Today’s NFL requires cornerbacks that possess unshakable confidence, excellent preparation, and the length to disrupt the catch point when opposing quarterbacks make the mistake of challenging them.
One player who checks all of those boxes in the 2021 NFL draft class is Washington’s Keith Taylor Jr.
Taylor recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his experience at the Senior Bowl, his pre-draft training with former NFL cornerback Will Blackmon, his upcoming Pro Day, and what kind of impact he’s going to make at the next level.
JM: Your coaches awarded you with the Husky Excellent award at the conclusion of the 2020 season. What an honor that must have been for you. Tell our readers about that.
KT: Our coaching staff takes that honor very seriously. I didn’t really expect it. When I did receive it, I was proud of myself. It speaks to my work ethic. My coaches recognize how hard I work throughout the season. To receive an award for everything I’ve done, it was a great honor.
JM: Absolutely. You’re training down in Irvine, California with Eric Renaghan at Sanford Power Training. What an excellent facility that is. Eric has 10-plus years of experience as a strength and conditioning coach in the NHL and recently won the Stanley Cup as a member of the St. Louis Blues. How’s the training process been going for you?
KT: I’m not going to lie to you. The first two weeks were tough (laughs). I’ve gotten into a groove now. We’re working hard every single day. It’s gotten easier over time. I’m having fun with the guys out here. I’m building lower-body strength right now. We’re working smart and maximizing my strength. I’m getting better, stronger, and faster every single day. We’re working hard down here.
JM: I don’t doubt it. You’re also working with former NFL cornerback Will Blackmon on some DB drills and film study as well. What a fantastic resource that is to have in your corner. What have you learned from Will Blackmon?
KT: Man. I’m learning everything from him. I have a new question for him every single day. He has every answer ready for me. He’s such a smart guy. It’s no wonder he played in the league for such a long time. He’s teaching me about football in general. He’s helping me perfect all of the technical aspects of playing the position. We’re working on down and distance, what to look for when it comes to formations and things of that nature. We’re working on getting in and out of breaks a little faster. He’s been awesome. Everything with him is perfect. He’s really preparing me for my upcoming Pro Day.
JM: What a great person to have in your corner. COVID-19 unfortunately made an impact on the 2020 college football season. You felt it within your conference as Washington only played four games in 2020. You still went down to the Senior Bowl and had a terrific week. What was that experience like?
KT: It goes back to preparation. Will Blackmon and I were training every day preparing for that. He helped me get my mind right. I think I went down there with the right mindset. I wanted to be the best out there. I wanted to prove myself. I think I had a great week. It wasn’t perfect, though. I wanted to come away with a few interceptions but it didn’t happen for me. I had a few pass breakups and I made some great plays. I’m always looking to improve.
JM: I thought you had a great week. Who were some of your favorite receivers to do battle with in practice?
KT: Dez Fitzpatrick from Louisville definitely comes to mind. Demetric Felton from UCLA is another one. He’s a fun player. Those are the two guys that stood out to me.
JM: Those are two fun players. You mentioned pass breakups at the Senior Bowl and I saw the same thing on tape. You measured in with 31-inch arms. Your length really jumps off the screen. How do you use that length to your advantage?
KT: I’m a big believer in using my hands at the line of scrimmage. That’s where my length can help me win the rep before it even really starts. That’s what it’s all about. I’m always physical at the point of attack.
JM: It’s tough to find 6-foot-2 cornerbacks that can run and flip their hips. I don’t personally see any stiffness to your game and that’s kind of rare with a corner of your stature. What is it about your frame and skill-set that allows you to move so smoothly at your size?
KT: That goes all the way back to my high school days. I was starting to get taller and my coaches thought that maybe I had switch positions to safety. It’s like I was getting too tall to play cornerback (laughs).
I told my dad about it and we immediately started to work on improving my quickness. I had to keep getting faster. I adopted the mindset that I was going to be a tall cornerback that moves like a 5-foot-10 corner. That’s been my mindset ever since. Before I run any drill, that thought pops into my head. Every movement that involves turning my hips, changing direction, or running in general, I’m looking to compete.
I also ran track in high school. That helped me get faster. I focused on getting faster in high school. In my opinion, it’s a mindset thing at the end of the day.
JM: It shows on tape. You played alongside Elijah Molden at Washington. I thought the two of you helped lead a great secondary. Tell us about the relationship and chemistry that you have with Elijah.
KT: That’s my boy. He was one of my best friends at Washington. We had a lot of fun playing together. I picked his brain and vice versa. We discussed which techniques to play in certain situations. We always feed off one another.
In our defense, he ran the calls as our nickel corner. He would call out whether we were in man or zone. Sometimes, I would ask him for information ahead of time. I familiarized myself with what calls he liked to make based on the different offensive formations.
The down and distance obviously played a factor, but I became familiar with his tendencies as the play-caller in our defense. We had awesome chemistry. We were together for four years. We made one another better, smarter football players at the end of the day.
JM: You’re training hard for your Pro Day right now. Let our readers know what day that is. Are you looking forward to any of the drills in particular?
KT: My Pro Day is on March 30. I’m looking forward to all of the drills. They all serve a different purpose. I’m gonna go out there and try my best in every aspect and every drill.
JM: If you could choose the quarterback to be the victim for your first career interception, who would it be and why?
KT: That’s tough. Honestly, it could be anybody. If I could choose though, it would have to be Tom Brady. If I pick off Tom Brady, I’m asking him to sign it and I’m framing that ball (laughs). That’s the GOAT right there. He’s the greatest quarterback of all time. I would definitely save that ball forever.
JM: That’s great. I’ve really appreciated your time today, Keith. This has been great. In closing, what kind of impact is Keith Taylor going to make at the next level?
KT: I want to be known as one of the best cornerbacks in this draft. That’s the goal for my rookie season. I want people to look back and say he was one of the best corners in that rookie class. After that, I’m just gonna try to keep getting better every single day.