According to NFL.com’s Dan Parr, two Indianapolis Colts rookies: USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (34th overall) and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (41st overall) are among ‘the Top 25 NFL rookies who are in the best position for success in 2020’:
20) Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Indianapolis Colts: This big (6-foot-4, 223 pounds) former Trojan has a shot to step right in, immediately remind his veteran QB of a favorite target from a former life and become a go-to guy, particularly in the red zone, on a team with legit Super Bowl aspirations. Colts GM Chris Ballard has likened Pittman to Vincent Jackson, the former receiver who had three 1,000-yard seasons during his time with Colts QB Philip Rivers (still sounds weird to say) when they played for the Chargers. There’s the potential for Pittman to lose reps to Zach Pascal, who’s coming off a quietly solid second season, but the rookie’s size, toughness and ball skills gives him the edge.
8) Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts: The only thing standing in the way of a monster debut season for Taylor is fellow Colts RB Marlon Mack, who can attest to the benefits of running behind one of the league’s best offensive lines after recording his first 1,000-yard season in 2019. The tooth-rattling power of road grader Quenton Nelson and Taylor put together could make for fun viewing in Indy. Colts OC Nick Sirianni is calling Mack and Taylor a “1-1 punch” instead of a 1-2 punch, presumably to give both a confidence boost, but c’mon. Chris Ballard traded up to land Taylor in Round 2. Now let the beast eat.
Regarding Pittman, the 6’4”, 223 pound senior wideout had 101 receptions for 1,275 receiving yards (12.6 ypr. avg.) and 11 touchdown receptions during 13 starts in 2019—earning First-Team All-Pac 12 honors and was also named a Second-Team All-American.
The former Trojans’ captain is a big bodied wide receiver, who moves pretty well for his immense size, has incredibly sure hands (with a 2.8% career drop rate), and can highpoint the football as a vertical threat downfield—while still serving as a reliable possession target all over the field. Pittman uses his size and strength well, but in basketball terms, it’s his ability to “play above the rim” which can truly make him special at times—with excellent body control.
Pittman is the type of taller wideout that Colts veteran starting quarterback Philip Rivers has historically loved airing it out to downfield—as he can consistently win 50-50 jumpballs and separates better than he’s been credited for at times. He really does fit the “Vincent Jackson mold” for the Colts’ passing attack—which should make Rivers’ ears truly perk up.
Pittman should really flourish on the other side of 4x Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton along the outside—as the two complement one another very well with contrasting styles. Pittman is a natural “X” wide receiver in the Colts offense—which is a piece they had previously been lacking.
Pittman has been lauded for his leadership, toughness, and physicality—the latter two especially after the catch and as a perimeter run blocker. He’s also shown the willingness to even contribute on special teams—as he’s just a pureblood football player out there.
Meanwhile, at 5’10”, 226 pounds, Taylor rushed for 2,003 total rushing yards on 320 carries (6.3 ypc. avg.) and 21 rushing touchdowns during 14 starts in 2019. He also amassed 26 receptions for 252 receiving yards (9.7 ypr. avg.) and 5 touchdown receptions in 2019.
As a junior, Taylor was named a First-Team AP All-American, to the Big Ten All-First Team, and earned Big Ten Running Back of the Year honors this past season.
It was a consecutive season of Taylor rushing for over 2,000 rushing yards for the Badgers.
Taylor ended his illustrious 3-year Wisconsin career 6th all-time on the NCAA Division I FBS’ career rushing yards list with 6,174 total rushing yards.
Taylor had the fastest forty time (4.39) of any running back who tested at this year’s NFL Combine, and he is only one of two running backs to weigh 225+ pounds and hit a sub 4.45 forty time since 2014. The other was New York Giants’ All-Pro running back Saquon Barkley—which is some pretty elite company for Taylor.
Even if he’s splitting primary reps with Mack, Taylor will be playing behind one of the best offensive lines in all of football—in a power, zone blocking scheme in which he’s a natural fit.
The dynamic running back has the vision, patience, and quick feet—with excellent yards after contact ability to really thrive in Indianapolis with his unique combination of speed and power rushing the football—having true home run hitting ability if given any daylight.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich entered the offseason wanting dynamic offensive playmakers—regardless of position. Both Pittman and Taylor have game-changing ability, were highly productive in college, and have unique athletic traits with rare respective size-speed combinations. The Colts coveted both prospects ahead of draft weekend and surprisingly still got both players—in what appears to be a major coup of young offensive talent.
Both rookies landed in an ideal situation in Indianapolis for their young careers to really blossom and take off for the Colts—being among those first-year players poised for ‘best success’.