We have heard how deep the 2020 NFL Draft is at positions like wide receiver, offensive tackle, and quarterback. But this is also a good draft for running backs as well. There will be several backs who could wind up carrying first round grades by the end of April.
The New York Giants don’t need to draft a running back this year, but if the right player were to fall, perhaps they could jump on the value.
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is one of those backs who could be considered a first-round talent by teams. But given the depth of the draft at other positions he could find himself sliding come draft night. His powerful, downhill running style would complement Saquon Barkley well, but could the Giants afford to draft him?
Prospect: Jonathan Taylor (RB, Wisconsin)
Games Watched: vs. Iowa (2019), vs. Nebraska (2019), vs Ohio State (conference championship, 2019), vs. Oregon (2019)
Carries (YPC): 926 (6.7 yards per carry)
Total Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 55 (50 rushing, 5 receiving)
Carries: 320 (6.3 yards per carry)
Yards: 252 (9.7 yards per catch)
Best: Downhill running, patience, vision, burst, contact balance, play strength, competitive toughness, hands
Worst: Off-tackle running
Projection: A starting running back in an offense that runs a down-hill, power-based running scheme.
Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor is a stoutly built running back with good natural leverage and thickness in his upper and lower body. Taylor shows excellent vision when running between the tackles, easily seeing creases before they open. He also shows the ability to anticipate defenders at the second level, giving him play speed that will exceed his athletic measurements. Taylor has very good patience behind the line of scrimmage, waiting for his blocks to develop and showing a good feel for following his blockers. He also shows a good burst through the hole or out of his cuts. Taylor has excellent play strength, contact balance, and competitive toughness. He runs behind his pads, delivering hits and routinely carries defenders for extra yardage. His anticipation and instincts show up as he is accelerating through the hole and he is able to vary the tempo of his runs to create bad angles and opportunities for yards after contact. Taylor also makes good use of a subtle jump cut to avoid tackles and pick up extra yardage.
Taylor has untapped upside as a receiving threat, showing good, strong hands and a willingness to extend to catch the ball far outside of his frame.
He is a willing blocker in pass protection and shows good awareness of the pass rush. He is easily able to get into position to pick up free rushers or help other blockers with double-teams.
Taylor does not have the top-end acceleration to routinely run off-tackle or in outside zone concepts. Taylor has the ability to create big plays, but doesn’t consistently show his timed speed. He also lacks the lower-body flexibility and quick-twitch to string moves together and make waves of defenders miss. And while he has upside as a receiver, he is not a good option for a check-down outlet behind the line of scrimmage. He has had a very high number of carries in college (926), and teams should be aware of wear and tear.
Overall Grade: 6.6 - A talented prospect with above-average physical traits you can win with. Should be an immediate starter in the right scheme and could be a top player at his position. A good value late in round one or early on Day 2.
Jonathan Taylor projects as a starting running back in the NFL in an offense which uses a downhill power running game. He should be an immediate starter and consistent contributor for any team that bases their blocking scheme on man-gap or inside zone principles. He has excellent contact balance, play strength, and competitive toughness and can be an absolute load to bring down. Making life more difficult for defenders, Taylor has fantastic vision, instincts, and anticipation between the tackles, letting him vary his running tempo as well as use a subtle-yet-effective jump cut to make himself surprisingly difficult to tackle cleanly.
Taylor has a very high stride frequency and great lower-body power to apply to second efforts and pushing piles.
Taylor is a surprisingly impressive receiver, showing good trust in his hands to catch balls far outside of his frame. He is an intriguing option on wheel routes, which would get him the ball in stride and force defensive backs to (attempt to) tackle him.
Taylor should not be used on many off-tackle or outside zone runs, and his runs tend to stall when forced to stop his feet, attempt to string moves together, or run parallel to the line of scrimmage. Taylor also isn’t a good option for check-downs behind the line of scrimmage, as it is too easy for defenses to key on him before he can build momentum.
Teams will also want to use him as a part of a running back rotation. Taylor has a very high number of carries in college (926 in three years, 320 in 2019 alone). And while he was incredibly prolific, totaling the sixth-most yards in NCAA history and becoming the first rusher in NCAA history to total 6,000 yards in a three-year span, teams should be wary of his work load. Placing him in a rotation with an athletic running back who can compliment his down-hill style might be best for both player and team.