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Jonathan Taylor is one of the most accomplished running backs in NCAA history. That is saying a lot with the likes of Tony Dorsett, Jim Brown, Ricky Williams, among others. Taylor finished his 3-year career as the No. 6 all-time leading rusher in NCAA history. He is the first player ever to rush for 6,000 yards in any 3-year span. His workload was almost ridiculous at Wisconsin, but has proven he can put a team on his back. His mileage from so many carries at Wisconsin may be a concern, but without much injury history, there is no reason to worry. He is still very young , turning 21 this past January. With prototypical size and stature at the running back position. Jonathan Taylor can do it all.
The Big Ten doesn’t feature great speed on the defensive end like the SEC or ACC, but still has lots of girth and size, at least on the front lines. The fact that Taylor was able to put up these numbers so consistently without any major injury is incredible. Taylor has averaged 6.7 yards per carry for his career. With 55 total TDs over 3 years, he has a knack for getting into the end zone. He also has a knack for churning up yards easily over the course of the game. He is able to turn 1 yard losses into 4 or 5 yard pickups. He obviously isn’t as big and strong as Derrick Henry but has a similar downfield running style.
It almost crazy just how underrated Taylor’s college career was. He went for 1,977 yards as a true freshman. With elite speed, he is physical and strong enough to do work in between the tackles. Taylor is a downfield runner with home-run ability. He had some fumbling issues early, but his IQ and understanding of run schemes make him hard to stop at the line of scrimmage. Taylor’s durability and production has been unmatched. With 12 games of 200+ yards in his career, his potential as a bust at the next level is very low. He may not become an MVP-caliber running back, but is a back that will get carries wherever he goes. He is excellent in allowing blocks to develop and manifest, almost Le’Veon Bell-like. He has great one-cut talent. As a former track star, his bursts on the outside edge make him hard to guard. He can be a lethal 3rd down back at the next level if a role as primary back doesn’t work out.
Taylor is projected as a mid-late 2nd rounder. Taylor is excellent with finishing runs well and breaking through tackles. Not many backs possess his stature as well as his elite speed. It is generally one or the other. His background in track helps him when it comes to angles on the edge and in space. The floor for Jonathan Taylor is not very low. As long as he stays healthy, he can make an impact anywhere he goes. He isn’t a great blocker, but is more than capable when he puts his mind to it. His measurements at the NFL Combine reassured everything that evaluators thought of him when it comes to translating to the next level. With more and more smaller backs finding success at the next level, production is becoming more reliable than ever. Deandre Swift of Georgia and Clyde Edwards-Helaire are clearly rated above Taylor for this year’s draft. That is understandable given their potential. While Taylor isn’t necessarily great at one particular thing, he can do a lot of things well. One things for certain, if he gets carries, he will find a way to get yards.
One main knock on Jonathan Taylor is that he isn’t a great receiver out of the backfield. He only went for 407 total receiving yards throughout his career. Much of this has a lot to do with the quarterback play and system of Wisconsin. There’s always room for improvement, and he can make things happen when the ball is in his hands.If there is any cause for concern outside of his receiving production, taking care of the football should a primary concern for Taylor. He fumbled the ball 18 times in his 41 career games. That is almost a fumble every other game. Teams are beginning to value backs who take care of the ball more and more as that how switched the outcome of many games in previous postseasons. Whether is better technique or focus, Taylor should find a way to get this under control.
Taylor has prototypical size, speed, intangibles, and numbers to back it up. He should be a guy many teams see as a reliable 4/5 yard gainer. His production in his 3 seasons at Wisconsin may never be seen again. The sky is the limit for Taylor if he continues to round out other parts of his game. One solid NFL comparison may be Todd Gurley prior to his injuries. Both aren’t great receivers, but have what it takes to get yards by any means. Gurley is the bigger stronger version, while Taylor has a little more burst to him. If Taylor can stay healthy, he can impact and help out struggling teams as well as solid playoff teams.
The least reliable position on the offensive end in today’s NFL is the running back position. As a result, it is also one of the hardest to project to the next level. Unlike quarterback, receiver, TE, etc. running backs are tasked with much more different responsibilities depending on the team and scheme. Whether it is run/pass blocking, whether it is receiving, whether it is in between the tackles, tosses and sweeps, whatever it may be, versatility in key for a running back today. While Taylor has shown how dynamic a runner he is, he just isn’t versatile enough at this stage in his career. That limits his ceiling slightly, and increases his chance to be a bust. The worst possible draft spot for Taylor is to a team without solid quarterback play or other playmakers on the team. He does not need to be a workhorse as soon as he arrives to the league. All in all, perhaps one of the most underrated NCAAF players of all-time will now be in the big leagues.
Skill Ratings + Breakdown
Vision – 7
Jonathan Taylor flashed solid patience and timing at times, but on occasion would rush a bit and get on top of blockers.
Agility – 8
The change of direction is going to be a problem for defenses in the NFL and he has excellent footwork. Taylor can cut in any which way and is tough to bring down.
Speed – 8
His downfield speed is excellent, and once he hits that next level it is tough to catch up. He also excels in short term burst where he can get on you quick before defenders have time to adjust.
Ball Security – 5
As mentioned above, the ball security is not good. If this continues, Taylor won’t see the field much.
Hands – 6
We didn’t see a ton of work in the receiving game, and that isn’t to say he can’t do it. He will need some work in this department at the next level, but this isn’t a major knock.
Blocking – 7
He is a decent blocker, and his size has a lot to do with that. On occasion we saw him off the field on third downs, but he should be a three down back.