The University of Toledo football program has showcased plenty of talented tailbacks through the years.
The list includes 1,000-yard rushers Roland Moss, Joe Schwartz, Steve Morgan, Kelvin Farmer, Casey McBeth, Dwayne Harris, Wasean Tait and Chester Taylor.
However, it's been 31 years since a Rockets running back was chosen in the NFL draft, when both Tony Harris and Charley Cole were selected. That drought likely will end next month, when Taylor is expected to be selected by one of the NFL's 32 teams during the two-day, seven-round event.
“Chester's moving up the board,” Taylor's Columbus-based agent, Alan Hall, said yesterday. “He's solid. He's definitely a first-day player. I think he will be off the board by the time the second day begins.
“Right now, I think he will go in the late second round or early third round.”
Others don't have Taylor, a 5-10, 205-pounder, ranked nearly as high. The Sporting News rates him 15th among 26 running backs in the draft, and predicts he will be a fifth-round pick.
Earlier this year, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. projected Taylor as a sixth or seventh-round selection.
“I really haven't heard too much about the draft, but I haven't asked,” Taylor said yesterday. “I'm just working out and trying to stay in shape. Whatever team I go to, I can get ready for camp after that.''
Taylor, the leading rusher in school history, was a third-team All-American last fall. He led the Mid-American Conference in rushing with 1,430 yards and scored a school-record 23 touchdowns as Toledo finished 10-2 and No. 23 in the final Associated Press poll.
He was named offensive MVP of the Motor City Bowl after rushing for 190 yards and scoring the game-winning touchdown against Cincinnati. And he captured MVP honors for the losing North squad in last month's Hula Bowl after scoring two touchdowns and gaining 61 yards.
In addition, Taylor was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, which wrapped up 21/2 weeks ago.
“He did not work out at the combine,” Hall said. “He ran a 4.58 in the 40, but he tweaked his hamstring. It was no big deal. He just needed a little rest.”
Taylor worked out for eight NFL teams last Saturday, including the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions, in the Glass Bowl. Hall said his client's best 40-yard time was a 4.55.
“He did great in all phases of the workout,” Hall said. “He caught the ball extremely well.”
“I think I came out of it pretty well,” Taylor said.
Taylor rushed for more than 1,000 yards three straight seasons for the Rockets, but he is far from polished. He displays a strong burst to the hole, but lacks breakaway speed and isn't a great blocker or receiver, according to scouts who have followed his career.
Taylor also has been hampered by ankle problems.
“The one thing we're trying to push with Chester, when healthy, is that the kid has been very, very productive against some very good defenses,” Hall said.
The last UT player to be drafted by an NFL team was cornerback Clarence Love. He was a fourth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1998, the 116th pick overall. The only Rocket ever selected higher than the fourth round was defensive end Dan Williams. He was a first-round selection of the Denver Broncos in 1993, the 11th pick overall.
The first three rounds of next month's draft will be held on April 20, followed by the final four rounds on April 21.
So far, the Atlanta Falcons have expressed the most interest in Taylor.
“I told Chester he wants [NFL commissioner] Paul Tagliabue to call his name at the draft and not [director of operations] Gene Washington,” Hall said. “If Gene calls his name, that means he will go on second day.”
Meanwhile, UT kicker Todd France, a four-year starter from Springfield High and the MAC's all-time leading scorer at his position with 320 points, is rated the fourth-best kicker by the Sporting News. France, though, is not expected to be drafted, and likely will sign as a free agent.
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