According to PFF, two Indianapolis Colts standouts were named to ‘The PFF 101’ from the 2021 NFL season (i.e., a ranked list of the league’s top 101 players): running back Jonathan Taylor and linebacker Darius Leonard—coming in at 15th and 56th overall respectively:
15. RB JONATHAN TAYLOR, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
2021 Snaps: 729 | 2021 PFF Grade: 86.0
The MVP talk for Taylor went a little too far, but it highlighted his incredible year for the Colts. When the team’s offensive line got healthy, it was a catalyst to supercharge Taylor’s already impressive individual performance. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry after contact, breaking 65 tackles on 332 carries overall. Taylor is an elite ball carrier regardless of the blocking, but when that blocking was good, he was a production monster.
PFF 101 Rank, 2020: unranked
56. LB DARIUS LEONARD, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
2021 Snaps: 1,000 | 2021 PFF Grade: 80.6
Leonard was a turnover machine for the Colts this season. He perfected the “Peanut Punch” technique of knocking the ball loose in the process of the tackle, forcing seven fumbles — three more than any other linebacker. He also tallied four interceptions and four more pass breakups. Leonard was constantly around the football and a true quarterback on defense, directing his teammates and countering what offenses were doing pre-snap.
PFF 101 Rank, 2020: unranked
Neither’s inclusion should come as exactly a surprise, as each was named a 2021 NFL First-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowler at their respective positions.
What is nice though is Taylor made his career debut on ‘The PFF 101’—with presumably many more appearances to come, while Leonard returned after missing out last season.
As also the runner-up for NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Taylor was the league’s ‘triple crown’ winner at running back, leading the league in carries (332), rushing yards (1,811), and rushing touchdowns (18) during 17 starts, as well as total yards from scrimmage (2,171).
Despite the heavy workload too, he still averaged 5.5 yards per carry, good for the 8th highest average in the NFL this past season.
Meanwhile, Leonard was once again a sideline-to-sideline statistical monster for the Colts, but particularly in the takeaway department. Along with his 122 tackles (75 solo), ‘The Maniac’ recorded 4 interceptions, 8 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries during 16 starts in 2021. He was the catalyst for a Colts team that finished 2nd in total takeaways (33).
I would be remiss to not mention though that there are two notable omissions from this year’s list, 4x NFL All-Pro offensive guard Quenton Nelson, who was ranked 34th in 2020, and 2x NFL All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who was ranked 28th in 2020.
Buckner seemed to hit his stride again in the second half of the season, resembling very much his old elite self—after an initial slower start, while Nelson seemed to battle through a number of injuries—including a lingering ankle injury, which limited his usual blocking dominance.
Health permitting, both studs should have bounce back elite seasons in the trenches—although each still played at a pretty high, Pro Bowl caliber level in 2021, all things considered.
Perhaps 2022 is also the campaign that cornerback Kenny Moore, center Ryan Kelly, and/or right tackle Braden Smith finally debut on this list too.