clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

PFF Ranks the Colts Jonathan Taylor as Having the Best Situation Among All Rookie Running Backs

New, comment

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Michigan v Wisconsin Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

According to Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner, Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor has landed in the best situation among this year’s rookie rushers:

1. JONATHAN TAYLOR, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

When the Colts moved up to select Taylor at pick No. 41, it was a rare occasion for two reasons. He became the first Colts running back drafted before the fourth round in Chris Ballard’s tenure as general manager. That and the fact that Ballard traded up to do so for only the third time in his career tells me all I need to know about how many carries Taylor will command in 2020. He also goes to a Colts offensive line that finished last season ranked third in PFF’s offensive line rankings and is the only one of the top five to return all five starters. It’s hard to be in a much better situation than that.

The junior running back rushed for 2,003 rushing yards on 320 carries (6.3 ypc. avg.) and 21 rushing touchdowns during 14 starts. Taylor also caught 26 receptions for 252 receiving yards (9.7 ypr. avg.) and 5 touchdown receptions.

It was a consecutive season of rushing for over 2,000 yards for Taylor with the Badgers.

He finishes his highly decorated 3-year collegiate career having been a 2x Unanimous First-Team All-American, 3x Consensus First-Team All-Big Ten, 2x Big Ten Running Back of the Year, 2x Doak Walker Award recipient, AP Big Ten Newcomer of the Year, and Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

Taylor actually ranks 6th on the NCAA’s Division I career rushing yards leaders list with 6,174 career rushing yards, but unlike the talented rushers ahead of him, he only played three seasons in college—not four. There’s a good chance he could’ve topped the NCAA’s rushing yards king and former Badger, Ron Dayne, with a final season at Madison, Wisconsin.

At 5’10”, 226 pounds, Taylor ran a 4.39 forty time at this year’s NFL Combine—which was the fastest among rookie running backs who tested. He has drawn athletic comparisons to both New York Giants All-Pro Saquon Barkley, as well as Dallas Cowboys All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott—with his dynamic combination of speed and power.

Taylor has great patience, vision, and feet and should be a natural fit in the Colts’ zone blocking scheme, running behind one of the best units in all of football. He was highly productive at Wisconsin and has true game-changing, home-run hitting ability if given any daylight on the field.

The young running back needs to fine tune some ball security issues (18 career fumbles at Wisconsin), but that issue has been overblown. The other remaining critique of his game: his lack of pass catching/blocking prowess seems to be an area that he’s really growing into—and has flashed potential. He should improve in both working with esteemed Colts running backs coach Tom Rathman.

The biggest issue with Taylor is simply his heavy workload with the Badgers, as he had 926 carries over three seasons. Still, Taylor said he not only never missed a game, but even a practice because of injury at Wisconsin—as he apparently takes great care of his body.

To date, he’s had great durability and by initially splitting carries with last year’s Colts 1,000 yard rusher Marlon Mack—at least in 2020, Indianapolis can help mitigate some of that heavy mileage that Taylor endured with the Badgers and keep him fresher as a rookie.

Obviously, Indianapolis was one of the truly ideal situations that Taylor or any other top rookie running back could’ve landed in for that matter.

One can just envision 2x First-Team All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson pulling to his right and pancaking a second level defender, while Taylor shoots out of the freshly created hole like a runaway freight train headed to the house: