Rookie Spotlight: Jonathan Taylor, University of Wisconsin
Height: 5’ 10 1/4” (official)
Weight: 226 lbs (official)
Hands: 9 1/2”
Arm: 31 1/8”
40 yard dash: 4.39 (official)
NFL Comparison: Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Cadillac Williams
– accelerates to top speed quickly
– powerful downhill runner
– great vision
– historically prolific college career
– hard to bring down
– good instincts
– 90th percentile SPARQ athlete
– ball security (18 fumbles)
– can work on pass protection
2019 Team Market Share Numbers
53% team rushing attempts
11% team receptions
37% total offensive yards
46% total offensive touchdowns
Scouting Notes: Even if you’ve never seen tape of Taylor, it’s hard not to be impressed with the stats and accolades he heaped up during his time in Wisconsin. A 2-time Doak Walker winner, Taylor is the number 6 all-time leading rusher in NCAA history, and he’s the only player to ever run for 6,000 yards in 3 seasons. Along with that absurd yardage comes an absurd amount of touches (968) and mileage on his legs, but Taylor has proven durable and came out of college relatively unscathed — at the Combine, he credited the Wisconsin strength and conditioning staff for what he viewed as an excellent regimen of various recovery therapies and practices. He also just turned 21 in late January, so he’s young even by rookie standards.
An impressive size/speed combo, Taylor’s best asset is his ability to get his bulky frame through small spaces in an astonishingly quick time. He sees an opening, makes a cut, and it’s off to the races. With 4.39 40-speed, and a quick first cut, he’s evasive through the line and doesn’t usually rack up a lot of contact getting up to full speed. His vision and ability to navigate space is exceptional. When Taylor does meet a defender, he rarely goes down on first contact, as he runs with power and he keeps his pad level low. In fact, Pro Football Focus charted Jonathan Taylor as having the best median forced-missed-tackle rate in the entire class by over a third of a yard. He knows how to finish a run, and that’s apparent with his eye-popping stats.
NFL teams may wish Taylor would put as much effort into his blocking as he does finishing runs, though. He’s going to need to improve his pass blocking if he wants to truly be a 3-down back at the next level — something he clearly looks poised to be. In fairness to Taylor, he simply wasn’t asked much to pass-protect in college, though. Per PFF, he only had 60 snaps of pass-pro during his entire college career and on those 60 snaps, he was docked for allowing 5 hurries. He’ll also need to shore up his ball security issues, as he’s had 18 fumbles over 3 seasons. These two areas — the unknown regarding how Taylor will develop in pass-pro, and the (any way you slice it) unacceptable rate of fumbles in college — are the only relative warts that are easy to identify on an otherwise sterling resume.
As a pass catcher, Taylor didn’t get a ton of action, at least not compared to his total number of touches, though he did top off at 26 receptions his junior year. He has decent hands though, as he’s shown in recent workouts.
Fantasy Outlook: Taylor will likely be the one of the first two running backs drafted this year, and that’s for good reason. He’s shown himself to be the most prolific back in the draft and arguably the most complete. He projects to be a 3-down back in the NFL, and if he can improve his pass protection and ball security issues, he’ll be a welcome addition to any needy franchise. Taylor, depending on where he lands, should be the first running back drafted in dynasty this season, as he projects to see the field early and often, and he has a track record of putting up the type of numbers to justify that decision. RB1.
Career: Played in 41 games with 40 starts … rushed for 6,174 yards on 926 carries, ranking No. 6 all-time in FBS and No. 2 all-time among Big Ten players in rushing yards … average of 6.67 yards per carry ranks No. 2 in school history … rushed for at least 100 yards in 32 games, third-most in FBS history … had 12 games of 200-plus yards, matching Texas’ Ricky Williams for the second-most in FBS history behind only Ron Dayne (14) … scored 50 rushing touchdowns and 55 TDs in total … caught 42 passes for 407 yards (9.7 average) with 5 touchdowns … first player in school history to record three games of 200-plus rushing yards against a single opponent, doing so against both Nebraska and Purdue.
Quotable from the Combine:
(Getting here) It’s been a long journey. Three seasons at the University of Wisconsin, great teammates surrounding me, great teammates surrounding me all three years, to to go to Phoenix, Ariz., and training at EXOS, with top guys around the country competing to get better, now you’re here at this point, really it’s about getting to meet the coaches and letting them know who you are, not just on the field but off the field.
(Showing scouts) One of the biggest things is being effective on third down. A lot of guys think Wisconsin football is power football and outside zone schemes, which it is. Coach (Paul) Chryst did a great job of making an emphasis point to put me in space to be able to showcase that ability.
(Back you model game after) So, growing up my favorite running back was Arian Foster, hence the reason I have 23. I just think he was so smooth for his size, in and out of his cuts. That’s just a guy I tried to model my game after.
(Lot of carries) So, really I think this is a shoutout to coach Kane and the strength and conditioning staff at the University of Wisconsin, those guys did a great job of giving you the knowledge of what you need to do to prepare your body as well as putting you in position to prepare your body for the workload of the season. So, I really think that’s kudos for giving guys the knowledge for recovery. Things you need to do before a game, after a game, in the offseason to prepare you for that workload.
(All the great backs’ records you broke) It’s an honor. Anytime you’re mentioned with those guys, it’s a blessing. I think the biggest thing is you didn’t do it alone. I had great teammates, great leaders around me to push me to the limit, to push me to that moment. So, I think the biggest thing is just realizing and understanding that I didn’t do it alone. Definitely, you already know, like, Herschel Walker is the gold standard for a running back, Barry Sanders, his ability to make people miss when nothing is there. To be mentioned with those guys, it’s an honor and a blessing. You have to take it day by day, but you have to know you can always keep getting better.
(Favorite team) So, I grew up watching the Texans due to Arian Foster, so I guess I’d have to go with the Texans.
(What is it about the New Jersey RB pipeline to Wisconsin) That was one part. Cory Clement is from Glassboro, NJ., which is about 25-30 minutes from Salem, N.J., so going into high school games, tearing through south Jersey, seeing him go to Wisconsin, have success at the highest level of collegiate football, thinking, ‘Oh, he’s from the same area as me, if he can do it why can’t I.’ That kind of put Wisconsin on the map and had me following them. Once I found out Wisconsin was a top 20 academic institution, that kind of was a dealbreaker for me because I get the best of both worlds. I’ll be able to have an elite education as well as an elite athletic experience to be able to compete and challenge with guys around the country.
(You and Tyler Biadasz rooming together) That was awesome. I thought you were going to room by like by position or something like that, so when I didn’t have another running back in the room and everyone was in the chat saying, ‘Yeah, I already have my roomate’, I thought I had a room to myself and then Tyler walked in and that was awesome.
(What makes you the best running back in this class) Really, I think it’s my consistency. I mean, if you look at the next level, what separates the great backs from the elite backs is really them playing on an elite level day in and day out every Sunday. I think that’s one of the biggest things that separates me is my ability to be consistent year in and year out.
(Why Arian Foster) So really, Arian Foster was really smooth in and out of his cuts for his size. So, me being kind of a bigger back, making sure when I play I play smooth so it looks natural. And I thought it was just like rhythm and poetry in my eyes.
(Catching the ball) It was very valuable. Coach Chryst did a good job making that a focal point my junior year. Kudos for him for being consciously aware of that throughout the game. It really didn’t matter to me in the game whether he wanted to hand it off to me or throw it to me. I was willing to do whatever it took for us to win as many games as possible.
(What do you want to show) Really just to be able to catch the ball consistently because, like I said, I had a lot of opportunities this year more than last year. I had about 25 catches this year, which is a big jump from last year and just be able to continue to show that throughout the combine process once we hit the field work and show that I’m an every down back.