Darrell Taylor didn’t have to wait long to be taken in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Though he wasn’t a first round draft pick, the edge rusher out of Tennessee was quickly snatched up by the Seattle Seahawks with the 48th overall pick in the second round. In fact, the Seahawks even traded up to select Taylor.
“He (Taylor) was in consideration last night,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said on Friday in reference to the first round of the draft on Thursday night. “Our guys did a great job of working their tails off trying to keep getting up to try to acquire him, and it was pretty hot.
“We view him as one of the very, very top pass rushers in this (class).”
The Seahawks considered drafting Taylor with their first round pick but chose to draft Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks instead. As the second round progressed the following day, Seattle eventually found a trade partner in the New York Jets, moving up from No. 59 overall to No. 48.
“We were trying to go up pretty high to get him,” Schneider said. “Like I said, we considered taking him last night, so it was on for a long time. And then, finally, we’re able to get a deal done with the Jets.”
Taylor was in his hometown of Hopewell, Virginia while the Seahawks worked to move up in the draft to take him. The 6-foot-4, 267-pound pass rusher was with his immediate family while he watched the draft on TV as he waited for the phone call he had always dreamed of.
The newest addition to the Seahawks played with his hand in the dirt over the course of his first three years on Rocky Top. When Jeremy Pruitt took over as head coach, bringing his 3-4 defense to Tennessee, Taylor played outside linebacker during his redshirt junior and redshirt senior seasons and flourished. In Seattle, he’ll be back in a 4-3, but it’s a change he’s comfortable making
“At Tennessee I played mostly on the right side, especially when I got to outside ‘backer,” Taylor said. “But I could play on either side. I played right and left, that’s the way they taught us, right and left.
“I can play in a three-point, two-point, four-point, it doesn’t matter what stance I play in. I feel like I can rush out of any stance. And I feel like I can play on either side of the ball. If I’m on the right side or left side, I feel like I’m effective at both.”
Taylor had a terrific career at Tennessee. He led the Vols with 8.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss last season and also had 46 tackles and four pass breakups. The year prior, he had eight sacks and forced three fumbles in 2018.
The most impressive part of Taylor’s senior season is that he played through a stress fracture in his shin. Even with as strong of a season as it was with the injury, Taylor is convinced that it would even more impressive without the injury.
“I played through it and gritted through it, and I think I had a pretty good season,” Taylor said. “I made the decision to play in my bowl game, and that was one of the best decisions I made because it was my last game that I got to play with my teammates. It was really cool to have that moment and win that game, have that experience.
“Now I’m just training and getting ready to do what I do when I get to Seattle. I’m excited about it, the journey that I’m about to take that is in front of me.”
It’s not a huge surprise to Taylor that the Seahawks drafted him. Taylor was one of the last players Seattle brought in for a pre-draft visit before the COVID-19 crisis halted travel. Schneider noted that the visit allowed the organization to get to know him better. It also allowed them to be confident in his surgically repaired leg
“It’s exciting because they traded up to get me, so that means they must have really wanted me,” Taylor said. “I couldn’t thank them enough for it. I’m just ready to get to work. I’m excited they picked me to be their pass-rusher and to be part of their organization. I’m just ready to show them what I got.”