Incredibly patient runner who always seems to be under control
in traffic (0:00,
good at pressing the hole and setting up second-level blocks.
Forced at least 60 missed tackles in each of his three college
seasons and averaged over 1,300 yards after contact per year,
per Pro Football Focus.
Repeatedly executes a well-timed one-gap jump cut that leaves
defenders grabbing for air in space. (0:07, 0:46,
Anticipates second-level defenders very well and displays
excellent vision; eyes and feet often work as one. (0:07, 0:41,
Former track athlete whose second gear enables him to pull
away from linebackers/safeties. (0:14, 0:46,
Career workload (968 college touches - including 926 carries
- is a scary number for a player who has yet to play a down
of NFL football).
Will not always carry the ball high and tight (18 fumbles
- 15 lost - in 41 career games). (2:08,
Tends to stay with the play even when the wall is caving in
as opposed to looking for cutback opportunities - a tendency
that may end up rewarding overaggressive pursuit from backside
defenders in the NFL. (0:16, 1:37, 4:49)
Lacks the zero to 60 burst of most elite runners; he loses
his effectiveness if he is forced to stop his feet or change
direction too quickly.
Wasn't asked to identify the blitzer or block very often,
and didn't typically make it a priority to eliminate his man
in those situations. (2:42,
Lack of experience/usage in the passing game shows up from
time to time, as he lacks crispness/suddenness in his routes.
(2:36, 2:46, 2:57, 5:05)
Dropped eight passes on 50 career catchable targets, per PFF.
While it may seem impossible that a running back can rush for
6,000-plus yards in three college seasons and be underrated, Taylor
seems to be doing exactly that. Much like "Air Raid"
quarterbacks back in the day (and still to some degree yet today),
University of Wisconsin running backs have been so productive
for so long that evaluators are a bit leery they are products
of their college system. Taylor owns several NCAA records, including
most career 200-yard rushing games (12), most rushing yards by
a freshman (1,977), most rushing yards through a sophomore season
(4,171) and most rushing yards through a junior season (6,171).
Maybe just as impressively, Taylor owns the second-, fifth- and
sixth-best individual rushing seasons in school history. Perhaps
Taylor has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to being
"a product of the system," no?
With that said, Taylor's college production doesn't ensure he'll
be a big hit in the NFL. (Take one look to see how few of the
all-time NFL greats are among the leaders in college rushing
attempts and rushing
yardage.) His 4.39-second run in the 40 at the NFL Combine
was probably the biggest eye-opener for many who have yet to see
him play regularly. Make no mistake about it, speed is part of
what allowed him to be so productive, but it's not his biggest
asset. (Perhaps none of his 2019 runs define him better than this
one. It's not a 50-yard touchdown, but rather an 18-yard non-scoring
run in which he shows patience, steps through a couple of arm
tackles, makes a slight jump cut to dodge another tackle in space
and then carries a couple of defenders for about 10 yards.) It's
almost ridiculous how often those four "abilities" show
up on his tape, and it's a good thing for him because all four
of those qualities tend to be effective in or carry over to the
pro game as well.
Taylor's heavy usage in college isn't overly concerning by itself,
but it is more of an issue when considering his propensity for
fumbling. Many a college back has turned himself into a plus contributor
in the passing game despite not getting a lot of work in that
area in college, but it is rather obvious some of the more important
areas (running crisp routes, changing up how to block a blitzer,
etc.) weren't made a top priority in practice. NFL teams probably
need to wrap their mind around Taylor being an early-down workhorse
that initially needs to come off the field in critical passing-down
situations. The New Jersey native can catch the ball, but dedication
to his craft - not to mention his new position coach - will play
a large role as to whether his career moves more along the Gore
and Ingram trajectory in terms of his contributions in the passing
game than Jordan Howard. Thankfully, work ethic does not appear
to be in question, so it seems more likely than not he will be
a featured back in the NFL late in his rookie season or 2021.
How quickly it happens will depend on how quickly he can correct/curb
his weaknesses in the passing game and with ball security.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.