Heading into this year’s NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders should be looking for players to bolster their secondary. The Raiders could use both safeties and cornerbacks and luckily, Nebraska’s Cam Taylor-Britt could be a two-for-one and help fill both of those needs.
DB | Nebraska | 5’ 10.5” and 200 pounds | Montgomery, AL | October 15th, 1999 (22.3)
Cam Taylor-Britt came to Nebraska as a three-star recruit and the 57th-ranked athlete in the country for the 2018 class, per 247 sports. He ended lining up at cornerback in Lincoln, playing sparingly as a true freshman before locking down a starting spot as a sophomore and every year after that. Primarily playing as a wide corner in the Cornhusker’s zone-heavy scheme, the Montgomery, Alabama native racked up 140 tackles, five interceptions, 17 pass breakups and allowed a 59.2 completion percentage and 1,123 receiving yards when targeted in college.
- When he does get his hands on receivers in press coverage, he has the strength to widen them towards the sideline
- Good footwork to play head up pre-snap and shift to one side to get a leverage advantage post-snap at the line of scrimmage
- In off coverage, he works to get a leverage advantage right after the snap to force wide receivers to change the aiming point of their route stem on the fly
- Very quick to read screens and can get off of blocks to make TFLs or tackles at/near the line of scrimmage
- More effective in man coverage near the red zone because he doesn’t have to worry about getting beat deep and has the size, strength and balance to hold up against physical route runners
- Effective communicator to execute switches when pattern matching
- Impressive eye discipline and peripheral vision when playing zone coverage. He can read the quarterback’s eyes and use his periphs to find receivers coming into his area, and this also allows him to read and anticipate throws.
- Natural hands catcher for a defensive back and has shown the ability to make one-handed interceptions
- Is effective at punching out the ball when tackling in the open field
- Against the run, he understands how he fits in, in run fits, recognizing when he has to stay outside a wideout’s block and play contain and when he can cut underneath the block to fill the alley
- Physical when taking on blocks as a run defender and he has the strength to hold his ground against tight ends
- Great hand placement and his strength allows him to shed wide receiver’s blocks with ease
- He has some pop when tackling and isn’t afraid to tackle high and throw his body around, meaning he doesn’t just dive at ankles like a lot of other defensive backs
Areas of Improvement:
- In press coverage, he has slow hands and seems hesitant to jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage, often landing his punch with wide hand placement
- He’s quick to open his hips and bail when playing soft press coverage
- Needs to be more physical in the five-yard window to force reroutes as an underneath defender in zone coverage
- He will get beat deep due to a lack of speed, and he doesn’t have the hip fluidity to execute a quick speed turn and get in a proper trail position when playing press-man coverage. This also forces him to play with a lot of cushion in cover three, which opens up the short routes and makes him susceptible to getting beat by curls and comebacks.
- Bites on double moves and jab steps from receivers
- His change of direction is pretty rough, he’ll struggle to stay in phase man-to-man against sharp route runners in the NFL. Also, his ability to click and close is held back by this.
- When playing cover three, he can get greedy and try to undercut receivers instead of staying outside leveraged and forcing them into his safety help
- He can be a little early when coming downhill to make a play on the ball, leading to pass interference penalties
- Has a habit of not breaking down and bringing his feet when tackling, leading to some missed open-field tackles when coming downhill and driving on a route
- 2019: Minor undisclosed injury (missed 1/2 a game)
NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board rank: 197th, 6th round
I’m admittedly more bullish on Taylor-Britt than the consensus seems to be. To me, he belongs in the fourth-round or early Day 3 category, partially because I think he can add value as a safety at the next level with how well he plays the run. My biggest concern is if he’s enough of an athlete to cover smaller/faster wide receivers at the next level.
Schematically, Taylor-Britt is a bit of a conundrum. I can’t trust him to stay in phase man-to-man at the next level, and he has several flaws when playing cover three that could hamper his ability to play in a zone-based system. His best fit is as a versatile defensive back who comes off the bench for a team that likes to run a lot of cover two and four.
What do we need to know?
How quickly can he learn how to play safety? I’ve hinted at this above, but Taylor-Britt might actually have a better NFL career playing as a new-aged, safety/linebacker hybrid type of player. However, he doesn’t have a ton of experience playing that role — only taking about 13.2 percent of his snaps in the box last season, per PFF.
Fit with the Raiders:
In a way, Taylor-Britt was made for new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s system. Graham is known for taking versatile players in the secondary and mixing up his looks to simultaneously confuse quarterbacks and hide his players’ weaknesses. Again, it’s somewhat dependent on how well the former Cornhusker can pick up a new position but on paper, that sounds like the perfect type of scheme for him.
Las Vegas is also in need of some depth in the secondary. If we’re assuming Taylor-Britt is a fourth- or fifth-round prospect, then he should undoubtedly be in play for the Raiders with either of their three picks in that range.
Solid run defense here from Cam Taylor-Britt (RCB):— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 17, 2022
-Playing press & gets physical w/ WR run blocking
-Hands right to the chest, gets extension & sheds w/ ease when RB bounces
-Forces RB wide & helps limit this to a short gain
Playing the run as a CB is all about mentality & we see that from Cam Taylor-Britt:— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 17, 2022
-Eyes locked on WR & recognizes stock block to read run
-Shifts momentum forward & w/o hesitation, sticks his nose in there to go make a tackle
Love Taylor-Britt’s eye discipline here:— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 17, 2022
-Playing C3 & has WR running go route
-Reads QB’s eyes & sees QB wants to hit TE on the seam
-Drives on the seam & is in position to make a play on the ball
(Does have to work on timing to avoid PI)
Another ex of Cam Taylor-Britt reading the QB’s eyes, and he gets the pick on the overthrow here— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 17, 2022
Cam Taylor-Britt (LCB) can lay the wood too— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 17, 2022
Just all instincts here from Cam Taylor-Britt (ROLB):— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 17, 2022
-Blitzes off the edge & beats the TE
-Recognizes & senses something is up on the trick play
-Breaks down, redirects & gets a sack