According to ESPN’s Matt Bowen (subscription), new Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is ‘one of ten rookies to watch’ who’ve landed on perfect teams:
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts (Pick No. 41)
Height: 5-10 | Weight: 226 | School: Wisconsin
Clay’s 2020 projections: 161 carries for 678 yards and five TDs; 16 catches for 136 yards and one TD; 132 fantasy points
This is a prime match in Indianapolis given Taylor’s high-end traits as a downhill runner and the Colts’ offensive front. One of the best offensive lines in the league, the Colts ranked No. 8 last year with 2.94 yards before first contact. That group is going to create daylight for Taylor on both gap and zone schemes, which will allow the Wisconsin star to showcase his vision, patience and the ability to stack moves to the second level. Plus, with his home run traits and 4.39 speed, Taylor can rip off chunk plays. Don’t be surprised if Taylor emerges quickly as the primary first- and second-down runner in Indianapolis this season.
The former Wisconsin Badgers’ superstar rushed for 2,003 rushing yards on 320 carries (6.3 ypc. avg) and 21 rushing touchdowns, as well as amassed 252 receiving yards and 5 touchdown receptions on 26 receptions during 14 starts in 2019.
In his junior season, Taylor earned unanimous First-Team All-American (second time), First-Team All-Big Ten (third time), and Big Ten Running Back of the Year honors (second time)—as well as was a Doak Walker Award recipient (second time).
It was a consecutive season of rushing for over 2,000 yards for Taylor, who finished 2nd all-time on Wisconsin’s career rushing yards list with 6,174 rushing yards (behind former Heisman Trophy Winner Ron Dayne)—but unlike Dayne, Taylor only played three seasons.
Taylor ended his illustrious 3-year collegiate career 6th all-time on the NCAA Division I FBS’ career rushing yards list with his 6,174 rushing yards.
Taylor was insanely productive at Wisconsin behind a strong Badgers’ offensive line—even though he faced his fair share of 8 man boxes (29% of the time).
Taylor is also a freak athlete, as at 5’10”, 226 pounds, he ran a 4.39 forty time (the fastest among this year’s NFL Combine running backs). He is only one of two running backs to weigh 225+ pounds and hit a sub-4.45 forty time since 2014—the other being New York Giants All-Pro running back Saquon Barkley. He’s also drawn comparisons athletically to another All-Pro rusher, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
For what it’s worth, Taylor’s SPARQ rating (which measures overall athleticism) was in the 89.9% NFL percentile among league running backs (3rd best in his draft class at running back). Meanwhile, his RAS (Relative Athletic Score) was 9.53 out of 10.0.
Taylor is a dynamic athlete with a unique speed, power combination when running with the football—which he combines with his excellent feet, vision, and patience.
The big bodied back also excels in yards after contact.
He’s growing as a pass catcher and blocker and should improve in both regards once Colts running backs coach Tom Rathman coaches him up. Regarding fumbles, his ball security could also improve a bit—although that concern appears to be overblown—and can also be fixed with the proper coaching at the next level.
The biggest concern with Taylor is simply how long he’ll last—having had 926 career carries at Wisconsin already. However, he did a good job of avoiding big hits, and he’s already said to have taken great care of his body—as he’s a very intelligent young man all together (who almost attended Ivy League schools).
Taylor’s also incredibly durable. He not only never missed a game at Wisconsin, but not even a practice during his three seasons with the Badgers—despite the heavy workload.
The Colts may be hoping for just the duration of his rookie contract regardless—instead of looking to give a running back that lucrative multi-year second deal.
Indianapolis can also lessen his rookie workload and mitigate some of that extra mileage by having Taylor split carries with 1,000 yard rusher Marlon Mack during his debut campaign
As Bowen points out though, Taylor may end up becoming the more featured back of the two bellcows by the end of the season because he’s already the best athlete in the Colts backfield—who provides a different element entirely.
With Indianapolis, Taylor seems like a natural fit in their zone blocking scheme and should do major damage running behind the likes of the Colts powerful offensive line—not to mention, a new blocking fullback Roosevelt Nix.
Taylor has game-changing ability, and the Colts should be able to generate consistent holes for him to get to the second and third level of defenses—before he’s headed to the house.
Yes, Taylor landing in Indy appears to have all of the makings of a perfect fit.
I’ll just leave this here...
Our advice: Get comfortable.— Wisconsin On BTN (@WisconsinOnBTN) April 24, 2020
It's Jonathan Taylor's @BadgerFootball TD reel.@JayT23 | @Colts | @NFL pic.twitter.com/WGtC1YaOJH