Draft

Taven Bryan, Florida’s ‘Wyoming Wild Man,’ has ‘rare athletic ability and play traits’ for a DT

Flrida DT Taven Bryan and the 2018 NFL draft
COURTESY OF FLORIDA ATHLETICS

Defensive tackle Taven Bryan is the only Florida player considered a potential first-round pick in this year’s NFL draft. That’s heady stuff for a guy who was a full-time starter for just one season and had all of 10.5 tackles for loss during his college career.

It’s all about potential – well, potential and freakish athleticism for a guy his size.

Respected NFL.com draft analyst Mike Mayock has Bryan as the No. 4 defensive tackle in the draft, behind Washington’s Vita Vea, Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne and Michigan’s Maurice Hurst, all guys expected to go in the first round.

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Fellow NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zeirlein has Bryan going in the first or second round, noting that he has “rare athletic ability and play traits.” Zeirlein said Bryan’s relatively meager level of production “is due to a lack of instincts and feel for the position, and he’s still in a developmental phase as a prospect.” But Zeirlein also says Bryan has a “very high ceiling.”

An unnamed NFC scout says Bryan has “starter-level talent, but I don’t think that is going to be next year. He’s out here getting by on his (athletic ability), but he doesn’t have enough feel for the game yet.”

Bryan (6 feet 4, 291 pounds), from Casper, Wyo., was nicknamed “The Wyoming Wild Man” because of his frenetic ways when he arrived at UF as part of Will Muschamp’s 2014 recruiting class. But he didn’t really live up to the nickname until 2017, his junior season. He is bypassing his senior year to enter the draft.

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Bryan redshirted as a true freshman, then was a reserve in 2015 and ’16. He did make three total starts in those two seasons but had just combined 27 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss.

He became a starter in 2017, and was dominant at times. He had 40 tackles, four sacks and six tackles for loss, flashing impressive quickness and big-time strength. But Florida’s lack of depth meant he played more snaps than usual for a Gators tackle, and his play suffered at times because he became worn down.

The NFL Scouting Combine at the end of the month is going to be huge for Bryan, who should test off the charts because of his athleticism and strength. While he was a tackle in Florida’s 4-3 defense, he could play end in a 3-4 set.

Bryan is a lock to become the seventh Florida defensive tackle selected in as many years. He would be the third first-rounder and seems all but certain to become the fourth to go in the first three rounds.

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