Will Tyrod Taylor be a quarterback in the NFL?
While there’s still an Orange Bowl and a top five opponent remaining in his illustrious college career, some of the focus on quarterback Tyrod Taylor has shifted toward what lies ahead for the player who holds just about every Virginia Tech record for signal callers.
ESPN announced this week that its cameras will have an all-access pass to Taylor during the Hokies' Orange Bowl preparations and throughout the NFL draft process. The network is producing a four-part, 30-minute series featuring Taylor and Washington's Jake Locker as part of its promotion declaring 2011 the “Year of the Quarterback.”
Though Taylor’s subdued personality likely won’t jump off the screen, his road to the draft is sure to be an intriguing one. He was named the ACC player of the year after throwing a school-record 22 touchdown passes and completing a career-high 60.6 percent of his passes, but there are still plenty of skeptics who don’t think Taylor can play quarterback in the NFL.
During his pre-bowl press conference last week, Taylor shrugged off the possibility of playing wide receiver in the pros, saying it just motivated him to work harder at becoming a better quarterback. He even offered his hypothetical pitch to NFL scouts.
“I would say I can go out there and make plays for you,” Taylor said. “I’ve proven I’m a quarterback, I can throw every route that you need. I can use my feet to buy time and also to break out into the rushing game. I think I’m a complete quarterback that can help any team.”
That, though, won't eliminate the doubters. Most draft experts project Taylor as a late-round pick at this point. Even though his accuracy and decision-making have improved dramatically over the past two seasons, generally scouts think Taylor is not tall enough, will need at least a few years of coaching before he’s able to play quarterback in the NFL and that his athletic ability is better suited to a hybrid playmaking role at the next level.
Whether we agree with that assessment or not isn’t important; it’s simply the perception Taylor will have to overcome during his pre-draft workouts and throughout the early part of his professional career.
When I spoke with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick last month for my story on his friendship with Taylor, I asked Vick about Taylor’s pro prospects because some of the same doubts followed Vick into the NFL.
“There’s a lot of variables involved,” Vick said. “I think he has a bright future. I can’t predict where he’ll get drafted or his potential. I just know he can make an impact on somebody’s team, and it doesn’t have to be at quarterback. It could be a receiver position, a punt returner position.”
Here in Blacksburg, though, where Taylor’s exploits are seen on a daily basis, there’s a firm belief that he can succeed as an NFL quarterback.
The Virginia Tech coaching staff will likely get the opportunity to talk with NFL scouts ahead of the draft in an effort to convince them of Taylor’s potential, and a couple stated their case last week.
“I’ve said before, and I’d tell them, ‘Tyrod Taylor gives you a chance to win a ballgame every time he steps on the field,” offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said. “I don’t put it in a box, in terms of high school level, college level or NFL level. Whatever level, I think Tyrod Taylor, if he’s on your team and steps on the field, he gives you a chance to win.”
Added Coach Frank Beamer: “I think he’s worked hard to improve his throwing. He;s worked hard to improve his accuracy. I think he’s always been a very talented guy and he’s worked to develop that. And then I think the other things that go with it: how competitive he is, how smart he is, how much in control he is, how his personality during a football game; I’ve never seen him out of control. He always knows what’s going on and you put all those things together, and to me, he can play the game. Some of the things he did in the championship game, it brought memories back of Michael [Vick]. He’s got that kind of ability to keep plays going and so forth. I know if I was in the NFL, I’d be looking at him.”
One advantage Taylor enjoys is that his final college game comes against a potential measuring stick. The same pro scouts who question whether Taylor can play quarterback at the next level have been drooling over the "polished skills" of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
Luck is seen as the prototypical quarterback prospect, possessing the height, footwork, accuracy and arm strength that should make him a surefire top five pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
In a few weeks, though, Taylor will get a chance to outplay him. And while he says his focus is squarely on beating Stanford, Taylor couldn’t hide how excited he is to prove the doubters wrong when he goes head-to-head against Luck.
“I love this stage in front of everyone, run into the top quarterback, might be the top quarterback taken in the draft,” Taylor said. “I think this type of stage right here will elevate my game. I know it’s gonna elevate my game and I’m looking forward to the matchup.”
| December 15, 2010; 10:05 AM ET
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