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NFL ‘Next Gen Stats’ Ranks the Colts’ Jonathan Taylor as the 2nd Most Explosive Runner of 2021

Jonathan Taylor not only passed the eyeballs test in elite explosiveness, but the numbers definitively back it up.

Syndication: USA TODAY Robert Scheer / USA TODAY NETWORK

According to NFL.com’s Nick Shook, Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor was the league’s second most explosive runner among all positions (*first at running back) during the 2021 season:

2. Jonathan Taylor

Indianapolis Colts · RB

10+ yard runs: 50

10+ pct: 15.1%

15+ mph runs: 48

15+ mph pct: 14.5%

Sifting through the NGS data made it even more clear that Taylor was the best running back in football last season. He led all RBs in rush yards over expected (481), rushes of 20-plus miles per hour (six), rush yards after contact (1,418), first downs gained via rushing (107), first downs gained over expectation via rushing (+16) and yards per rush against light boxes with 6.8, which is a single-season record in the NGS era (since 2016; min. 100 such carries). The only reason Taylor isn’t atop this list is because we’re talking about the most explosive players, and his total of 15-plus-mph runs pales in comparison to that of the player ranked No. 1 on this list.

Regardless, Taylor is spectacular. Posting 50 10-plus-yard runs is truly astounding, as was the rest of Taylor’s 2021 campaign. If it serves as a predictor of things to come, we should get used to seeing Taylor’s name at or near the top of this list each year.

I’m not saying Jalen Hurts doesn’t rightfully belong high on the list, but teams were actively loading the box (26.81% of the time) and game planning to stop Taylor from rushing the football—and he still consistently feasted. He had 332 total carries compared to Hurts’ 139.

He may not have hit higher end speeds (i.e., 15 mph+) as often as Hurts, but he also doesn’t have the luxury of routinely being out in space as a quarterback rushing the football typically would—where it’s easier to pick up top speed as there’s less ‘trash to work through’. Specifically, Taylor was called to rush it between the tackles and ‘muck it up’ quite a bit inside to gain tough yards and move the sticks in short yardage situationally:

Taylor also reached three of the top five highest speeds of any ball carrier this past season—at speeds around 22 miles per hour. For comparison, Hurts was nowhere in sight.

This is really splitting hairs though because the fact that Taylor is as fast and explosive as he is, at a listed 5’10”, 226 pounds, is truly remarkable. He has an incredibly rare combination of speed, power, and explosiveness—as an absolute beast at the running back position.

It’s great to see he was recognized for that dynamic ability—even if he should’ve been #1.