Fantasy Draft Profile: Jonathan Taylor

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 226 lbs.

40 Yard Dash: 4.39s (98th percentile)

Speed Score: 121.7 (99th percentile)

Prospects like Jonathan Taylor are generally a dime a dozen. Taylor is, in all likelihood, the best running back prospect to come out since Saquon Barkley. With 6,174 rushing yards over the course of 41 games, Taylor ranks fourth all time in college rushing totals. Doing that against a rigorous Big Ten schedule each season while primarily deferring third down work each season.

Taylor’s rushing totals were fairly consistent each of his three seasons with the Badgers.

2016: 299 rush attempts, 1,977 yards, and 13 total touchdowns.

2017: 307 rush attempts, 2194 yards, and 16 total touchdowns.

2018: 320 rush attempts, 2003 yards, and 26 total touchdowns.

The main criticism of Taylor’s college career was his lack of involvement in the passing game. But how much of this is actually fair?

data courtesy of Player Profiler

As you can see, Wisconsin wasn’t a team that threw the ball a lot. With a weapon like Taylor, head coach Paul Chryst had to make a tweak to the offense to feature Taylor.

In an April interview with the media, Taylor was asked about his ability to be a three-down running back. “When you think of Wisconsin football, you think of power scheme, gap scheme. You don’t think of getting the running back out in space, and he (Coach Chryst) knew I had that ability.”. Taylor went on to credit coach Christ for making sure he was ready before implementing that wrinkle in the Badgers offense.

As far as how Taylor projects to the NFL as a pass catcher… well… let’s just say he’s still flying under the radar. While Taylor certainly didn’t see the volume of passes thrown his way as some other running backs like Clyde Edwards-Helaire and D’Andre Swift, Taylor still stacks up well with them. In fact, Taylor leads both Swift and Edwards-Helaire in 2019 target share.

2019

Taylor – 10.30% target share

Edwards-Helaire – 10.20% target share

Swift – 7.20% target share

Taylor managed to have more receptions (26) and targets (36) than Swift did in 2019, both playing 14 games. While not as fluid and naturally gifted a pass catcher as Swift and Edwards-Helaire, Taylor has shown a willingness to continuously work to refine his craft.

When asked about his route running, Taylor certainly didn’t shy away from expressing confidence in his route running. Taylor said he is now able to run the entire route tree, much to the credit of Coach Chryst.

“He wants what’s best for his players. So, he definitely knew that would help me in the future, and it definitely did, and I wanted to continue to improve on that (pass catching). As well routes, just to be able to run entire route tree so whenever I’m in the slot or split out wide, I’m able to run a plethora of routes.”

Talent Level

Taylor is one of the most gifted, pure, powerful runners to come out of the NFL Draft in some time. In fact, PlayerProfiler’s best comparable to him from an athleticism standpoint is Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott is often referred to as the best pure runner in the NFL.

Focusing on his traits as a runner, what is there not to like? Taylor ran behind a power/gap scheme in college and even ran behind some zone-blocking scheme. Taylor showed the patience to thrive in gap-centric run concepts as well as having enough wiggle to thrive in zone-blocking schemes. In a nutshell, as far as a runner, Taylor is virtually bullet proof.

Taylor ran the ball 926 times during his college career and never missed any significant time with injury. Durability is far from a concern for him. Taylor is a punishing runner that thrives both between the tackles and outside the box.

Schematic Fit With The Colts and Potential Road Blocks to Immediate Fantasy Contribution

Pardon my French, but the Colts have a saying in their organization, “Run the damn ball.”. With 926 career rushes and 6,174 rushing yards, rushing isn’t a concern for Taylor. Expect Taylor and the Colts to make sweet music together right away.

The Colts themselves possess one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, anchored by the 6’5″ mammoth of a man, Quenton Nelson. Pro Football Focus graded the Colts as the third best run blocking offensive line in 2019 and ranked sixth in the NFL in yards before contact.

The Colts ranked fourth in the NFL in rush attempts per game with 29.4. In fact, according to Joe Paeno of 4for4, the Colts had the second lowest neutral game passing script rate (53.4%).

But…but…what about incumbent starter Marlon Mack? Well, Mack has worn a lot of tread off of his tires in his three seasons with the Colts. Mack has missed eight games in his NFL career from his workload, largely the last two seasons.

Drafting an iron man like Taylor in the second round speaks volumes to what head coach Frank Reich and GM Chris Ballard want from their running back. The Colts clearly want and need a dynamic, workhorse running back.

While the Colts still fully intend to deploy Taylor and Mack as “1a and 1b” style running backs in 2020, the Colts still ran the ball 471 times last season. With 38 year old Philip Rivers as the Colts new QB this season, running the ball and preserving Rivers’ arm is clearly a priority. It’s completely reasonable to assume the Colts feature another run heavy attack this season.

It is well within the range of outcomes for Taylor to command a 55%/35%/10% market share of the teams rush attempts with Mack and pass catching specialist Nyheim Hines. With Taylor’s underrated pass catching ability and Rivers’ propensity to pepper his running backs (32% last season with the Chargers) there is a clear path to Taylor receiving 300 touches this season.

As the RB22 (48 overall) in PPR formats Taylor is going anywhere in the late fourth and early fifth rounds. 250 to 300 touches from a running back as talented as Taylor at that point in the draft is well worth it’s weight in gold.

As far as dynasty, Taylor is the 19th overall ranked player in start up drafts. Draft Taylor everywhere you can.

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