From now until the 2020 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#23 Jonathan Taylor/RB Wisconsin – 5’11 219
– Well-built frame with big lower half
– One of the most patient runners you’ll find, excels in gap schemes with ability to follow blocks, let run develop, then find the hole
– Creates space by pressing the hole and getting LBs to bite, vision to bounce/bend runs and find open grass
– Tough runner with play strength and contact balance, runs through arm tackles against corners and safeties
– Runs hard with leg drive to push pile and fall forward at the end of runs
– Clear, downhill run style who gets North/South without much dancing or playing out of his element
– Willing pass protector who squares up and willing to sacrifice his body
– Works hard as a receiver; not natural but runs hard, explosive routes and works to catch away from his frame
– Elite, consistent production against quality competition, excellent starting experience
– Excels in short-yardage, goal line situations
– Showed durability despite intense workload
– Average to below average athlete who lacks second gear in space, will get chased down at the end of his runs
– Not a particularly explosive or sudden player, has vision to see the lane but doesn’t always have acceleration to get through second level
– Will struggle to maximize space due to limited athleticism
– Tendency to run too tall while in the open field
– Will fight the ball as a receiver and body catches too often
– Often rotated out on 3rd downs and didn’t have to be part of pass game, hardly caught any passes until 2019
– Obvious concerns about workload and career carries
– 40 career starts
– Career: 926 carries, 6174 yards (6.7 YPC) 50 TDs, 42 receptions
– Two seasons over 2000 yards (2194 in 2018, 2003 in 2019)
– Led NCAA in rush yards in 2018, finished 2nd in Big Ten history for a career, 6th in NCAA
– 12 career games over 200 yards, one over 300 (33 carries, 321 yards 3 TDs in 2018 game against Purdue)
– Four-star recruit out of high school, rushed for over 2800 yards as a senior
– Won back-to-back 100 meter dashes as junior and senior in HS (ran 10.61 junior year)
– Father played basketball for San Francisco State in the 80s
Taylor is considered to be one of the top backs in a class, one that’s chalk full of underclassmen like himself. No one is going to have a stronger resume than Taylor, the latest Badgers’ back that feels like an endless pool of talent. Pittsburgh, at least, seems to pride production above almost anything else and you won’t find someone with more production in three years than Taylor. Had he stayed for his senior season, it’s all but certain he would’ve become college football’s all-time leading rusher, just 1000 yards behind fellow Wisconsin Badger Ron Dayne.
But he declared and that was the smart thing to do given the wear and tear he’s already experienced.
His best asset is by far his patience. Taylor does a great job of letting the run develop, following his blocks, in almost a Le’Veon Bell style of wait wait waaaaait…now GO! He does a tremendous job in gap schemes following pullers and lead blockers and has the nuance in his running to press the hole and set up LBs. Start to attack one gap, get the LB to fill, then bounce to the open lane.
Taylor has good strength, balance, and finishes runs with power and leg drive. Bounces off #9 from Michigan and keeps on trucking.
Judging his athleticism is a bit tricky. On tape, I largely saw an average to below type player. But there was a flash or two of open field speed and ability and he has a strong track background too. Ultimately, I lean on what the majority of his tape says and his lack of suddenness and burst is a concern going forward.
Take this play for example. Great vision, cutting to his right, but he didn’t have the juice to get through the second level and the Michigan linebacker, even though he has to react and trail, is able to scrape over and make the tackle.
Taylor will have many good runs in the NFL. I don’t know how many of those will turn into great ones.
He does work hard as a receiver and blocker but he’s not natural at either. Wisconsin regularly took him off the field on third downs which sure, helped him stay fresh since, if it was 1st and 10, he was getting the ball, but speaks to even their concerns about his three-down usage.
I like Taylor. He had an outstanding college career. But to me, drafting running backs, especially early as Taylor is projected to go, you have to be blown away by them. Calling him a product of scheme is unfair, he can create his own way, but you generally need to be a great athlete at the position to succeed at the next level, even for a big guy like him. I’m not sold on that so it’s hard to use a 2nd round pick on him in a class with so many other options. His best chance to succeed, however, is in a gap, downhill scheme where he can get North/South and build up a head of steam into the 2nd level.
His ceiling is something along the lines of Mark Ingram and more recently, you can compare him to David Montgomery, though I liked Montgomery’s balance more than Taylor’s.
Projection: Mid Day Two
Games Watched: vs Michigan (2017), at Ohio State, vs Michigan State, vs Iowa