NFL Week 10 practice squad power rankings: Vincent Taylor exemplifies Dolphins' 2019 philosophy
Waiving a former late-round defensive tackle before the season was the clearest sign of what the Dolphins are doing
It wasn't the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade that confirmed it. Nor was it the decision to ship Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills to the Houston Texans. The most glaring indication of the Miami Dolphins' tank involved practice squad power rankings alum Vincent Taylor.
Non-contending teams often choose to move on from players who are one or many of the following; old, expensive, bound to be expensive in the near future, on the last year of a contract. And they should, in many cases. But Taylor doesn't fit any of those categories.
The defensive tackle, a 2017 sixth-round selection, is 25 and was playing on the third year of a four-year rookie deal with an average-per-year value of $638K. Essentially, a few dollars above NFL minimum wage. And he had been impactful for Miami in his first two seasons there. Not so much that he was in line for a mega second contract but plenty good enough to be tracking toward a modest extension while serving as a shining example of how to overachieve as a late-round pick for the droves of young players destined to be on Miami's roster starting in 2020.
Taylor recorded four tackles for loss, two sacks, and 45 total tackles combined on 185 snaps as a rookie and 204 snaps in 2018. He received "high-quality" grades of 84.1 and 76.3 respectively in those two seasons from Pro Football Focus. An injury prematurely ended his second year and after returning to the field for the preseason, the Dolphins waived him on Sept. 2.
The Buffalo Bills added him to their practice squad on Sept. 5, and he made his debut for them in Week 9 against the Washington Redskins. Unsurprisingly, Taylor was efficient. He earned an impressive 83.4 PFF grade on just nine snaps. His two tackles were "stops," which constitute a "loss" for the offense based on down and distance. One of his takedowns was a tackle for loss on a screen play he quickly sniffed out.
Even after the Bills signed Corey Liuget this week, Taylor looks primed to play a niche role as low-volume depth on the interior of the team's defensive line. Clearly, Buffalo and Miami are at different stages of their respective roster constructions, but while not a household name even in Dade County, Taylor being let go was actually much more surprising than any of the high-profile players Miami shipped away this calendar year.
He spent the first two months of the season in the middle of these rankings, and is now the eighth practice squad power rankings alum to receive The Call. The others? Jeremy Reaves, Duke Williams, Stanley Morgan, Marcell Ateman, Keelan Doss. Robert Davis, and Adrian Colbert. After spending some time on the Seahawks' 53-man roster, Colbert is back down on the practice squad but back up on these rankings.
(For the record, I truly don't believe the team nor the coaches in Miami Gardens are tanking. The Dolphins play hard for head coach Brian Flores and Ryan Fitzpatrick's the starter. The front office? Different story.)
These rankings will be updated throughout the season, as more players move onto practice squads while some get The Call.
1. Robert Davis, WR, Eagles
Hey, Eagles. DeSean Jackson is hurt. Call up Davis. It's time.
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2. Kyle Sloter, QB, Cardinals
In the preseason, the 6-foot-5, 217-pound former undrafted free agent quarterback from Northern Colorado completed 76.5% of his throws at a hefty 8.7 yards per attempt with four touchdowns and one interception. He flashed plenty of velocity of his throws -- especially at the intermediate levels -- good pocket patience, and impressive throw-on-the-run ability in the Vikings' play-action, bootleg heavy attack.
3. Adrian Colbert, S, Seahawks
Colbert grad transferred to Miami for his redshirt senior year and tallied three pass breakups and a pick in seven games. His officially unofficial time at the Miami Pro Day was 4.38, and some scouts in attendance clocked him as fast as 4.25. Colbert's blistering time was likely a big reason he was picked by the 49ers in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Because of his explosiveness and production as a rookie, Colbert debuts at No. 2 in the Week 3 rankings. As a rookie in 2017, Colbert received a "high-quality" grade of 73.1 from Pro Football Focus on 530 defensive snaps for the 49ers. He broke up five passes and had one interception while making 32 tackles.
4. Jason Cabinda, LB, Lions
Cabinda averaged 89 tackles, 5.6 tackles for loss, 3.6 pass breakups and 2.3 sacks over his final three seasons at Penn State. While he didn't run the 40 during the pre-draft process, he didn't appear to be a super-fast linebacker but was always around the football due to quick processing skills and an always humming motor. He displayed refined block-defeating skills with the Nittany Lions and was not a liability in coverage. After going undrafted last year, my Raiders and saw the field late in the season. He didn't dazzle but fared well on the inside, finishing with 21 total tackles and a "high quality" PFF grade of 73.6 on his 164 defensive snaps.signed with the
5. Deontay Burnett, WR, 49ers
With the Trojans, during his age 18/19 season in 2016, he accounted for an adequate 17.3% of the receiving yards and scored 21.2% of the team's receiving touchdowns -- on a squad with JuJu Smith-Schuster. After that, in 2017, when Darnold was incredibly hyped in draft circles, Burnett upped his market-share figure to 26.6% -- not amazing, but not absolutely brutal -- and scored 34.6% of the receiving touchdowns. He can get open.
6. Anthony Johnson, WR, Chargers
Johnson was myin the 2019 class. I loved the completeness of his game at nearly 6-2 and 208 pounds while at Buffalo. He won in traditional chain-mover type ways: shielding with his body, strong hands in tight coverage. He was impressive tracking the football down the field and excelled after the catch in a deceptive way. He accounted for a whopping 39.7% of the Bulls' receiving yards as a junior and 32% in an injury-riddled senior campaign.
7. Obi Melifonwu, S, Patriots
Melifonwu played five regular-season snaps for New England a season ago and registered a tackle and allowed one catch for 5 yards. There's plenty of mystery surrounding him, as he barely saw the field with the Raiders after they made him the No. 56 overall selection in the 2017 Draft. It wouldn't shock me in the least if Belichick got the most out of him if and when he sees the field.
8. Kerrith Whyte, RB, Bears
You know how I feel about preseason statistics. For Practice Squad Power Rankings, they're awesome. Whyte did accumulate just 55 yards on 18 carries (3.1 yards per) in four exhibition showings, however, per Pro Football Focus, the rookie forced six missed tackles on those rushes, giving him in a forced missed tackle rate of 33.3%.
9. Dillon Mitchell, WR, Vikings
Mitchell was the unquestioned top target for Justin Herbert in 2018. He accounted for a very encouraging 36.7% of Oregon's receiving yards and scored 10 touchdowns. His game is predicated on slippery movements at the line and especially after the catch. Also, Mitchell is fast down the field. He ran 4.46 at the combine and tracks the football well on those long balls.
10. Antoine Wesley, WR, Ravens
Wesley was a clear redshirt candidate, simply because of his spindly frame. At the combine, he measured in at just over 6-4 and 206 pounds. At Texas Tech, Wesley was as natural of a hands-catcher as I scouted in this past year's draft class. I'm serious. And with incredibly long 34-inch arms, mitts just under 10 inches, and a 37-inch vertical, Wesley boasts a mammoth catch radius.
ELIJAH HOLYFIELD, RB, PANTHERS: Holyfield was a classic "plays faster than he timed" prospect. At Georgia, finally in a full-time role after Nick Chubb and Sony Michel departed to the NFL, his feet were impossibly light, and his vision was outstanding. His contact balance was consistent each week too. That led to him being my No. 2 back in the 2019 class ... before the combine. Holyfield tanked there. At a little over 5-10 and a bulky 217 pounds, he ran 4.78 and had a vertical jump in the 4th percentile at the running back position.
Those figures were the catalyst for him going undrafted, and while he did lose the No. 3 ball-carrier battle to Reggie Bonnafon in the preseason, Holyfield averaged a respectable 4.0 yards per carry on his 20 rushes. More importantly, he finished second only to Bonnafon among Carolina running backs in yards after contact per rush at a hefty 3.25, per Pro Football Focus. Holyfield is a natural runner who sees blocks before they're made, and he has a nice blend of quickness and functional power to be a contributing No. 3 running back in the NFL, although he won't run away from anyone in the open field.
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