Leonard Taylor has elected to forego his senior year in college and turn pro. The Miami defensive tackle is set to declare for the 2024 draft, per Susan Miller Degnan and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
Taylor had considerable expectations coming out of high school. He was the top-rated defensive tackle in his recruiting class, and the five-star’s decision to remain in Florida was believed to be one which would pay dividends. He did not always deliver on the promise showcased by his size and athleticism, but he is still regarded as an intriguing NFL prospect.
A true junior, Taylor saw his production take a step back in 2023. He posted 19 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, along with one sack across 10 games. Last season, by contrast, he demonstrated a better skillset as a pass-rusher with 10.5 TFLs and three sacks. The 6-3, 305-pounder has showcased his athleticism at times during his tenure with the Hurricanes, but questions remain regarding how capable he is of reaching his ceiling.
As the Herald reports notes, Taylor admitted to conditioning issues which affected his performance on the field. That will no doubt be a factor NFL teams heavily scrutinize in the pre-draft process, though he will have opportunities to demonstrate improvement in that regard. In addition to the annual NFL Combine, underclassmen will be allowed to participate in all-star games – including the Senior Bowl – beginning this year.
In his pre-season draft rankings, Dane Brugler of The Athletic slotted Taylor 34th overall and second amongst defensive tackles (behind only Illinois’ Jer’Zhan Newton, who has declared). While Taylor’s underwhelming statistical output in 2023 will likely hurt his stock, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has him rated No. 3 at the DT spot. With teams around the NFL always looking for a pass-rush impact from the defensive interior, Taylor could be a name to watch in the coming months.