This draft is going to start as the year of the quarterback. We could easily be looking at the first four players off the board being quarterbacks, and a fifth one being taken shortly after that.
Once the men under center are off the board though, this will become a defensive tackle takeover, because the first two rounds are littered with talented players there.
One of them is Florida’s Taven Bryan, entering the Dallas draft hoping to stand out from the crowd.
RAF Big Board Ranking: #20
Defensive tackles need to be big, strong, and athletic. Bryan is. His jumps were particularly impressive.
Height: 6’ 4”
Weight: 291 lbs
40-Yard Dash: 4.98 seconds
Bench Press: 30 reps
Vertical Jump: 35 inches
Broad Jump: 119 inches
3 Cone Drill: 7.12 seconds
20-yard Shuttle: 4.48 seconds
Before the snap, he’s like a sprinter raring to go in the starting block. And he gets out of his stance in equally impressive fashion. Watching how quick he is off the draw is the biggest thing that stands out.
He’ll get off the ball in a flash, and then uses savvy moves at the line of scrimmage to blow past his blocker. Often times it’s working around his man with a jolt of quickness or with the power he generates from the base of his body.
Those all-important wars at the line of scrimmage were not what plagued Bryan in Gainesville. His ability to win at the point of contact finds him landing in the backfield more often than not. Relatively speaking he’s pretty small for his position, and sometimes it can work in his favor allowing him to sneak through the A-gap as yet another arrow he has in his quiver to get past his block.
He’s got quick turn potential to try multiple different ways to attack an offensive lineman, shifting tactics in a flash. I see a little bit of everything in his methods, and that’s never a bad thing with the dynamic nature of NFL matchups from play to play.
And with how often he gets in the backfield, there is bound to be game-wrecking potential when he finishes the drill.
Unfortunately, that leads me to the most infuriating thing about watching Bryan’s tape. It’s borderline unbelievable how often he finds himself in the position of having done the hard part of being his blocker, but not finishing the play. Most of the time it’s him taking the wrong route to the ball carrier.
On a run play he’ll make his way into the backfield only to find the running back is long gone in the other direction, and on passes Bryan has a bad habit of taking a bad angle to the quarterback and giving him time to escape.
I don’t know if it’s a lack of football sense, not having as much of a nose for the football after only three years in college, or another contributing factor, but it’s a major concern. The lack of raw production he has on the stat sheet despite all of his good initial work on plays speaks volumes.
A mere total of nine tackles for loss and five sacks in 21 games over his final two seasons as a Gator provides hard evidence he lacks the finishing ability needed in the NFL. Even these numbers you could argue are somewhat inflated just by virtue of how many chances he gets to pad them.
The blazing hot starts he can get off to are a great weapon, but the longer the play goes on, the less effective Bryan is. His strength is very clearly at the beginning of the play. As the architecture of the play starts to change, and stamina becomes more of prevalent after engaging in combat for multiple seconds, Bryan’s game starts to leave something to be desired.
Bryan is something of a loose cannon in terms of not only how he plays, but also his actions on the field. It came to a head in the 2016 SEC Championship Game when he was ejected for a facemask penalty and subsequent body slam on Alabama running back Joshua Jacobs.
He had a roughing the passer penalty called on him in his final college game against Florida State, a fitting end to a Gator tenure where personal fouls were an unfortunate trademark for Bryan.
Right now, Taven Bryan is a disrupter, not a destructor. His upside is very high because of what he already has in his game though. A good coach and development program that can help him with better ball awareness and playing from whistle to whistle rather than between the whistles could go a long way for him. The talent is unquestionably there.
Draft Prediction: Selfishly as an Atlanta Falcons fan, I’d like to see him fall there at #26 for Dan Quinn to help develop him into a fearsome defensive tackle. I think it’s definitely possible for him to still be available there, but I think someone will take a flyer on his raw talent before that. He’s tough to mock for, but I say he’s off the board before the end of the first round.