Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
(percentile rank among all RBs at Combine since 1999, courtesy of Mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: 4.39 seconds (93rd percentile)
Vertical: 36 inches (70th)
Broad: 10’3 (80th)
3-cone: 7.01 seconds (59th)
20-yard shuttle: 4.24 seconds (49th)
Taylor went from South Jersey offensive player of the year as a high school senior in 2016 to Doak Walker award finalist as a true freshman for the Badgers. His 1,977 rushing yards led the Big Ten and ranked 3rd nationally behind only Rashaad Penny and Bryce Love.
Taylor followed his big debut with an even bigger encore. He took home the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top RB in 2018, delivering the 2nd most single-season rushing yards in Wisconsin history (and most in FBS for the season). Taylor racked up the 3rd-largest 2-year rushing total to start a career in NCAA history, trailing only fellow Badger Melvin Gordon and former Iowa State stud (but NFL dud) Troy Davis.
He snatched a 2nd straight Doak Walker Award last season, plus 1st-team everything, etc. Taylor’s 2,003 rushing yards made him the 2nd player (after Davis) to go 2,000+ in consecutive seasons. And before that football season began, Taylor showed off his speed by joining the Wisconsin track team for the Penn Relays and Big Ten Championship meet. As a high-schooler, Taylor won 2 New Jersey state titles in the 100-meter dash.
That track speed, of course, showed up at the Combine with the position’s best 40 time. Taylor also posted just the 4th sub-4.40 time among all RBs over the past 6 years.
(Courtesy of WhatsOnDraftNFL)
Games watched: Ohio State 2017, Miami 2017, Michigan 2018, Nebraska 2018, Ohio State 2019, Michigan State 2019
Let’s go ahead and address the speed 1st, since that was the biggest story of Taylor’s Combine weekend. Just look at how confident this true freshman was in his 2017 wheels …
As we already addressed with the 40 time, that speed didn’t go anywhere over the past 2 years. First, here’s 2018 against Nebraska ...
And then last season against Ohio State. (If anything, he might have gotten faster.)
Of course, you see more than just the speed on the 2nd and 3rd clips. Taylor doesn’t deliver the blow to defenders that some bigger power backs might. But his 226-pound frame shows in his ability to run through arm tackles and drag defenders.
And if you don’t bring him down, that rare speed for a guy his size means the ultimate price.
Although Taylor has the speed to bounce a run outside if the middle’s clogged, he also sports the patience to allow that inside seam to open.
That clip shows a lot of what makes Taylor good. After pausing just enough to set up his blocking, Taylor displays the agile feet to navigate interior traffic and then a stiff arm and some nice leg drive to finish off the run.
Taylor has also drawn praise for his vision as a runner. See him here find and hit the cutback lane for a nice gain.
And how often do you see feet this light on a 220+ pound runner?
That’s not a big play, but Taylor’s agility creates a few yards where a less-shifty runner might take a loss.
In addition to huge rushing workloads each season with the Badgers, Taylor saw a nice spike in receptions as a junior. I saw him split out just once in the games I watched and didn’t see him as a primary target down the field. But Taylor does look natural catching the ball and turning upfield for yards.
Taylor heads toward the 2020 NFL Draft with as much fantasy upside as any RB in this class.
He has already displayed workhorse ability by averaging about 309 carries per season at Wisconsin. He has leveraged his track speed into 6.7 yards per carry for his career. And he presents rushing traits normally reserved for smaller backs.
The final pieces here will be destination and draft capital, and we’d bet on both workout out for Taylor. He looks like a strong candidate to be the 1st RB off the board and certainly won’t go later than 3rd at the position. Popular opinion among draftniks has Taylor in Round 1. It’s hard to imagine a team grabbing him that early without a plan to use him right away.