Troubled talent

Troubled talent
April 21, 2011, 5:01 pm
Share This Post

Thursday April, 21 2011, 12:55 p.m.


By Tom Worgo

Two defensive tackles projected to be high picks in the NFL Draft, North Carolinas Marvin Austin and Baylors Phil Taylor, have been under intense scrutiny.

Both experienced significant off-the-field trouble.

Austin, a graduate of Ballou High in Washington, D.C., sat out all of last year after North Carolina dismissed him from the team for receiving improper benefits from an agent. He accepted trips to Florida and California.

Taylor, who attended Gwynn Park, in Brandywine, Md., was kicked off Penn States squad in 2008 after being charged with felony aggravated assault when he got in a fight at a fraternity function.

Charges were dropped, but he ended up transferring to Baylor.

They both made bad decisions, Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said. They deserve scrutiny. Anytime there is a character incident, you have to get not only the schools side, but the kids side. You have to mesh it all together and come up with your opinions and consensus.

It looks like Austins problems will hurt him more.

ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. predicted Austin will be taken at the end of Round 2 (62nd overall) by Chicago and Taylor late in the first round (24th) by New Orleans.

If Austin played this year, I think he would have been a first-round pick, Kiper said. He needed to answer more questions about being dominant on a week-toweek basis.

Austin, 22, has spent the past four months rebuilding his reputation. He excelled at the East-West Shrine Game in January, the NFL Combine in February and North Carolinas Pro Day in March.

Austin, 6 feet 2, 309 pounds, helped himself most at the combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.84 seconds. He followed that up by bench pressing 225 pounds 38 times - the second-highest number of repetitions recoded there.

Marvin was never in shape here, North Carolina defensive coordinator Everett Withers said. Now, hes in the best shape I have ever seen him. I think when you start thinking about your livelihood and what its going to produce, you certainly have to improve your image.

Austin, North Carolina coach Butch Davis prize recruit in 2007, put together a solid record of achievement in three seasons and seemed to be on his way to being a surefire first-round pick.

He started his sophomore and juniors years.

His junior year was outstanding. He finished with 46 tackles and four sacks.

If you can get comfortable with an off-the-field issue, which I think a lot of teams have, I think he is a top-10 talent based on his skill level and production, said NFL Network studio analyst Mike Lombardi, a former Oakland general manager.

Horitz agrees.

He tracks down the screen from behind like a linebacker, he said. He is a penetrator. He can pass rush. His pursuit speed is phenomenal.

But Austin needs to play with more intensity as a pro than he did with the Tar Heels, according to Withers.

When Marvin plays the way he can, he is very active and plays with a high motor, the coach said. There have been times when you see it on the field. I think Marvin has a tremendous love of the game. He really does. You would love to see it all the time.

Taylor, 6-3, 340, is the ideal size for a 3-4 nose tackle.

His outstanding ability to stuff the run and take on double teams naturally makes him a coveted player with so many clubs employing the scheme.

Hes considered the top nose tackle available, visiting eight teams and working out for four more.

He plays the game with unique strength and power, Lombardi said. He has the rare ability to shed blockers and hold up at the point of attack. He could be a force in the running game.

Taylor, 23, stayed out of trouble at Baylor, where he started for two seasons. He earned a spot on the Big 12 Commissioners Honor Roll as a senior, and he impressed many observers with his stellar play.

During his senior year, Taylor totaled 62 tackles, including seven for a loss, and had two sacks. He showed his athleticism, lining up at fullback in several games.

Taylor continued to impress at the Senior Bowl and combine. He ran the 40 in 5.9 seconds and benched 225 pounds 31 times.

Taylor is unmovable, Kiper said. You cant get off the line of scrimmage, and he will free up your linebackers.