Earlier this week, the Jets signed wide receiver Malik Taylor to their practice squad. Today, we break down Taylor in detail.
The 27-year old Taylor is listed at 6’3” and 220 pounds and was undrafted out of Ferris State in 2019. Taylor has played in 25 NFL games, starting one. He has caught seven passes for 80 yards and a touchdown and posted five tackles and an 18.9 yards per kickoff return average on special teams.
Taylor was not a highly sought after recruit out of high school, so he ended up at a Division II school, Ferris State, where he redshirted his first season in 2014.
In his redshirt freshman season in 2015, Taylor was in a backup role, with just six catches. However, he broke out and had a thousand-yard season in 2016.
In 2017, he only had 906 yards but set career marks with 61 receptions and six touchdowns to earn all-conference honors. However, he was unable to build on this in 2018, as he missed several games due to injury and ended up with just seven catches.
Taylor wasn’t initially able to find an NFL team after going undrafted but the Bucs signed him right before their rookie camp only to then release him right afterwards.
Right before training camp, Taylor was picked up by the Packers and made a good enough impression to land a spot on their practice squad after final cuts. He then signed a futures deal and made the 53-man roster out of camp in 2020.
Over the next two years, he played in 25 games, mostly contributing on special teams, but did see some action on offense with seven catches, including one for a touchdown. However, he was injured in camp in 2022 and released with an injury settlement.
The Jets brought Taylor in for a workout on Monday and announced that they had signed him to their practice squad on Tuesday.
Now let’s take a look at what Taylor brings to the table, divided into categories.
Despite being listed at 6’3”, Taylor actually measured closer to 6’1” during the pre-draft process, although he does have decent size which he uses well.
At his pro day workout, Taylor ran a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash and posted good explosiveness and agility numbers. However, he only managed 11 bench press reps.
Taylor has played mostly on the outside with the Packers, but also occasionally went in motion or lined up in the slot, as an H-back or in the backfield.
He also played some running back in high school and gained nine yards on a jet sweep while with the Packers.
Since leaving college, Taylor hasn’t really shown an ability to get behind the defense but has still proven that he can be a downfield threat on jump balls or back shoulder throws.
On this throw, he runs a go route and is able to locate the ball early so he can go up and make a play on it.
Despite playing at a level where his combination of size and athleticism was generally enough to get him open without requiring too much route-running technique, Taylor has obviously worked hard at these skills and looked particularly good in preseason in 2021 where his 185 receiving yards led the entire NFL.
He displays an ability to break down quickly, use deception at the break in his routes and set up his man so he can use his body to box him out after the break.
On this play, he competes well against press coverage, using physicality but also displaying good technique with his hands and in his breakdown.
Since his rookie year, Taylor has caught 21 of 25 targets in regular and preseason action for an impressive 84 percent catch rate. He shows an ability to hold onto contested catches and go up to get it.
Although he generally catches the ball cleanly, Taylor reportedly had some issues with drops in practice. In game action, he did have one easy catch that he bobbled, as well as this drop.
Taylor’s skill-set makes it seem like he would be a good red zone threat, but wasn’t a dominant player in the red zone in college as he only had 12 total touchdowns in four seasons. He did have this touchdown catch at the NFL level though.
After the catch
Taylor hasn’t really had a chance to display his abilities after the catch at the NFL level, other than slipping a tackle for a few extra yards on one play and falling forwards to get to the marker on another.
However, he’s a player with experience as a running back and kick returner and he displayed some of those skills at times in college, so he perhaps has some untapped potential in this area.
Ball security hasn’t been an issue for Taylor, who fumbled just once during his college career.
Taylor has the size to be an effective blocker but hasn’t generally graded out well in that area. He initially makes a good block on this screen but fails to sustain it, which is his primary issue.
He was flagged for an illegal block in the back penalty while blocking on special teams with the Packers.
As noted, Taylor has shown some physicality when trying to get open, fighting for yards after the catch or blocking but could perhaps bring more to the table in these areas. He shows a good ability to catch the ball over the middle on this play.
Taylor’s contributions on special teams are what kept him on the Packers’ roster. He covered kickoffs, played as a gunner and a vice on punts and contributed both as a blocker and a return man on the kickoff return unit.
When covering kicks, Taylor racked up eight special teams tackles in college and five at the NFL level.
His best season as a return man in college saw him average 31.7 yards per return with a long of 54 in 2016. At the NFL level, he averaged less than 19 yards per return.
Instincts and Intelligence
Taylor reportedly picked up the Packers’ system well and shows an ability to improvise when a play gets extended.
He had one false start at the NFL level and showed poor awareness on this play, leading to a costly turnover in a game the Packers ultimately lost 13-7.
Taylor has done well to make it to the NFL despite not playing in a big college program. The coaches praised his hard work and focus on the details to keep improving.
His on-field discipline has been good with just two penalties in preseason and regular season action.
Taylor had major issues with a hamstring injury throughout his senior year which hurt his chances of getting drafted.
With the Packers, he missed a few games on Covid-19 reserve and then was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury at the end of the 2021 season. It was also a shoulder injury in camp in 2022 that saw him ultimately released from the team.
Taylor should be a good fit on offense, having played with the Packers, whose head coach is obviously the brother of the Jets’ offensive coordinator. However, if the Jets are to use Taylor in the short term, it would presumably just be on special teams.
He was very briefly a teammate of Jordan Whitehead’s while in Tampa Bay and Adam Pankey’s in Green Bay.
With both Brandin Echols and Jeff Smith having been missing practice time, the Jets could be looking for emergency options to fill in on special teams over the last few games.
Taylor can use this time to try and impress the team enough to earn a futures deal and an invitation to training camp next summer. His impressive 2021 preseason showed promise which ultimately went unrealized but the Jets will be keen to see if he has more to offer than just special teams contributions.