor was able to enjoy his best season as a senior, which included starting every game, 51 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, 2.5 sacks, nine defended passes, four interceptions and three forced fumbles. His impressive senior season continued to Indianapolis where he was a Scouting Combine standout with a 4.39 forty time.
Despite not being the biggest corner in the world, Taylor plays every bit as physical as many corners that are three or four inches taller than him, and has a reputation for being a “fighter” at the position in regards to his style of play. He has the technique and strength to press wideouts at the line of scrimmage and the recovery speed to mask any mistakes. He shows all the fluidity you want to see in his backpedal and hip turn, and is capable of disrupting passes with a well timed high point.
Taylor isn’t as proficient of a tackler as Winfield is, but he is no slouch either. He plays the run very well, which is important to the Vikings, and is well disciplined in run support assignments.
Taylor is not flawless. He needs to show more discipline in coverage, he needs to improve his tackling technique, and the guy looks like Jamarca Sanford when trying to haul in an easy interception (that isn’t a good thing) but he makes up for a lot of his shortcomings by playing football in a fearless and competitive way.
When it comes down to it, despite not being one of the highest touted prospects in this class, I view Taylor as a top-25 prospect and wouldn’t be at all disappointed if he were one of the Vikings selections in the first round. He shouldn’t be expected, if selected, to fully fill Winfield’s void but adding a guy like this would certainly be a good start.