New Orleans Saints 2016 NFL Draft Profile: Taylor Decker
With the 2016 NFL Draft drawing closer every day, we’re continuing to focus on the top available college prospects for the New Orleans Saints. Taylor Decker is in the mix to be one of the top offensive linemen selected, and he may be available when the Saints make their first selection.
The Ohio State Buckeyes saw an exodus of talent this spring as nearly a dozen prospects bolted for the 2016 NFL Draft. Among them may be one of the best tackles in the nation in Taylor Decker, who was arguably one of the Buckeyes’ best players last year on a team studded with stars. We continue our New Orleans Saints draft profile coverage with Decker.
Weight: 310 pounds
Arm length: 33 3/4 inches
Hands: 10 inches
Scouting Combine Results:
40-yard dash: 5.23 seconds
Bench press (225 LBS): 20 reps
Broad jump: 101 inches
3-cone drill: 7.70 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.76 seconds
Opinions are split on just where Decker ranks in this year’s class at tackle, but he’s widely-considered as worthy of a top-fifteen pick. Decker is an athlete at tackle with tremendous size, length, and strength to win against a variety of opponents. He started on Ohio State’s line for three years and was the clear leader of the unit in 2015.
Decker allowed fifteen pressures in 2015 (two sacks, three hurries, and ten hits on 364 pass-blocking snaps for a Pass-Blocking Efficiency rating of 98.6 per College Football Focus). He paved the way for Ezekiel Elliot’s 3,700-combined rushing yards the last two years (coming at a brisk clip of 6.6 yards-per-carry) and generally made life miserable for opposing linemen in the trenches. Decker was only penalized four times in 2015, despite playing nearly 900 snaps, which speaks to his discipline and solid technique.
There are few better run blockers in this draft class, and not many offensive linemen have the natural fluidity Decker uses to move around the field. Decker’s background as a high school basketball player has given him an edge on getting upfield in a hurry and thinking on the move. While he’s played tackle for several years and has the frame the NFL values at the position, he could be moved inside to guard where his uncanny movement skills on pull-blocks could be devastating. Decker is a perfectly serviceable tackle, but his strengths may be maximized by a position-switch.
How he fits the New Orleans Saints:
The New Orleans Saints don’t have a need at offensive tackle after investing last year’s first-round pick in Andrus Peat (who is expected to win the starting job at right tackle from tenth-year veteran Zach Strief this spring), and with a mega-deal looming for elite left tackle Terron Armstead, who is probably the third-best in the game at his position. So how would Taylor Decker fit into the Saints’ plans?
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Decker could be the answer the New Orleans Saints are looking for at guard. The interior line play fell off in a big way last year as Jahri Evans’ body broke down and a platoon of Peat, Tim Lelito, and Senio Kelemete failed to deliver opposite him. Drew Brees felt the pressure and was sacked 31 times last season, only the second time in his career as a Saint he’s been put on the ground 30 or more times (2013 being the other instance).
Decker has the length, body control, technique, and pedigree valued by the NFL, so it could be hard to see him falling to the 12th overall pick. But with the number of quarterbacks rising to the top of the draft class and Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil reigning as the top-rated tackle, Decker could very well fall out of the top ten picks and into New Orleans.
The transition from tackle to guard would have a learning curve and could arguably squander some of Decker’s talents, but he’d probably be the best player available at the Saints’ pick and could definitely help batten down a battered offensive line. Don’t be surprised if his name is called next Thursday when the New Orleans Saints are on the clock.
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