The Buffalo Bills had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last year, and Jawaan Taylor might be a cure. While the team now has Ty Nsekhe and LaAdrian Waddle where Jordan Mills and Conor McDermott were the options last year, neither player is signed for more than two years, and Buffalo’s desire for a “best five players” on the offensive line might lead them to look at the dominant right tackle from Florida. Welcome to the film room, where today we’re talking about Taylor’s strengths and weaknesses.
Let’s begin with the need-to-know for Taylor. An athletic lineman with all the requisite size to play tackle, Taylor was solely a right tackle for the vast majority of his college career (he looked comfortable there, and I’d probably recommend keeping him there). Taylor’s agility away from the line is excellent. He can locate and deliver blocks at the second level or while pulling toward the sideline. His feet are light and nimble, and he has a clean, balanced kick-slide technique in pass protection.
Now some of the not-so-good in his game. Taylor’s hand placement will need improvement in the pros. His hands often swing low near his waist, and he doesn’t always succeed with landing his initial punch before a defender gets their hands in his chest.
Despite that issue, Taylor’s excellent athletic ability allows him to recover from bad positioning better than someone like Jonah Williams. His balance is remarkable, and he can generate great power even from an odd position.
The power in his game is one of Taylor’s most appealing characteristics. This dude has an attitude that he’ll block you into the ground as long as the play is going his way. He generates force throughout his whole frame. Added to this, Taylor has a walloping punch that will rock defenders onto their heels.
Taylor’s pass protection, overall, is less impressive than his run blocking. There are some technical questions that hold me back from recommending him as my favorite tackle in this draft, though I do think they’re all fixable.
Right now, pass rushers with a plan will occasionally be able to give Taylor fits. I saw this happen when he was matched against the impressive Mississippi State defensive line. Montez Sweat would set him up outside, then counter inside, and Taylor was completely unprepared. To his credit, though, Taylor was still able to stand his ground and buy a little time for the quarterback (though he was basically holding Sweat at that point).
I often noticed that, rather than keeping his elbows tight and grabbing opponents in the chest, Taylor would open his arms wide, give up his chest, and “hug” the defender. I first thought this was another technique mistake, but seeing him repeat it again, I think he was coached that way. This hug technique is a style used by the Green Bay Packers, and it works pretty effectively for them. Since Taylor won his “hug” reps, it worked out for him, too.
A few more miscellaneous notes I took on Taylor: Sometimes, while run blocking, he’ll lean forward with a head of steam and drive ahead on blocks, only to end up twisting around because the defender shot past him into the open gap. Ideally he’d be a little more controlled while engaging his opponent. I also noticed that he had a pre-snap rocking motion that will be an issue. During the games I watched, he was called for a few false starts, and I saw a few more uncalled penalties besides those.
Overall, Taylor impressed me with a first-round skill set. His athletic toolbox is ideal for an offensive tackle, with a great combo of strength, speed, and balance. He has length and pass-protection techniques that help him neutralize edge rushers and make it look easy. He brings it together with an attitude of a tireless worker and a man with a chip on his shoulder.
This is a player who will dominate in the running game, and if he refines some of the mental and technical parts of his pass protection, could be a difference-maker in that regard, too. Even though I wouldn’t project him as a left tackle, I think he could be a Pro Bowl right tackle, and that’s extremely valuable in the modern NFL. Among Buffalo’s various options at tackle today, I think Taylor could quickly find a home.