Mike Taylor knows what Chris Borland is capable of. For four years, he witnessed it firsthand.
The two linebackers were the heart and soul of the University of Wisconsin’s defense during the Badgers’ run to three consecutive Rose Bowl games. Each week, they pushed one another for tackling supremacy.
When Taylor graduated, the linebacker room fell solely into the hands of Borland, who responded with 112 tackles (8.5 for a loss) with four sacks and two forced fumbles in 12 games.
Now the native of Kettering, Ohio, has his sights set on the NFL. He's considered one of the top inside linebacker prospects in this year’s draft class as a probable second-day selection.
The only thing Taylor wonders is why Borland isn't considered the best.
Last year, Taylor was in the same linebacker draft class as Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o. Looking back, he’s confused by how the media and public could become so enamored of Te’o then, but not notice Borland now?
In Taylor’s opinion, there’s not even a comparison.
“I think he’s probably one of the most underrated linebackers in the draft this year just following what people say about linebackers,” said Taylor, an Ashwaubenon native who signed with the Seattle Seahawks last month.
“Last year, I think all the hype about Manti Te’o and whoever else was there, I always thought Chris was by far a better athlete, a better football player. Just someone who knows the game better, good instincts. I think wherever he goes, whatever round it is, a team is going to get a steal because what I’ve been seeing is everyone has been overlooking him and I think he’s the best linebacker in the draft.”
Many credit Borland for his intangibles and toughness, but his height has concerned some scouts and pundits. He measured in at a little more than 5-foot-11 at last month’s NFL combine.
The Packers seem to have a need at inside linebacker even after tendering Jamari Lattimore a restricted contract earlier this month. A.J. Hawk turned 30 in January and Brad Jones wasn’t the same player battling through lower-body injuries.
General manager Ted Thompson rolled the dice in 2011 when he drafted 5-foot-10 D.J. Smith in the sixth round. After Smith tore an ACL during the 2012 season, the Packers released him before last year’s draft.
Taylor believes Borland will feed off being overlooked, but there’s still time to jump on his bandwagon with more than a month until the 2014 draft.
Whether the 248-pound linebacker finds a home in Green Bay or elsewhere, one NFL team is about to improve its linebacker room immensely in Taylor's mind.
“I think he’ll do really well,” Taylor said. “I know when he came to Wisconsin, it was the same thing there. Just competing, didn’t care who anybody was. He came there on a mission. He took care of business and I think he’ll do the same thing in the NFL.”
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