By: Alfredo Flores (Twitter: @ChxckenAlfredo)
Player Analysis: Trent Taylor
Coming out of Louisiana Tech University with the 34th pick in the 5th round (177th overall) of the 2017 NFL draft the San Francisco 49ers selected Trent Taylor, a 5’8” 181 lb wide receiver. Before spending the previous 4 years at Louisiana Tech, Trent attended Evangel Christian Academy where he lettered in football and basketball. While at Evangel Christian, Taylor received all-city, all-district, and all-state honors in football, and was also named the state championship game’s MVP. During Trent’s Junior and Senior seasons, he totaled 172 (6.14 RPG) receptions, 2,725 (15.8 YPR), and 38 touchdowns (1.36 TDPG) in 28 games. Evangel won a pair of 2-A state championship titles in Taylor’s time at the Academy.
Trent came in to Louisiana Tech and played as a true freshman, where he served as a reserve wide receiver and a part-time punt returner. Over 12 games, Taylor caught 28 passes on 38 targets which translates to a 74% catch rate. Trent turned 28 passes (on an 8.48% target share) into 260 yards and 2 touchdowns. Taylor was able to make 2 or more catches in 9 straight games, breaking the 50 yard mark twice. In Trent’s two games where he broke the 50 yard mark, he posted season highs in catches (6 vs Southern Mississippi) and yards (54 vs Kansas). In Taylor’s brief time as a returner, he returned 6 punts for 53 yards, with a season-long 24 yard return. Trent did not commit any turnovers on the season, but he did commit one penalty: a personal foul for 17 yards.
Receiving: 28-260-2 (9.3 YPR)
Punt Return: 6-53-0 (8.83 YPR)
Penalties: 1-17 (Personal Foul)
Coming back to Louisiana Tech for his sophomore season, Trent saw a larger share of the receiver role and more consistent time as a punt returner. Over 14 games, Taylor saw an increase of 50 targets, making 36 more catches (73% catch rate). Trent’s targets per game nearly doubled while he saw a 10% increase in target share, a jump up to 18.97%. With an increase all around, Trent posted 834 yards (574 more than last season) with 9 touchdowns. Taylor ended up leading the team in all three main categories; receptions, yards, and touchdowns. In a game against Western Kentucky, Taylor posted a season-high 9 catches and a tied a career-high in touchdowns with 3. Against Rice, Taylor posted a season-high 120 yards on 7 catches while also posting 2 touchdowns. Trent posted 7 of his 9 touchdowns in a span of 4 games. As a punt returner, Trent returned 22 punts for 168 yards with 0 touchdowns. Taylors career-high in punt returns and yards came in a game against Texas-El Paso where he returned 5 punts for 62 yards. Taylor did commit a couple bad plays on the season having lost two fumbles and one penalty for 5 yards on a false start. Taylor ended up being a second team All-Conference USA selection and received an honorable mention for All-Louisiana.
Receiving: 64-834-9 (13.0 YPR)
Punt Return: 22-168-0 (7.64 YPR)
Penalties: 1-5 (False Start)
In what is considered his breakout season with the Bulldogs, Taylor paced the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns once again. Taylor saw an even larger target share at 27.04%. On 129 targets, Trent caught 99 passes (third most in FBS) for 1,282 yards (12.9 YPR) and 9 more touchdowns. Taylor’s catch rate increased by 4%, up to 77%. Taylor caught at least 5 passes in 10 games and caught at least 10 or more in 5 games, while posting 100+ yards in 7 of 13 games. Taylor had a season-high 13 catches (on 14 targets against Texas-San Antonio), 149 yards receiving (14.9 YPR against Arkansas State), and 2 touchdowns in one game (vs Rice). Trent returned 13 punts for 83 yards (6.38 YPR) and 0 touchdowns. He had another 2 fumble season, matching the previous season, along with an illegal procedure penalty for 5 yards. Taylor was a first team All-Conference USA, first team All-Louisiana, preseason All-Conference USA, and put on the Biletnikoff watch list.
Receiving: 99-1282-9 (12.9 YPR)
Punt Return: 13-83-0 (6.38 YPR)
Penalties: 1-5 (Illegal Procedure)
After a breakout junior season, Trent followed it up with an even better senior season. Taylor racked up a nation leading 1,803 yards. His 136 receptions (second most in the conference behind ECU’s Zay Jones) on 168 targets – an 81% catch rate – led the team and were a career high, posting a 30.94% target share. Taylor scored 12 touchdowns on the year, but fell short of Carlos Henderson’s 19 for the team lead. Trent committed one penalty for 5 yards on a false start and a pair of lost fumbles for the year. Starting out hot early in the year, Trent was awarded C-USA Offensive Player of the Week honors after an 11 catch/178 yards (16.2 YPR)/3 td performance. Following up 2 weeks later, Taylor made 17 receptions on 22 targets for 210 yards (12.4 YPR) and a pair of touchdowns against Middle Tennessee State.
In his final game, he posted a new career high in yards with 233 on 12 catches (13 targets) – 19.4 YPR – and a pair of touchdowns against then 25th ranked Navy. Taylor returned 17 punts on the season for 178 yards (10.47 YPR) and 0 touchdowns. To top of Trent’s career, he went 1 for 1 as a kicker with a PAT make against Texas-San Antonio. Trent was a Biletnikoff award finalist, a first team All-Conference USA selection, first team All-Louisiana selection, and received an invite to the senior bowl. Taylor is currently the overall leader in Louisiana Tech school history in receptions (327) and second overall in yards (4,179) & touchdowns (32) behind Troy Edwards.
Receiving: 136-1803-12 (13.3 YPR)
Punt Return: 17-178-0 (10.47 YPR)
Penalties: 1-5 (False Start)
I found comparable in measurements in one former and one current NE Patriot receivers.
The new Shanahan regime has started and sitting atop the WR depth chart is Pierre Garcon, followed by Marquise Goodwin, Jeremy Kerley, and Aldrick Robinson. Pierre Garcon signed a deal this offseason for 5 years, but with club options following the 2018 season, so he is the current WR1 for at least the next two seasons. Goodwin and Robinson are signed through the 2018 season, and Kerley’s contract is good through 2019 but has no guaranteed money beyond the 2017 season. Taking a look at production, Kerley was the biggest producer behind Garcon with 667 yards and is the only one of these wide receivers listed that played for SF prior to this year. Goodwin, while playing for Buffalo, posted 431 yards on 29 receptions. Robinson posted 323 yds on 20 receptions. While Goodwin poses more of a deep threat/WR2, Taylor is currently the backup slot behind Kerley. Another note to consider is Shanahan’s comment about Taylor being “very good at separating” from defenders in OTAs/Minicamp. Trent should open up the season as the punt returner; it will likely be his biggest chance for playing time barring injury to someone above him on the depth chart.
Taylor is going undrafted in 12 team 4 round rookie draft (avg: 67th pick), meaning college football’s top WR in terms of yardage from 2016 is being left in the UFA pool. With a mind like Shanahan’s – 2016 Falcons team saw 13 players score receiving touchdowns – Taylor could be a candidate for playing time. Taylor has some great qualities: above average instincts in space, will adjust routes based on defensive alignment, will work through traffic for his break point and will drop his shoulder into cornerbacks who want to challenge him, has an extremely low drop rate, has toughness to work over the middle, and explodes up field after the catch.
There are always things that can be worked on though: finding softer spots in zone coverage, ball security, and the pace of his routes. Bottom line here is at Louisiana Tech Taylor was a high volume target. He can be one in Shanahan’s offense due to his great hands and toughness to go over the middle and make the tough grabs. Trent is another guy I’m rostering where I can late, and you should too if you get the opportunity based on all the upside he has to offer.