According to NFL Network Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund, Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is projected to be the NFL’s 2nd most productive rookie rusher this upcoming season (behind only the Kansas City Chiefs’ Clyde Edwards-Helaire):
2) Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
Drafted: Round 2, No. 41 overall
Yep, I’m going right back to the yards-after-contact well because it really is an extremely helpful data signal in modeling rookie running back production. Since 2017, according to PFF, Taylor’s 3,921 yards after contact are the most in college football — by 941 yards! Add in that he’s playing behind my model’s second-best O-line (one that has great continuity, which my models are all tuned into even more this year, given the abbreviated offseason) and his real — and fantasy — value appears quite enticing. Despite being in a time share with Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines, Taylor is my model’s No. 25 overall fantasy running back.
Frelund’s model uses contextualized play-calling data and factors in each rookie running back’s skill-set to project ‘the most productive’ rusher.
Selected by the Colts with the 41st overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, the former Wisconsin junior star running back rushed for 2,003 rushing yards on 320 carries (6.3 ypc. avg.) and 21 rushing touchdowns, as well as caught 26 receptions for 252 receiving yards (9.7 ypr. avg) and 5 touchdown receptions during 14 starts this past season.
Taylor was a unanimous First-Team All-American, Big Ten Running Back of the Year, First-Team All-Big Ten, PFF All-American, and a Doak Walker Award Recipient in 2019.
He rushed for over 2,000 rushing yards for a consecutive season for the Badgers.
At 5’10”, 226 pounds, Taylor ran a 4.39 forty time at this year’s NFL Combine (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.
Featuring a dynamic combination of speed and power—with true home run hitting ability, Taylor should be a natural fit running behind the Colts strong run blocking offensive line in a zone blocking scheme—showcasing his exceptional vision and patience.
For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus also recently ranked Taylor as the NFL’s 3rd ‘most elusive’ rookie running back for this upcoming season:
3. JONATHAN TAYLOR, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Some running backs who lack shake in the open field can simply run through tackles at the college level thanks to their combination of size and speed. Taylor is one such running back who has the kind of rare size and speed that might allow him to do something similar at the NFL level. His missed tackles forced rates in college aren’t on par with Akers or Edwards-Helaire, but with the offensive line in Indianapolis opening up holes on the ground and getting him clean to the second level, Taylor could put up some big-time numbers as a rookie in a featured role.
Despite potentially splitting carries with last year’s Colts’ 1,000 yard rusher Marlon Mack, Taylor is still expected to have a prominent role in the Indianapolis backfield—and could even be the more featured running back of the two bellcows by this season’s end.
Taylor has all of the makings of a featured back for the Colts in time and should provide an immediate impact in 2020—with a lot of meaningful production and by maximizing his pure big play ability. He very much has the potential to be the franchise’s next great workhorse.