Yahoo Sports' top 2019 NFL draft prospects, No. 28: Washington S Taylor Rapp

Yahoo Sports

Leading up to the 2019 NFL draft, which starts April 25, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down 10 at a time, followed by profiles on our top 30 overall players.

Previous entries: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30. Drew Lock | 29. Deandre Baker

28. Washington S Taylor Rapp

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6-foot, 208 pounds

Key stat: As a true freshman, Rapp had two two-interception games – one vs. USC and one in the Pac-12 championship game where he was named the game’s MVP after running a pick back for a 35-yard touchdown on the first play of the second half.

The skinny: Lost in the recruiting shuffle while playing for a 2-8 Sehome (Wash.) High School team in a town that doesn’t celebrate football the way some others do, Rapp nonetheless caught the eye of the Huskies’ coaching staff and enrolled in school there early after his senior season ended. In his first season of 2016 as a true freshman, Rapp overcame a broken hand in spring ball (wearing a cast while playing through it) to earn 10 starts in his 14 games and was named to various freshman All-American teams.

In 2017, Rapp was named to the all-Pac-12 first team and won the Husky Excellence Award, starting 12 of 13 games and racking up 59 tackles (3.5 for loss), two sacks and one interception. Rapp then earned several first-team all-America honors as a junior in 2018, starting the first 13 games and logging six tackles for loss, five sacks, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries. He missed the Rose Bowl with a reported hip injury.

Washington's Taylor Rapp (7) smiles after he intercepted a Stanford pass. (AP Photo)
Washington's Taylor Rapp (7) smiles after he intercepted a Stanford pass. (AP Photo)

Rapp, who turned 21 in December, announced he was declaring for the 2019 NFL draft. He didn’t participate in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine (which he plans to run at the Huskies’ pro day on April 1) but performed in all the other drills.

Upside: Named to multiple all-academic teams and praised by the Huskies coaching staff as one of the smartest players they’ve ever coached. Excellent instincts and anticipatory skills. Always seems to be cheating over to the side where the offensive play is eventually run. Trusts his eyes and diagnoses pass concepts naturally. Gifted communicator who lined up in multiple defensive positions. Looks comfortable as a box safety, as a middle-field deep defender and playing on the weak or strong side. Three-year starter.

Times up his runs exceptionally well – filling the alley as a run tackler, coming as a blitzer and attempting to break up a pass or lay the wood. Good open-field tackler in space – shoots his hips, wraps up and usually takes his man down. Watch him sneak down from his strong safety spot (right edge of your screen) to take down this pin-and-pull run to the boundary beautifully from behind:

Not afraid to mix it up with the big boys and operate in tight quarters. Doesn’t try to run around blocks and will make hustle plays from the backside, coming from off the screen on plays. Stalker and chaser who carries the attitude of not willing to be denied on a play. Operates with a special-teams type of mentality and isn’t afraid of the dirty work.

Rapp isn’t big for the position but is nicely put together with developed musculature in a compact frame. Despite playing with a reckless style that sometimes makes him the nail and not the hammer, durability has not been a major concern. Good short-area burst and quickness. Better in coverage than given credit for – he allowed a passer rating of only 12.0 last season, per Pro Football Focus. He can man cover and even use his great route recognition to jump routes.

Rapp comes from a Huskies program that has sent a slew of defensive backs to the NFL in recent years: Marcus Peters, Budda Baker, Sidney Jones, Kevin King and more.

Downside: Size is below-average – height, length and hand size all are in bottom-30th percentile for the position. Might not have the pure coverage ability to sub in as a nickel corner. Physical style could lead to a shortened career and might not be able to buzz in the box all game against NFL blockers.

Quickness is good, but Rapp lacks true athletic explosion – disappointing testing numbers in the vertical jump (35 inches) and broad jump (115 inches). Straight-line speed is average, and he could have trouble matched up against top backs and tight ends. Playmaking in the pass game peaked as a freshman and tailed off (part of this was because of his role change). Also failed to haul in a few potential interceptions and still lacks ideal feel as a deep-middle safety.

Best-suited destination: There aren’t a ton of negatives to his game, and – barring injury – it would be stunning if Rapp didn’t enjoy a long career as a heady, instinctive difference maker and leader on a defense. He might be best as a box safety but shouldn’t be limited as such and likely won’t be a liability in a two-deep alignment. That makes him a fit in just about every scheme an NFL defense might employ. His intangibles and ferocious style might especially appeal to safety-needy teams such as the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Fun fact: Rapp will become only the second Chinese-American NFL player when he’s drafted, born to a mother who was raised in China. (The first was offensive lineman Ed Wang, who played six games as a fifth-round pick of the Bills in 2010.) Rapp was born with dual citizenship in Canada and the United States, having grown up in Toronto and Atlanta before settling in the Pacific Northwest when he and his brother (a former walk-on at Washington State) were young.

They said it: “Taylor Rapp is one of the smartest guys I've ever coached. He doesn't miss tackles. That's what you want in a safety in the NFL, a guy who makes sure he covers up for the other 10 guys … Taylor's not missing that tackle, and he's going to make some plays for you.” — Huskies defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake

Player comp: This is going back a few years, but Rapp reminds me of former Chicago Bears safety Mike Brown. Brown’s career was interrupted by a few injuries, but he still made it in the NFL for more than a decade as a starter playing a smart, tough brand of football and being one of the spiritual leaders of a strong defense.

Expected draft range: Top 40 picks

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