Can 49ers DT Jullian Taylor return with force from torn ACL?

Jullian Taylor #77 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Jullian Taylor #77 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The 49ers lost reserve defensive tackle Jullian Taylor to a torn ACL last year, yet he’ll have a chance to provide an impact in 2020.

In the 2018 preseason, then-rookie San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Jullian Taylor was starting to make a name for himself as a promising depth member of what was becoming an elite defensive line.

Taylor, the Niners’ seventh-round NFL Draft pick that year out of Temple, flashed a lot of promise before finding himself scantly used over his first two years in the league. Early on, it looked as if he’d be one of those preseason standouts whose early successes simply didn’t translate over to the regular season.

In 2019, however, the 6-foot-5, 305-pound lineman made a more notable impact, registering nine tackles, a quarterback hit and four tackles for a loss over six games played and 102 total defensive snaps.

Jullian Taylor Defense & Fumbles Table

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Yet Taylor’s sophomore season was cut short by a torn ACL suffered during practice back in late December, forcing him to miss San Francisco’s playoff push and putting into question his availability to start the year after he landed on injured reserve.

If Taylor returns, however, there’s a good chance he can make a serious dent on the depth chart behind the elite-level foursome of first-round draftees up atop the D-line.

Niner Noise’s “Who Is?” series evaluates it further.

Why Jullian Taylor improves with 49ers in 2020

Taylor’s large-sized frame is more than adequate to plug up interior rushing lanes, yet it’s also equipped to handle strong-side pass-rushing efforts, too. Despite the limited number of snaps, Taylor managed to receive a solid 67.9 overall Pro Football Focus grade, distributed relatively evenly against both the pass and run.

This suggests Taylor has the pedigree to be a valuable backup. After losing veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Day to free agency, as well as the Niners having other injury concerns with their D-line depth chart, Taylor has an inside path to see an increased role this season.

Why Jullian Taylor regresses with 49ers in 2020

Injuries have been a part of Taylor’s career stretching back to his college days. He missed his sophomore year due to injury and was limited to just two games the following season in 2016.

One of the main factors working against Taylor is the fact his ACL tear took place late in the season. Taylor was already placed on the physically unable-to-perform (PUP) list just ahead of training camp, so it’s pretty clear San Francisco isn’t expecting him to be fully ready between now and Week 1.

The injury and subsequent recovery could ultimately limit the kind of impact Taylor has in 2020.

Projected role with 49ers

If a player on the PUP list is unable to practice by the start of Week 1, he can be placed on the regular-season PUP list but will ultimately miss the first six games by default.

There seems to be a strong chance of this happening. But given some of the other injury/depth concerns the Niners have along their defensive front, it could be more than beneficial to get Taylor back as reinforcement during the latter half of the season.

Still, that could cut into his overall production this year, and it’s anyone’s guess just how effective he’ll be on the field after missing so much ramp-up time.

But Taylor’s stock value is certainly higher than other D-linemen who are dealing with injury, particularly defensive tackle Kentavius Street who has dealt with his own ACL recovery stemming from a pre-draft injury back in 2018. Right now, Taylor is paralleling another lineman, Ronald Blair, whose ACL tear occurred earlier in the season.

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If Taylor bounces back well enough, though, he’ll likely assume one of those key backup roles for San Francisco and could see a noticeable increase in his regular-season stat count.