San Francisco 49ers seventh-round NFL draftee, defensive tackle Jullian Taylor, has been turning some heads in training camp. Has he a legitimate shot at the 53-man roster in 2018? Signs point to yes.
For the second consecutive season, the San Francisco 49ers appear to have hit big on a seventh-round pick in the NFL Draft.
The 6-foot-5, 280-pound prospect likely wasn’t going to be slated for 53-man roster duties his rookie season. The Niners had plenty of depth along the defensive line, and Taylor’s best chances were likely going to be on the practice squad in year one.
However, that all changed thanks to a hamstring injury to fourth-year pro defensive tackle Arik Armstead, who is still listed week-to-week on San Francisco’s training camp injury report.
The Niners were pegging Armstead to play the left defensive end (big end) spot this season. With the veteran out, Taylor ended up seeing a lot of the first-team reps here and made the most of his opportunities.
On Aug. 5, Bay Area News Group’s Dieter Kurtenbach (h/t the Sacramento Bee) pointed out how disruptive Taylor had been while working with this first-team group. By numerous other accounts, he’s worked well in both the pass rush and against the run too — always a good sign, particularly given the 49ers’ weaknesses getting to the quarterback last season.
Taylor’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by both the coaching staff and his teammates either.
“Jullian’s gonna be a great player,” fellow defensive tackle DeForest Buckner told reporters last Monday, via 49ers Hub’s Scott Young. “He’s working on technique and using his hands. I think once he gets better with his hands he’s going to be a problem.”
Similarly, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has been impressed, although he’s not ready to anoint Taylor a starter just yet.
“I’m going to hold on to that one,” Saleh said, via 49ers Webzone. “He’s still got to go through games. He’s still got to go through the preseason games and show all that stuff. His trajectory is up. But, as long as he maintains that violence and all that stuff, he’s going in the right direction. We can revisit it in another couple of weeks. He still has to make the team, so we’ll start with that one first.”
Taylor managed to get his first in-game reps on Thursday night during the 49ers’ exhibition opener against the Dallas Cowboys.
He didn’t disappoint either.
Taylor, who ended up playing the entire game (rare for even fringe players on the depth chart), finished the contest with four tackles, two quarterback hits and a sack.
Now, the question is whether or not Taylor can crack the 53-man roster. Added looks in camp certainly indicate he’s on the stronger side of the bubble. But he’ll still have to compete with other depth D-linemen, such as Sheldon Day and Ronald Blair, to carve out a spot.
San Francisco could easily keep all three, especially if Armstead’s injury lingers into the regular season.
Even if it doesn’t, it’s looking more and more like Taylor will wind up being around when Week 1 kicks off this September.