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Jonathan Taylor Is A Production Machine (2020 NFL Draft)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Mar 6, 2020

Jonathan Taylor should be one of the first running backs off the board in April

Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Height: 5’10”
Weight: 226 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.39 seconds
Vertical Jump: 36.0 inches
Broad Jump: 123.0 inches
3-Cone Drill: 7.01 seconds

It’s clear who the favorite running back was at the NFL Combine, as Taylor lit the draft world on fire when he ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at 226 pounds. While that was extremely impressive (99th percentile speed score), Taylor’s best attribute might be his patience and vision on the field.

One downside is that there aren’t many players who’ve come into the NFL with as many carries as Taylor had while at Wisconsin. He tallied 926 of them during his three years there, which will have some concerns about his long-term viability. He also fumbled the ball 18 times (lost 15 of them), so you might not see him playing for Bill Belichick any time soon. Still, there was a three-game stretch in November where he rushed for at least 204 yards in each of them. Production on the ground was not a problem for the workhorse.

Here’s my detailed scouting report on Jonathan Taylor (ratings out of five stars):

Vision/Awareness

He shows patience, which is something that’s a bit odd for bigger running backs like him, but the only thing that stops him from being truly special is that he doesn’t have elite short-area burst to take full advantage of it. He doesn’t always stay low to the ground but seems to know when to get low behind his offensive linemen, particularly near the goal-line. He has a nose for where the white line is and often finds it. If there’s a hole, he’ll find it, and though you don’t see him creating too much on his own, his vision allowed him to continually gain chunks of yardage. I will say that his offensive line allowed him to shine. He’s really good in the open field when it comes to making subtle moves with his feet. In the end, he knows how to follow blocks and if he lands on a team with a good offensive line, it’ll allow him to shine. This is his best attribute.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

Elusiveness (twitch, juke, tackle-breaking)

His size doesn’t allow him to be arm-tackled very often, though he’s not a tackle-breaking machine or anything. He’s shifty with his feet for a bigger running back, allows him to juke some defenders due to them lowering their head to tackle a bigger back. Knows how to “get skinny” in tight spaces. He doesn’t have the one-cut ability that some do, as he rounds out his cut to get upfield, though that should be expected with a running back who weighs 226 pounds. His vision is the reason he’s been able to gain chunks of yardage, not necessarily his elusiveness.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

Size/Speed

Has a good build to him, though he’s on the thicker side when compared to most starting running backs. Don’t see a whole lot of aggressive burst out of him. Speed is something that many will credit to him after a quick 40-yard dash time and wonder how he doesn’t get a perfect score here, but his initial burst isn’t anything special, and it’s why his 3-cone time wasn’t elite. Once his wheels get spinning, however, he moves extremely well for a big man and has plenty of long speed. Understand that burst and speed are two different things.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Pass-catching/Pass Protection

He wasn’t asked to be a receiver very often, but from what we have seen, he’s a competent pass-catcher, though it’s not a plus to his game. He caught just eight balls in each of his first two seasons, but we saw that number go up to 26 in his junior year, showing that he’s capable. Still, he’s not going to be someone who’ll bring in 60-plus receptions a season, as he’s somewhat stiff in the passing-game. His big frame allows him to help protect against the blitz and he does leverage his body well when asked to stay in and block.

RATING: ⭐⭐ 1/2

Versatility

He’s someone who’s best-suited for a slight 70/30 timeshare, with him on the 70 percent side of that. Would ideally be used in a primary two-down role with all the goal-line responsibilities and be spelled by a running back who’s a bit more versatile as a receiver. You want him in a downhill power scheme, as it’ll allow his best traits to shine.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐

Projected Draft Spot

Some will have Taylor as the No. 1 running back on their board, though it’s tough to make that argument when he’s best-suited for a two-down role right out of the gate. Still, he’s extremely talented and has shown the ability to handle a big workload. He continually broke records with his production on the ground at Wisconsin and will be one of the top three running backs off the board. He should be expected to come off the board by the middle of the second round.

NFL Comparison

While watching I’m reminded of Nick Chubb. They’re both thicker running backs who may not be the most skilled pass-catchers, but they’re so good on early downs, it’s hard to keep them off the field. They’re both durable and can handle big workloads. While Chubb may have more tackle-breaking ability, Taylor has a bit more long speed.

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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