NAME: Taylor Rapp
JERSEY: No. 21
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
WT: 212 lbs
Coverage – Better in split zones than single high on account of modest range and some hesitancy with route awareness. More effective in split zones that condense the space he is responsible for. Sound ability to read the backfield and work into throwing lanes. Capable of matching up with tight ends in man coverage and remaining in phase. Won’t be overpowered by tight ends that invite contact in the route stem or at the top of routes.
Tackling – Aggressive, physical and secure tackler that brings considerable power on arrival. Tackles with consistently sound form and rarely comes up empty. Takes accurate angles and arrives on schedule. Contact balance is excellent.
Processing – Rapidly diagnoses run plays and quick game. There is some hesitation picking up and anticipating routes to his zone. Rarely gets his wires crossed with misdirection or play fakes. Navigates the field with excellent spatial awareness while positioning himself to make plays.
Ball Skills – Would not say he is late to find the football in the air but often prefers to set himself up for a big hit than make a play on the ball. Needs to be more confident and willing to disrupt at the catch point. Ball production declined throughout his career.
Range – Modest. Plays forward in a hurry but doesn’t have the speed desired to serve as a single-high option. Quick processing skills help him get a jump in pursuit. Plays with a hot motor and is always around the ball, often on account of secondary effort.
Physicality – Tenacious, physical and aggressive player that battles through contact and is a violent hitter. Willing to crowd tight ends at the top of routes and challenge them in the contact window. Tone-setting hitter.
Play Speed – Shows good short area burst and straight line speed. Lateral mobility is below average. Processes quickly and puts himself in good positioning to make plays. Will have matchup limitations in man coverage.
Flexibility – Has some tightness in the lower half when transitioning but it’s hardly prohibitive at safety. Running form is awkward, with wasted motion. Lateral mobility is less than desired.
Versatility – Does his best work playing forward, in the box and defending short zones. Can situationally be used in man coverage but there are limitations. Won’t be a candidate to serve as a centerfielder in single high looks.
BEST TRAIT – Tackling
WORST TRAIT – Range
RED FLAGS – None
Rapp’s size, physicality and ability to tackle make him an ideal candidate to function as a strong safety in a role that brings him into the box with regularity. He is most effective playing through contact and attacking downhill while his ability to work in deeper zones, range and ball skills are modest. His upside on passing downs comes from him ability to function in man coverage against tight ends, blitzing and split zones. Rapp has starting upside but there are limitations that come with that to be mindful of.
Coverage Spacing –Uninspiring with his skills on the back end to play coverage. Severely limited by lack of COD and burst. Tight hips create headaches in transitions. More effective on targets in front of his face as compared to having to hinge and get width outside the numbers.
Acceleration –Pretty linear athlete, he does bring some juice but it’s only when he’s able to roll into his start and he’s breaking forwards as a delayed blitzer or in open field pursuit: more issues arise when he has to collect his base or pivot.
Tackling –Ace tackler. His impact in run support can’t be overstated. He’s got quick closing burst thanks to effort and good angles to stay over the top of runs before breaking down but drops the hammer on folks when he’s the first arriving defender.
Zone Coverage Skills –Will need to play robber to get effective reps out of him. Otherwise, was tasked with playing 15+ yards off the ball in single high. Pretty intelligent football player and did make some PBUs on the back end courtesy of anticipation, but will get torn apart if placed there in NFL.
Ball Skills –Doesn’t have a lot of ball production courtesy of poor closing burst, although his hand-eye coordination is good on tipped balls to capitalize on potential turnovers in the intermediate areas of the field.
Competitive Toughness –Pretty awesome to see him come slashing in off the back-side in pursuit: his effort is excellent. Plays with a chip on his shoulder and can be chippy in the pile, he’s got really stout pads and can be quite the imposing presence playing into short screens or the run.
Flexibility –Again, he’s linear. No issues with dropping down the pads and coiling to throw hips through contact. But when he’s tasked with reaching landmarks in zone drops or opening to turn and run with defenders, he labors to get himself there.
Feet/Change of Direction –There’s hesitancy and almost a deliberate approach when he’s forced to come to balance in space and then redirect, really robs him of any natural quickness he may have in this area. Isn’t springy or sudden to shoot into an adjacent gap in blitz reps, either.
Man Coverage Skills –Not recommended for duties in the slot or in man to man coverage. He lacks short area quickness to mirror at the top of route stems and can be pretty flat footed in off coverage, allowing easy completions unless the opposing QB goofs.
Versatility –Won’t have a lot of success if he’s tasked with playing a deep role in the NFL. May be better suited to play nickel LB, thanks to physicality and skills in run support. Should be a special teams staple as well thanks to linear range, tackling and awareness in run fits.
BEST TRAIT – Tackling
WORST TRAIT – Coverage Spacing
BEST FILM – Utah (2018)
WORST FILM – Auburn (2018)
RED FLAGS – None
Taylor Rapp is a bit of a throwback, he has terrific skills in run support and it’s easy to fall in love with his motor and splash plays in pursuit. But in coverage, Rapp presents several concerns, primarily surrounding his ability to cover the necessary ground to be an effective defender in either man or zone coverage. Rapp lacks mobility and short area change of direction skills, he’s going to be a more effective presence in the box as compared to playing 12-15 yards off the ball.
Range – Re-defines deeper than the deepest. As a single-high safety, consistently 25 yards from the nearest receiver. Won’t let anything in over his head, but doesn’t give himself a chance to make many plays on the ball with his spacing either. Does not project to much deep safety work at the next level, especially in a Cover 1 or Cover 3 scheme.
Ball Skills – If you’re drafting Rapp, do so with the expectation that ball production won’t be a big part of his contribution. Doesn’t play with the anticipation or instincts to jump routes or make a lot of plays on the ball in deep coverage. Not explosive closing down in zone coverage, will allow catches and make the sure tackle.
Man Coverage – Wasn’t asked to do much in man coverage, but seemed to anticipate routes better from off in his few man reps than he did in zone. That said, athletic limitations will be a concern against shiftier wideouts, as will press technique if he rolls up on tight ends. Matched up with Oregon’s tight end a couple times with mixed results. Has some traits to be developmental in this area.
Fluidity/Agility – Consistently balanced and playing on the balls of his feet, which allows him to shift directions swiftly and rarely get caught flat-footed as a tackler. Turns tight angles when coming off the edge, has ideal burst to close and finish, even when moving laterally.
Tackling – One of the best tacklers in the draft, either in space or in congested areas. Comes to balance and goes outside his frame to bring runners down. Targets low with his eyes up, always looking to wrap up with great form. Hitting power isn’t elite, but if he lines you up right he will lay the lumber. I watched seven games and I don’t think he missed a single tackle.
Run Defense – Can be a little slow to enter his run fills from deep and while sorting through trash to find the ball around the box, but when he sees it, zero hesitation to get in on the action. Sticks his nose in traffic to get in on tackles. Sound run fills and runs the alley looking for blood. Size and demeanor to play around the line of scrimmage.
Route Recognition – Smart football player who attacks shorter route concepts with clean processing. In deep coverage is rarely caught out of position, but doesn’t process and attack quick enough to be impactful at the catch point either. Assignment sound and risk averse.
Versatility – Terrific around the box and coming from deep in run support, but won’t offer much impact as a deep safety and is limited in man coverage. Wish he was a better blitzer in small sample size, would like to see more of him in that role in the NFL. Will thrive on special teams.
Competitive Toughness – Physicality, toughness and effort will never be questioned. Terrific football character and work ethic, plays every snap hard and was a true leader in the Huskies locker room.
Athleticism/Size – Terrific size and build for a safety prospect. Puts in his time in the weight room, frame is ready for the NFL. I think he’ll be a better tester in agilities than he is given credit for, but certainly not an elite athlete.
BEST TRAIT – Run Defense/Tackling
WORST TRAIT – Range/Ball Skills
RED FLAGS – None
Taylor Rapp’s tape is boring…in a good way…and a bad way. He’s simply not instinctive or rangy enough to make many plays on the ball as a deep safety, and Washington often aligned him so deep that he could barely arrive in time to help in run support. That said, when Rapp did have the opportunity to get involved around the box or in space as a tackler, he almost always made it count, getting runners to the ground while closing with excellent burst and technique. Also, he basically never lets anyone behind him in coverage.
The problem is that he just doesn’t make impact plays in coverage, isn’t ideally suited to be a deep safety and rarely matched up with opponents in man coverage, so his best fit at the next level is kind of an unknown. Rapp is a good enough athlete to be worth developing as a big nickel/tight end-slaying option, but I think his ceiling and role are decently limited, which should impact how highly he’ll be valued in the draft.
PROS: Smart, aggressive player who fills multiple roles within the back seven. Recognizes running game flow and misdirection very quickly and regularly takes the correct angles to attack offensive concepts; does well to retain leverage when approaching tackles to defend the weakest area of the field/turn runners back into help. When taking on blocks, especially kick-out blocks as EMLOS defender, deconstructs and wins leverage with excellent physicality for a safety.
Is a sure space tackler and devastating close-quarters hitter alike. Breaks down with a wide base and low hips to tackle, regularly getting his head across his target’s waist and wrapping through the hips. Has impressive gear down ability when flying to the runner and excels at making difficult, flexible tackles on elusive runners. Tracks very well and will adjust angles effortlessly. Seeks out scrums and looks to punish, but protects his head on contact. Forced multiple fumbles with hustle plays to wrapped-up runners, getting his helmet into the football when other safeties wouldn’t have even gotten involved on the hit.
CONS: Not overly rangy. Despite strong linear burst, top speed does not impress. Some tightness in the hips limits ability to turn corners with explosion, which gives him issues when flipping his hips to carry deep routes from the slot. Will take drop step when exploding, which only adds to the delay. Physical limitations in a straight line could force him into exclusively short zone responsibilities in the NFL, which would cap his efficacy as an interchangeable defensive piece. Does not have playmaking instinct; prefers to hit and tackle rather than play over the top for PBUs and/or INTs.