49ers’ 2018 ‘Who Is?’ series: Defensive tackle Jullian Taylor

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 30: Kyle Postma #3 of the Houston Cougars runs the ball against Jullian Taylor #94 of the Temple Owls in the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on September 30, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Houston Cougars defeated the Temple Owls 20-13. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 30: Kyle Postma #3 of the Houston Cougars runs the ball against Jullian Taylor #94 of the Temple Owls in the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on September 30, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Houston Cougars defeated the Temple Owls 20-13. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Niner Noise’s 2018 “Who Is?” series looks at rookie defensive tackle Jullian Taylor and what he’ll have to do to make the San Francisco 49ers roster his inaugural season.

The San Francisco 49ers reinforced their depth along the defensive line by adding former Temple defensive tackle Jullian Taylor in Round 7 of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Taylor, 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds, had a productive senior year in college, working his way up to starter’s status and logging 41 total tackles, 11 of which came for a loss.

Jullian Taylor Defense & Fumbles Table
TackTackTackTackTack
YearSchoolConfClassPosGSoloAstTotLossSk
2014TempleAmericanFRDL13141.51.0
*2015TempleAmericanSODL
*2016TempleAmericanJRDL25380.00.0
*2017TempleAmericanSRDL1222194111.00.0
CareerTemple30235312.51.0

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 7/3/2018.

With D-line rotation an integral part of defensive success in today’s NFL, the Niners hope Taylor’s impressive physical prowess might be worth some value at the next level despite his relative lack of experience on game days.

Still, San Francisco’s depth chart along the D-line is already crowded, meaning Taylor will have to distinguish himself between now and Week 1 to earn consideration for the 53-man roster.

What will he have to do to cement a role going forward?

Why Jullian Taylor Improves in 2018

In terms of size, Taylor is an excellent specimen for a 3-technique or 5-technique within San Francisco’s base 4-3 front, more likely the former.

Taylor had an impressive pro day too, logging a solid 4.94 40-yard time and benching 29 reps of 225 pounds. One of the things standing out on his NFL.com scouting report was how low Taylor’s pad level gets, thereby increasing his leverage and working effectively into his opposing blocker.

Where he’ll likely earn value at the NFL level will be as an interior run stuffer. The 49ers lost defensive tackle Tank Carradine to free agency this offseason, which could lend to the idea Taylor develops into someone the Niners rotate in in this base formation.

Why He Regresses

Despite Taylor’s strength, the same scouting report also noted how he lacks strength in his lower body. The ability to drive from the legs is critical for any defensive lineman at the pro level, and he might have a lot of difficulty overworking single blockers and creating penetration.

It’s probably another reason why Taylor wasn’t much of an interior pass-rusher during his days at Temple — just one career collegiate sack back in 2014.

Additionally, there’s the durability questions. As shown in his stat chart above, Taylor has just 15 games under his belt, missing a good deal of time due to various knee injuries. These could be why his lower-body power is lacking, but it won’t get any easier at the pro level.

San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers /

San Francisco 49ers

Chances of Making the 49ers’ 53-Man Roster in 2018

They’re not great, but the Niners do have some room for an interior run stuffer this season. Defensive tackles Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas will likely hold down the left defensive “big” end — Armstead on base downs with Thomas moving over from the LEO in sub packages.

In addition to those names, Taylor will have to compete with backup linemen Sheldon Day and Ronald Blair, who can man multiple positions along the defensive front.

This means Taylor will likely spend a lot of time in training camp working with the third-string unit. It’s not a bad position to be in, particularly for a seventh-round pick. But the chances of him making the 53-man roster remain somewhat slim.

The best-case scenario for him would be solidifying his role as a solid run-stopping option, capable of providing above-average backup abilities.

It might not happen right away, though, especially if the Niners want to see whether or not he has the durability to withstand the increased pressure at this level. We’ll likely see him later in games this preseason, possibly given a heavy workload during San Francisco’s exhibition finale.

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After that, the fringe end of the roster or the practice squad would be the likeliest of guesses.