At just 5-foot-8 and 181 pounds, Trent Taylor always has had to prove himself to football coaches, teammates and fans.
Coming out of high school, he only had one major college scholarship offer. But at Louisiana Tech, the wide receiver and punt returner was hugely productive, and his play opened enough eyes to get him a shot at a career in the NFL.
The 49ers selected him in the fifth round of the draft Saturday, and Taylor now joins a wide receiver corps that has been bolstered through free agency. He may be a long shot to make the roster, but not if he shows in training camp and the exhibition season that he can be half as productive as he was this past season. As a senior at Louisiana Tech, Taylor had 136 catches for a nation-leading 1,803 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a junior he had 99 catches for 1,282 yards. As a punt returner, Taylor returned 17 for 178 yards as a senior (a 10.5-yard average). That skill should give him a chance to compete with Bruce Ellington and Jeremy Kerley to make the roster as a special teamer, on top of his receiving ability.
As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee noted, Taylor has been compared to NFL slot receivers such as Julian Edelman, Cole Beasley and Wes Welker, but has told reporters he’d like to “go into the NFL and be my own guy.”
Barrows also noted that Taylor has a couple of other strikes against him, aside from his height: he has small hands and short arms. He also didn't show much strength at the NFL combine, which could pose a problem in competition with defensive backs.
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com noted, however, that Taylor is terrific as a pass-catcher and has “above-average instincts in space,” calling him a “prolific pass catcher with an abundance of confidence.”
Taylor will face significant competition to earn his spot on the roster, with more established receivers such as Pierre Garcon, Kerley, Marquise Goodwin, Ellington and Aaron Burbridge and prospects such as Eric Rogers and DeAndre Smelter still trying to get their shot after injuries.
But, Taylor is excited for the opportunity. “Let’s go to work!” Taylor tweeted after being selected. On Sunday night, the day after he was selected, he tweeted, “Huge thanks to all the #49ers fans that have reached out to me!! What an incredible organization I get to call home!”