Ja'Sir Taylor: Path To The NFL Draft

By Simon Carroll


Every draft class has it’s group of prospects that armchair scouts across the world deem to be undervalued by the rest of the draftnik community. They become known as ‘sleepers’, simply translated as guys who aren’t being given their due credit and will outperform the position they were drafted. Short memories will remember those they were right about and forget about the ones they weren’t. But ultimately, an NFL team that consistently finds unexpected value in the later rounds will likely enjoy more success than those that don’t.

In 2022, Ja’Sir Taylor could very well be the biggest sleeper of them all. The former Wake Forest cornerback sits down with Simon Carroll to discuss his path to the NFL Draft:

Running Before He Could Walk

Bryce with his mother Carla

Ja’Sir Taylor has been a ball of energy his entire life. The lightning quick defensive back we saw become a force of nature at Wake Forest has always had speed to burn, which proved a little difficult to handle as a young kid. Something of a torment to his parents growing up in Asbury Park, New Jersey, they were intent on channelling that exuberance into a useful outlet – something that could teach their son the value of discipline and dedication, rather than being wasted – or worse still, used in the wrong capacity. That something would be sport, and Taylor embraced it wholeheartedly:

“Growing up, I was very active, even at a young age. As far back as when I could walk, maybe one, two years old, I was always running around. Any time they took their eyes off me I was running, causing chaos. So as soon as the age came where I could get into sports, my Mum & Dad threw me into it, just so I could burn that energy off and have fun in a safe environment! I started playing football at six or seven, and ever since then I’ve never looked back. That same speed and energy I had as a kid translated to flag football; nobody could catch me. I’ve loved the game ever since.”

There was no end to the energy levels Taylor possessed. The minute one sport ended, he would hop straight into the next one, forever moving and competing. And despite his love for football always taking precedent, he would shine at everything he turned his hand to. Everything, that is, except maybe one sport:

“It was always going to be football. But at the same time I had so much energy I just wanted to be active in any way. So when football season was over I went on to basketball, and when that was over I got invited to track – and that’s what it’s been my whole life. There wasn’t a season, wasn’t a moment in the year that I wasn’t playing sport. And I continued that in high school. I’m not gonna lie, I wasn’t the best basketball player! But you know, I was a good teammate, played tough defense, and was out there with my guys that I’ve grown up with having fun. Track I got into later in my high school career, and I excelled at it. I got better each year, and as a senior I won the state championship. That was a great moment for me.”

High School Hero

Bryce with Chris Peters

‘Track’ is a vague term for athletics, abbreviated from the full phrase ‘track and field’. Obviously this encompasses a whole lot more than just running disciplines, and when Ja’Sir Taylor says he participated in anything and everything, he means it; In the three years he took up track, Taylor competed in 100m and 200m sprints, the 4×100 and 4x200m relays, the 1-mile long distance, long jump, high jump, and discus – and that’s just what I found on one high school athletics website. And to say he ‘excelled at it’ doesn’t really do him justice – he won at least one relay competition, four long jump events and a 100m sprint meet. His 100m personal best stands at an astonishing 10.74 seconds. If you haven’t got the picture by now, let me spell it out for you: Ja’Sir Taylor is FAST.

With all that being said, the main priority at high school was always football. Suiting up for Brick Township, Taylor’s first home on the football field was on the offensive side of the ball – although trying to define his actual position was a bit trickier. Brick just found any way possible to utilise his speed:

“In football, at high school, I was just an offensive weapon. You put me anywhere on that offense, and I was making plays. They just got the ball in my hands and let me turn on the jets, and it was so much fun. I was so good I just assumed I would be playing offense wherever I went to college, but I guess there were different plans in store for me.”

Tempted By Temple

Considering the levels of production on offense at high school, it was a fair assumption. Ja’Sir Taylor was a playmaking machine for the Green Dragons; in one season alone (2015) he had over 1,300 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns, and as a senior had 544 yards and 11 touchdowns just on the ground. Yet as Taylor recalls, it took a while for college programs to notice the ability and production he brought to the gridiron:

“The early recruiting period was rough for me. I got called up midseason of my freshman year to play varsity and we won a state championship. As a sophomore I was starting, making plays, and I felt like my performances were good enough to get some college interest. But it was kinda slow my first two, three years. It really wasn’t until my senior year when it picked up and I got my first offer. It was kind of frustrating because, I felt like I was a better player than the colleges were seeing, but there was nothing I could do but continue to work and perfect my craft.”

Eventually, Taylor forced programs to take him seriously. And despite a handful of offers and interest from other teams in the north east of the country, it was a program ninety minutes west of Asbury Park in Philadelphia that initially caught Ja’Sir’s attention:

“I had a couple of guys I knew from my area that played for Temple University, and I was over there often with them on campus. I went to a bunch of camps, attended whenever there was any event going on, so I was around the university a lot. And in the summer before my senior year, they eventually offered me. I’d been there so much it really felt like home. So within something like two weeks I had committed to be an Owl. And I was all set to head over there after my senior year, but it didn’t work out that way.”

"Where Is Wake Forest?"

Credit: Wake Forest Athletics

At the time of Ja’Sir Taylor’s commitment to Temple, The Owls were led by Matt Rhule. As a first time head coach, Rhule turned round an under-performing program in just four years, achieving double digit wins in his final two seasons in Philadelphia. A man of character, Rhule could recruit. But as he left for Baylor ahead of the 2017 season, Ja’Sir Taylor would reconsider his options. Not an uncommon situation, many high school recruits make commitments based on relationships they make with coaching staff – and whilst it was a factor in Taylor choosing to go elsewhere, it was some surprising attention from a school 550 miles away in North Carolina that changed the course of his footballing destiny:

“The whole coaching staff situation in Temple changed, with Matt Rhule and his guys moving on, which kind of had me rethinking things. And then in December of my senior year, this school that I’d never heard of came out of nowhere and hit me up. I was like ‘where is Wake Forest?!’ But they flew to New Jersey to meet me and my family, watched a couple of my games in person, and offered me. I was intrigued, and took an official visit, and everything was perfect there. I didn’t even take my official visit to Temple after that – I knew that Wake Forest was where I wanted to go.”

There was one curveball however; Dave Clawson and his staff wanted Taylor to play defense. Having made a name for himself as an offensive weapon, it would have been unsurprising if the high school star baulked at the idea. But as I learned speaking to Ja’Sir’s teammate Luke Masterson, The Demon Deacons’ coaches do an excellent job in outlining a tailor-made blueprint for success. It was a testament to the trust and confidence Taylor had in them that he embraced a change of position in order to go somewhere he considered the best environment to thrive. It was a leap of faith, but one Taylor was all in on:

“It kinda shocked me when Wake Forest offered me as a corner. But maybe they saw something in me that I didn’t knew I possessed, and I took the challenge head on and made the most of it.”

From Learner To Leader

Credit: Wake Forest Athletics

Wake Forest University is not an easy football program to find playing time as a true freshman. 90% of all new recruits end up redshirting their first year on campus. But Ja’Sir Taylor bucked that trend, playing in ten games and recording 27 tackles and 5 pass breakups as he found opportunities to contribute to the defense. Considering he was also embracing a change of position, it was an impressive start – but it was far from plain sailing:

“The transition was rough. I got there late July, with camp beginning in August, so I was behind the curve. But the veteran leaders really kicked in and helped me out; Essang Bassey was the host on my recruiting trip at Wake, and he helped me enormously. He’s been my big brother ever since, and we’ve got a great bond. He helps me on and off the field still to this day. Guys like him, Cameron Glenn, Amari Henderson and Jessie Bates really had my back. Early on, when I was asked to step up and help the defense, they made sure I knew what I was doing, made sure my technique was correct, and worked in the film room with me. They were great leaders that helped me in my early times when I was struggling, and I never forgot that. So when I became a leader, I did the same thing with the new guys coming in too.”

Over the next three seasons, Ja’Sir Taylor would grow into one of the most productive defensive backs in the ACC. Starting out offering depth behind the veterans mentioned, Taylor found a home as the slot or nickel corner, using that famed speed to shut down the middle of the field. Then as his mentors moved on, he locked down a spot on the outside, becoming a captain of the team and helping the younger guys to find their feet. For Taylor, his evolution as both a football player and a leader is something he’s extremely proud of:

“The older guys prepared me well. Just like Essang before me, I learned exactly what was needed to help the team, before putting my own spin on it and becoming a captain in my own way. Picking the guys’ brains allowed me to pass that knowledge on when I assumed more of a leadership role. And with COVID in 2020, when I was first named captain, that was a season that nobody could prepare you for. And I think us veterans on the team did a great job keeping everyone together, everyone focused, and just seeing it through and getting to 2021. All those other guys who took me under their wing when I was learning the ropes, I give them a hell of a lot of credit for the kind of leader I’ve become today.”

A Fitting Farewell

Credit: Twitter (@suppastar_)

That COVID affected season offered Ja’Sir Taylor the opportunity to return to Winston Salem as a super senior in 2021, a year that was one of the greatest in the history of Wake Forest football. For Taylor, his decision to return for one final swansong was never in doubt:

“Once I heard that COVID had given us a free year, I was all in. I was definitely coming back – I wasn’t even thinking about the NFL. For me it was just one more opportunity to play with my brothers, and it turned out to be a great decision. Eleven wins, won our division and had the opportunity to play for the ACC title – we’ve had so many historic moments on this team last year, and it was kind of like all our hard work paid off, because in seasons past we’ve come so close to having that kind of success but fate led us elsewhere. I was just so happy to have that season with my guys before I left.”

Enjoying some team success was a fitting end to a glittering personal career for Taylor, who recorded a monstrous 184 tackles in 58 games as a Demon Deacon, recording six interceptions in the process and winning 38 of those games. Wake Forest shocked everyone as they finished 15th in the AP Rankings – everyone that is, except for those who understand what the football program is all about. For Ja’Sir, it’s a suitable reward for the job that head coach Dave Clawson and his staff have done in creating a culture that encourages self-improvement day in, day out:

“Coach Clawson, what he’s achieved at Wake is amazing. It’s just an awesome place to play football, and the people he has around him buy into the ethos and really get the best out of you. My special teams coach Wayne Lineburg – he’s the glue man. The only coach that really interacts with every guy on the roster, no matter the position, he’s a great coach with a great plan each week. My position coaches Paul Williams and Ryan Crawford, they helped me develop my game tremendously, the little nuances that give you that edge on gameday. And a shout out to the strength and conditioning coach too, Brandon Hourigan – as well as Coach Chad Bari who stepped in too – we never missed a beat. We got bigger, faster, stronger each day. Ultimately, Coach Clawson and his guys allowed us to get better every day and compete for that ACC Championship.”

Proving Himself - Again

For Ja’Sir Taylor, the next stage of his football life is forcing his way into the NFL. Much like his recruiting experience, Taylor might not be getting the attention that his exploits on the field deserve, but that’s not stopping him from showing everyone why they are wrong. Discussing his participation at the recent East-West Shrine Game, Taylor is effusive in his praise of Eric Galko – director of football operations at the showcase event – for the job he did putting it together. But if anyone turned heads with their performance that week, it was Taylor himself; he was named as the defensive practice player of the week, part of the West team’s team of the week, and NFL Draft Bible named him as part of their All-Shrine team. Showing what he can do as an outside cornerback as well as in the slot, Taylor grabbed the opportunity to improve his draft stock with both hands.

In terms of his interaction with NFL teams, Taylor says he entered the week ‘with a business mindset’ and was happy with how he portrayed himself:

“I felt like when I arrived at the event I had a lot to prove, so I just got my head down and worked hard each day. I learned a lot, got better, and went out there and played my hardest. And hopefully it opened a few eyes and they’ll turn on the tape and see I did that every time I suited up at Wake Forest. I made a few plays, turned a few heads, and put my best foot forward. A friend of mine said ‘you don’t have to impress all thirty-two scouts – all you need is just one to fall in love with you’. And hopefully I did that. But I’m really thankful to Eric Galko to be invited and have that experience.”

We discuss the NFL’s current desire for longer, taller corners – a category that Taylor doesn’t fall into – and how that makes the draft process more imperative for him to show teams what he can do. But considering his ability to play inside and outside corner, as well as be a factor on special teams with his speed, it’s fair to argue that Ja’Sir offers a lot more ‘bang for your buck’ than other prospects at his position do:

“Yeah my versatility is a big asset. I can play nickel, I can start outside, and I feel very comfortable in both those roles. My time at college has shown I’m more than happy to do whatever the team needs from me. And of course special teams; I’ve been a special teams player since the moment I stepped in at Wake and it’s nothing that I’ll shy away from – quite the opposite. If it makes the team better, I’m willing to do it.”

Draft Focus

Ja’Sir Taylor is now harnessing all that relentless energy and directing it towards the NFL Draft. He may have been snubbed for a combine invite, but ultimately there will be a throng of scouts and coaches at Wake Forest’s pro day on March 30th. Whilst other draft prospects might not be as keen on the athletic testing that is part and parcel of this process, it’s an arena that Taylor was born to thrive in. This is a man who has been running and jumping since he was in short pants, and speed and explosion comes naturally to him. Once again, it’s another opportunity for Taylor to use his athletic ability to grab attention, to make those that hold his destiny in their hands go back and see what he can do on the football field.

Currently training at Bommarito’s Performance in Miami (alongside fellow prospect interviewee Alec Lindstrom), Taylor remains focused, but is happy to talk to me about other interests. We discuss his proficiency at Wordle, the wordplay game that has taken social media by storm. Taylor no longer posts his scores on Twitter, but when he did, let’s just say he put this writer to shame. He tells me ‘it’s a good way to get the mind going in the morning’, and that he’s got a running competition with a former teammate. And whilst he won’t divulge who it is, he assures me that he’s currently winning. If his mental competitiveness matches the one he brings to the football field, I do not doubt it – and in the absence of the now retired Wonderlic test, perhaps it’s as good a barometer as any to measure the intelligence of a draft prospect.

Ja’Sir Taylor intends to spend draft weekend with his family and inner circle. And for him, if he hears his name called, it’s true validation for a career where he’s answered every critic and question with production and performance:

“This has always been my dream. And every time you speak about a vision or a goal this big, you always have those doubters who shoot you down, tell you the statistics and all that. But I’ve remained steadfast, never disillusioned, trusted myself and my work ethic, and at every turn I’ve proved I belong. This is just the next step, and those doubters will keep on coming at the next level. So wherever I land, I’m ready to get to work.”

Mock Draft





A huge thank you to Ja’Sir for taking the time to talk to us. Everyone at The Touchown wishes him well in his future career.