'Why Jonathan Taylor?'
Former Wisconsin Badger, Jonathan Taylor became one of the most decorated backs in NCAA history during his time in Madison.
Taylor's impressive performance at the NFL Combine has opened the door for him to potentially be the first running back off the board in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Besides the impressive athletic measurables, what does Taylor bring to the table as a running back at the next level?
1 - Environmental awareness
This is Jonathan Taylor in a nutshell.
Notice how the first thing he does is gather information with his left hand, from there we see the concise movement skills & through contact capabilities that were a big part of his collegiate success.
This is also a unique rep to watch Taylor's feet.
He never 'collapses' onto his heel.
Always pushing, pausing and subtly redirecting.
We see his right hand placed briefly on the back of #78.
This gives his lineman a piece on information that allows him to understand how far Taylor is away & which direction he is committing towards.
Savant-like in his approach to the position.
2 - Play speed
Taylor’s 10.49 100m speed shows up on film once you see him get to the second level.
The technical proficiency he exhibits at max velocity is a big reason why he isn’t prone to rapid deceleration at longer distances.
At the NFL combine Taylor showed he is in elite company when it comes to speed.
Especially when we are talking about players over 225lbs.
Make no mistake, the 40 yard dash is more so a test of acceleration capabilities than max velocity.
However, Taylor has shown he has both, on the field as well as on the track.
His capabilities as an accelerator are a main reason why he is so difficult to tackle at the 2nd level & beyond.
Taylor gets to top-end speed in a hurry, running a 1.46s from 0-10 yards at the NFL combine confirms just that.
3 - Creating yards post contact
Taylor does a great job using his accelerative abilities as an aid through contact.
A large amount of the splash plays Taylor makes are due to him weaponizing acceleration, which creates an element of difficulty for defenders once he reaches the 2nd level.
If you are trying to tackle him 10 or more yards down the field you better bring a few of your teammates.
Taylor is a difficult back to wrap up. He’s a sudden, yet smooth accelerator with great play strength though initial contact.
Regularly, you see him pushing piles & dragging defenders downfield.
With Taylor there are no big, dramatic cutbacks or 'ankle-breaking' moves.
What we see instead is an economical, and often times strict movement signature, which enables Taylor to deal with arm tackles and different contact types in an efficient manner.
The most impressive element to this run is Taylor's how much ground he covers when he jumps towards the boundary reacting to the block.
We also see again, the through contact capabilities Taylor continually demonstrates at and past the 2nd level that make him so difficult to take down in space.
During short yardage situations you see Taylor consistently 'burrowing' to create yards while also scanning for small creases.
Taylor is not a bulldozer, however he runs with a steep and consistent pad level that allows him to 'uppercut' defenders on initial contact.
4 - Skill set as a receiver
What I enjoyed most about this sequence was Taylor's usage of his right foot to draw the defender in at the 29 yard line, while using that same plant foot to propel him quickly into re-acceleration.
Taylor has a chance to be an impact player in the screen game.
Overall as a receiver, Taylor at times appears unnatural catching the football and failed to make a consistent impact in this area collegiately.
Taylor never has had a game over three receptions in his career, and his pass catching role at the next level does not appear to be extensive.
He does however, present upside in how he can contribute after the catch as a checkdown option.
5 - Through gap solutions
When we talk about Taylor's proficiency as a between the tackles rusher it's important to recognize how he wins.
Taylor always keeps his feet active and regularly uses a 'slalom' technique that allows him to move laterally while simultaneously staying downhill.
We see this same technique often with Phillip Lindsay in Denver.
Taylor's ability to anticipate his blocks is second to none in this class.
Taylor consistently finds solutions for defenders he meets in-gap.
Making correct decisions in these situations is the difference between getting to the second level & being stopped for a three yard gain.
The most translatable part to Taylor’s game from the collegiate level will be his identification & reaction to penetration.
Taylor transitions in & out of lanes with little perceived effort.
Notice the 'slalom' technique noted earlier, beginning at the 31 yard line.
6 - Poor 2nd level decision making
At times, Taylor is a bit erratic when making decisions at the second level.
This one should be two pronged.
Read #4’s angles (look where knees pointing) taking him towards the right hash, and cutback
2. Continue accelerating upfield
Taylor stops his feet and decelerates here and it potentially negates a bigger gain.
No back is perfect, but how he reacts to 2nd level defenders is an element to look for during his rookie season.
In situations like these, it would be more beneficial for Taylor to continue accelerating upfield.
Taylor gets caught in less than desirable situations when he rids economy from his movement and relies more on his athleticism to gain him yards.
7 - Landing spot: Indianapolis Colts
The best pure runner in this class is going to be running behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL? Sign me up. Marlon Mack makes this situation murky for Taylor's Rookie season, but this is a landing spot that gives Taylor 2,000 total yard upside starting in 2021. Something to monitor is Taylor's role on third down during the 2020 season.
8 - 'Who is Jonathan Taylor?'
If I had to pick a gold jacket guy from this class, it would be Jonathan Taylor. He has the durability, prototypical size, and breakaway ability that we haven't seen from many running backs throughout NFL history. He should slot in right away with the upside of an All-Pro as he continues to develop. His extensive workload as a Badger doesn't concern me seeing that he comes into the NFL without a single pre-existing injury. Remember, Taylor never missed a game in college.
The only real knock on him besides being a bit inconsistent at the second level is his ball security. With 18 career fumbles in 41 games, there is a possibility that his lack of ball security could lead to a reduction in playing time within the early stages of his career. While this is a concern, it isn't a large enough one to impact his draft stock.
For fantasy purposes, Taylor presents legitimate perennial upside as an RB1 that could border on the elite tier if we see a receiving workload similar to that of Leonard Fournette in Jacksonville.