Why Leonard Taylor III could be the NY Jets' next undrafted gem

The Jets may have struck gold with the addition of Leonard Taylor III
Leonard Taylor III
Leonard Taylor III / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

The NY Jets have done some serious work on their interior defensive line this offseason. It was an area that needed a face-lift and it got one with the additions of Leki Fotu and Javon Kinlaw, but it also got some help from an unheralded signing after the draft.

Former Miami defensive lineman Leonard Taylor III signed with the NY Jets after surprisingly going undrafted. A lot has to happen before Taylor is an impact player for the Jets. For starters, he has to make the team. That is far from a guarantee with undrafted rookies.

He has the talent to get to that point, though. Taylor didn't go undrafted due to a lack of ability. With a 6-foot-3, 305-pound frame, Taylor is surprisingly agile, with a quick first step that gives him a high pass-rush upside.

That doesn't take away from his strength, though. Taylor has a knack for clogging gaps by simply imposing his will on opposing blockers. He is not an easy body to move, often forcing running backs out of their lane.

One look at some of his highlights from 2023 shows you that ability. The issue for him is that all this ability is still only potential. He never reached the lofty expectations that were thrust upon him when he stepped foot on the University of Miami campus as a freshman in 2021. A five-star recruit, he never quite played like a five-star talent during his three years in school.

Even with that disappointment, Taylor was projected to be drafted in 2024. At one point he was even considered to be a first-round pick because of his potential.

It was quite the fall from grace for him, going from thinking he could maybe be a first-round pick in the winter to watching seven rounds go by without hearing his name called in April.

One of the reasons that many believe Taylor struggled was Miami's misuse of him. While he is no doubt a big strong body, Taylor is best used as a three-technique where he would be lining up between the tackle and guard.

That is where he can use his speed to fly by slower interior linemen and rush the passer. Relying solely on his strength is not where his talent thrives.

The NY Jets could help Leonard Taylor III reach his potential

While Taylor has shown the ability to move blockers and fill holes, he is by no means a dominant run-stopper. His best trait is using his combination of size and speed to get to the quarterback. Sticking him in the middle is a total waste. Jets head coach Robert Saleh should be able to properly utilize him as part of the Jets' defensive line.

One of the other concerns about Taylor appears to be his "motor." That's typically not something you want to hear about young players, but that doesn't mean those habits can't be broken, and if there is anyone who can break them, it's Saleh.

Despite the financial hit that Taylor took with his slide out of the draft, it may turn out to be the best thing for his career in the long run. Ending up with the coach that he did may be just what a perfect scenario. If there is one thing the Jets' head coach knows how to do, it is to get the most out of his defensive lineman.

It will be fascinating to watch how he progresses and if he will be able to make the team. His upside is so high that I would be surprised if the Jets didn't keep him around for at least this season.

For him to get some playing time, though, he will have to prove his worth on third down and in passing situations. With Quinnen Williams, Javon Kinlaw, Solomon Thomas, and Leki Fotu ahead of him, he is in the perfect position to develop at a fair pace.

At such a cheap price, there is virtually no downside for the Jets here. If things don't work out, they can wash their hands of the situation without a scuff. If things do work, they may have found yet another undrafted defensive line gem.