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2018 NFL Draft Preview: DT Taven Bryan

Matt Pendleton, Scout.com

How high is the NFL on the run-stuffing defensive tackle out of Florida?

The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series is back! Over the course of the eight weeks leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top prospects at each position. This week, we dive into the defensive line position. Today, we’ll take a look at defensive tackle Taven Bryan out of Florida.

College Career 

At Natrona County High School in Wyoming, Bryan was a standout offensive and defensive lineman. He was named first-team All-State at both positions but was named Conference Defensive Player of the Year for his play as a defensive end. Bryan eventually chose to attend the University of Florida where he was pushed down to defensive tackle.

After being redshirted in 2014, Bryan only started three games (played in 25 games though) over his first two seasons. In those games, he picked up 27 total tackles, 4.5 for loss, and 1.5 sacks. It wasn’t until his redshirt junior year that Bryan showed up on NFL radars.

Over the course of the 2017 season, Bryan started all 11 games the Gators played and was fifth in the team in total tackles (37) and tackles for loss (six), and third in sacks with four. Bryan was also voted to the All-SEC Second-Team by the AP

Pros

One year of starting experience at Florida doesn’t give much of a sample size, but Bryan made quite the impression this past season. What I really like about Bryan was his explosiveness off the snap.  

Taven Bryan vs Florida State 2017

This is a play that should get NFL teams excited about Bryan’s future. On the snap of the football, he shot into the A-gap before either the center or guard could really react. Bryan performed a great rip move to keep the guard’s hands off him and bent nicely around to make the quarterback uncomfortable. 

Not only is Bryan fast, he’s strong as well. At the combine, he was able to lift 30 reps of 225 pounds on the bench, but that doesn’t do justice to his on-the-field strength.

Taven Bryan vs Florida State 2017

How the FSU quarterback completed this pass is beyond me. Bryan does an amazing job getting up the pads of the left guard and just driving him back into the thrower. Bryan’s leverage and drive power are on full display here. 

Cons

You can’t teach athletic ability and Bryan has plenty of that. Where he struggles, though, is in the teachable parts of his game. Analysts have pointed to Bryan’s lack of production in Gainesville despite being the best defender on the field. 

To his defense, interior defensive linemen aren’t going to light up the stat sheet. Bryan also lacks a natural feel for the position. There were a number of plays where Bryan just simply took himself out of position to make a play.

Taven Bryan vs. Kentucky (2017)

I’m having a hard time figuring out what Bryan (second from the bottom of the line) is doing here. On the snap, he dips his head and looks to split the guard and tackle. However, he keeps riding outside where his defensive end is already occupying space which creates a huge hole for the running back. Luckily for Florida, the corner and defensive end make the tackle before the play gets going.

Taven Bryan vs Florida State 2017

This is another odd play to me. There’s a line stunt where Bryan goes to the outside. I don’t know if it’s the play design or Bryan not having the right feel for it, but he keeps drifting to the outside. He dips his shoulder trying to get around the edge but his eyes leave the backfield. Again Bryan leaves a massive hole on the left side when he should have planted his foot and taken on the block to try and close the gap. 

Bryan seemed to have an issue on blocks in which his speed and strength weren’t enough to beat the offensive lineman. His pass rush repertoire is lacking when his initial push-pull move doesn’t work. This isn’t a major concern and is definitely something Bryan will learn at the next level.

Verdict

Bryan is a tremendous athlete that has caught the NFL’s eye. He’s still a decently raw prospect that needs to learn and grow in the position. Out of the defensive tackles in this class, Bryan might have the best speed off the snap out of the bunch. He’s also got the strength to stand up offensive linemen and drive them in the backfield during either the run or pass. 

Taven Bryan has a legitimately elite first step. Has issues with running himself out of plays and getting off blocks.

Just 5.5 sacks and 10.5 TFLs in college. (Maurice Hurst had 13.5/32.) Still, he has a real high upside if you trust your DL coach.

Raw but clearly talented pic.twitter.com/nrReeXF2N2

— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) March 23, 2018

There is still development needed in terms of technique. While Bryan may be a refined run stopper, his pass rushing moves leave a lot to be desired. Defensive tackles don’t usually have the most refined pass rush moves but I would like to see Bryan work a little bit when rushing the quarterback. There were times in his film when an offensive lineman would get a good block on Bryan and completely take him out of the play. His instincts are lacking as well, but with the right coaching, Bryan could be a dominant defensive tackle for years to come. 

Best Fit

NFL.com’s Mike Mayock has Bryan as the fourth best interior defensive lineman and mock drafts are all different in where the Florida prospect will end up. SB Nation and Mel Kiper Jr. have Bryan going to the Lions at 20, CBS Sports have the Patriots taking him at 31, Todd McShay has him going to the Cowboys at 19, and Chad Reuter of NFL.com has Bryan dropping in the second round to the Patriots. 

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli with #Gators DT Taven Bryan. pic.twitter.com/u2vti68aWm

— Ryan Young (@RyanYoungSEC) March 28, 2018

Bryan is a little bit too raw for me to consider him a no-doubt first-rounder. I see the appeal in his athleticism and upside but I think he’s more of an early day two prospect. That being said there are a number of teams at the back end of the first round that could use a player like Bryan. Both the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints have a need on the interior line. With picks number 26 and 27, I think Bryan would offer a good balance of need and value for his position. 

Edited by Jeremy Losak.

SQuiz
What pick was the first defensive tackle taken in 2017?
Created 4/2/18
  1. 27
  2. 19
  3. 35
  4. 55

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