This week, we will analyze our top 5 running backs in college football. Our first prospect is Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor. He has made history wearing a Badger uniform, breaking Herschel Walker’s rushing record a month ago. Taylor is definitely something special.
Jonathan Taylor has improved every year since starting in 2017. He went from 1,977 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns his Freshman year to currently 1,909 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns this year. He is what every scout wants in a running back: size, speed and explosiveness. At 5”11 219 ibs., Taylor is definitely a running back that uses his size to his advantage to make explosive cuts down the field.
In addition, Taylor does a great job at reading the holes quickly and not panicking at making a decision where to run. If one hole is not open, he is quick to find another one with his elusiveness and outstanding footwork down the field.
One ESPN analyst said Taylor is ‘dwarfing’ Herschel Walker. This was said even before Taylor broke Walker’s rushing record in November’s game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, which shows just the special type of player that Taylor is. During his three years at Wisconsin, Taylor has already surpassed Walker’s college career rushing, receiving yards and touchdowns. He has the potential to be a game-changer in the NFL.
Jonathan Taylor is the greatest college running back of my lifetime and possibly ever. His stats speak for himself. Here is a guy who was thinking about going to Stanford, commits to Wisconsin, and the rest is history. I have major respect for Jonathan Taylor, he is an absolute game-changer. His strengths obviously come from his speed and ability to break tackles, find the open spaces. His accomplishments can’t be talked about enough. He is persistent and an all-around solid football player. He really could be the next Alvin Kamara or Aaron Jones. 6,000 yards in just 3 seasons is unheard of.
Taylor is one of the best college running backs to ever play. He racked up over 6,000 yards in just 3 seasons. Taylor has done things we haven’t seen since Herschel Walker’s time at Georgia. He also doubles as a track star. When he is able to find a gap he hits it hard and is tough for anyone to catch. He can make you miss and power right through you. Taylor is strong and tough to bring down. Jonathan Taylor is everything you could hope for in a 1st and 2nd down back.
I have one word to describe Jonathan Taylor and that is he’s a “beast”, but even using that is an understatement to Taylor’s success at Wisconsin. The three years Taylor has put up for the Badgers is legendary – 905 carries, 6,080 yards, average 6.7 yards per carry and 50 touchdowns. Taylor has the skills to be a very good NFL running back. Taylor has great strength and power that he creates good yards after contact and won’t go down easily on any tackle. His size is NFL ready at 5’11 and 215 lbs. Taylor’s elusive in tight spaces and once he’s in the open field, he has enough speed to break free.
Taylor has shown he’s durale and consistent than any RB in the 2020 draft class. A player I would compare Taylor to is Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns. Both going into the draft had good size, strength and speed, then coming out of college both were used a ton in their college careers. Both weren’t known for their passing catching either in college, but Taylor in his junior year has really improved through the passing game.
Jonathan Taylor has put up video-game numbers at Wisconsin. The biggest and dumbest criticism people have on Wisconsin running backs entering the draft is they attribute 100% of the rb’s success on their consistently monster offensive line, but that’s stupid because no running back would be successful without a solid offensive line. Every great running back in history from Jim Brown, to Walter Payton, to Emmitt Smith, to Adrian Peterson credits their success to their offensive lines, and some of them ran behind absolutely wretched lines.
For Taylor, he has all the physical and mental tools needed (except for one) to be a great NFL running back. He has the perfect size, and combination of power and speed to be an NFL running back. Taylor can be a viable hammer, but he also has immense patience and lateral quickness to cut and allow blockers to open holes. He awards his blockers and rarely misses an open hole when its given to him. His numbers are great but watching his film paints a better picture of who he is as a runner. Simply put, he runs like an NFL rb and he blows past the line of scrimmage like a good NFL rb.
One major issue with Jonathan Taylor is that he is not an all-around running back. Although he is unstoppable on the run, Taylor has not made much of an impact as a receiving back. He did not score his first career receiving touchdown until this year against South Florida. His first two years, Taylor was barely utilized as a receiver, and even though he has been used more in that area this year, it is still not as much as people would have expected. This season, he only has 209 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns on 24 receptions. He has been utilized a little more this year in the receiving game, but he still has to prove he can contribute what today’s NFL running backs should.
Although he may be an “all-around” “balanced” running back, Taylor does not necessarily dominate in the passing game. He could match the likes of Matt Forte’s style in the future, but the passing game, at least catching the football, isn’t his strength. Today’s NFL Players like Aaron Jones really thrive in those situations. For me, its a matter of growth, he’ll get there.
His biggest weakness is his lack of ability in the passing game. Wisconsin has seldom played him in passing situations. This season we saw the biggest step for him in that area. He was much more involved and caught more passes than ever before. However, he still shows he’s not ready to pass protect at the NFL level. He also still drops passes he shouldn’t. This is an area an NFL staff will focus more on than what Wisconsin staff did. NFL teams will want him to succeed in this area more than what Wisconsin needed.
The other weakness is the fumbles. Taylor has shown he can struggle to hold onto the ball. He’s lost 14 fumbles in his 3 seasons. Taylor will need to improve his ability to hold the football at the next level.
The biggest concern for me on Taylor is that he’s been used a ton already at Wisconsin. Taylor has piled up more than 900 carries in his collegiate career, which causes wear and tear to a running back, who are already known to have short NFL careers. Also in Taylor’s career fumbling has been an issue throughout his time as a Badger. The first two years at Wisconsin, Taylor wasn’t involved in the passing game as much with a total of 16 receptions, but this year he improved with 24. There’s still room for improvement in receiving for Taylor, but to get more receptions means he can at least be capable of doing it.
Taylor’s biggest concern is that he’s largely unproven in the pass-game. Years ago this probably wouldn’t have been a big deal since many past great rbs weren’t used as receivers or couldn’t catch, but today rbs are more valued if they can do both. He’s on the end of Wisconsin never using him in the pass game so he’ll have to prove himself to others on the next level, but that’s still an uphill battle.
Another minor thing that will affect Taylor’s value is his durability playing at the position. Over the last three years Wisconsin gave him the ball over 900 times and with running backs having the shortest careers and most usage causing injury, that fact simply can’t be ignored.
Draft Projection: Jonathan Taylor is the most talented running back in the nation. Where will he land?
Jonathan Taylor could fall anywhere throughout the first round. His lack of receiving skills might cause him to drop a bit towards the end of the first. However, there are teams like the Buccaneers and the Dolphins in the mid-first that could use a running back like Taylor. As much as I do not like to admit it, running backs are known to have shelf-life in the NFL, and as of the draft order right now, there are not too many teams that I can see taking a running back early except for the Buccaneers and Dolphins. Taylor is the best running back in this draft in my eyes, but he, as well as D’Andre Swift from Georgia, could fall anywhere throughout the first round, as they will probably be the only running backs taken in the first, if there are any.
No matter who you ask or what you read, there isn’t an exact spot as to where he could be drafted. He will fall in the first two rounds, but nobody can pinpoint it. Running backs can be interchangeable. No doubt about that. The average career lasts three years, so there is a need for Jonathan Taylor, it’s just a matter of when he will be drafted.
Just like last season we could see the first running back fall late into the first round. However, with Taylor’s lack of passing game ability he may have to wait for Day 2 to hear his name called. Several teams like Tampa Bay and Miami could use a true playmaker like Taylor. Someone who could lead the charge in a drive down the field and take pressure off the quarterback.
The NFL doesn’t love running backs like they used to, especially since they can be interchangeable. Taylor has first round talent, but he will be selected in the second round. With the questioning of wear and tear, ball security, and receiving out of the backfield, a lot of teams will hold off from picking a running back in the first round. Taylor had a great career at Wisconsin and I don’t see why that can’t transition over to the NFL. Jonathan Taylor ending up in the second round could be a steal for any team and if he ends up in the right system, I don’t doubt Taylor will see great production and a chance to be in the Rookie of the Year running.
Taylor is a top-2 rb in a solid draft class at the position this year. Where he goes is dependant on when teams want to start picking rbs and if a team picks D’Andre Swift first. Since rbs at the top-end are not a priority with a lot of teams this year and there isn’t a completely NFL-ready, must have guy like Saquon Barkley or Ezekiel Elliot, the first rb could very well be selected on Day 2. Since Taylor can be a game-changer and improve a team’s run game right away it would be surprising if he slid past the early third-round.