According to NFL.com Draft Expert Lance Zierlein, the Indianapolis Colts had one of his ‘three favorite picks by round’ by selecting Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor with the 41st overall pick in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft:
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Drafted: No. 41 overall, Indianapolis Colts
When the Colts are at their best, they are playing “bully ball” with a rushing attack that’s getting downhill behind a fortified offensive line. The ground-and-pound philosophy can win in the NFL provided the roster is right. The Colts can use Taylor and Marlon Mack in a work-share program that allows both backs to operate with the necessary energy levels to gash defenses in the fourth quarter.
The junior running back rushed for 2,003 rushing yards on 320 carries (6.3 ypc. avg.) and 21 rushing touchdowns during 14 starts this past season. He also had 26 receptions for 252 receiving yards (9.7 ypr. avg.) and 5 touchdown receptions in 2019.
Taylor earned unanimous First-Team All-American, All-Big Ten First-Team, and Big Ten Running Back of the Year honors—and was also a Doak Walker award recipient.
He rushed for over 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons for the Badgers.
This season, the Colts plan on forming a ‘1-2 punch’ with last year’s 1,000 yard rusher Marlon Mack and Taylor in their backfield splitting carries—both as bonafide bellcows.
However, having run a 4.39 forty time at 5’10”, 226 pounds, Taylor immediately becomes the Colts’ best athlete at running back, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him eventually become the more featured workhorse of the two backs.
He frequently showcases his combination of speed, power, and yards after contact ability—matched with both his vision and patience:
While still developing, Taylor’s shown growth as a pass catcher, and he’ll need to improve his ball security a bit—although both of his ‘deficiencies’ are overblown.
As it stands, the Colts should have a very strong power running game with both Taylor and Mack anchoring their backfield. It’s not hard to have a flash-forward of Quenton Nelson pancaking a linebacker, while Taylor shoots like a cannon ball behind him through an open crease with his eyes on the end zone. Good luck catching that freight train.
The Colts “1-2 punch” will allow the offense to keep both running backs fresh late in games and also during the stretch run of the regular season—and potentially for a deep playoff run.
Simply stated, Taylor is an athletic freak—with a tantalizing power, speed combination, who’s been incredibly productive. He’s also said to be very intelligent and polite—having already referred to his future starting quarterback as ‘Mr. Rivers’.
With Mack a free agent at next year’s end, the surprise wasn’t that the Colts took a running back early on, but just that it came a year sooner than initially expected.
That being said, Taylor seems like a natural fit in their zone blocking scheme, looks like he could’ve very easily been a late first round pick (and may have slid), and might be a better fit than any back the Colts could’ve reasonably found in next year’s draft class, so why wait?
He’s the complete package at running back—as a dynamic, future every down workhorse.
He was a somewhat surprising, yet very sound pick for the Colts.