NFL Draft

Ball Security, Mileage, Pass Pro Issues Make RB Jonathan Taylor A Risky No. 49 Pick For Steelers

Are you fan of Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor? It’s understandable if you are. After all, he rushed for 6,174 yards and 50 touchdowns in his three years at Wisconsin in addition to registering another 407 yards and five touchdowns via receptions. Additionally, Taylor ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, IN and that really sent him off into the draft season on a high note. With Taylor seemingly being the favorite player of the week of several fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, I thought today would be a great time to look at a few of the legitimate concerns related to the young running back ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft.

For starters, Taylor enters the NFL having registered a whopping 968 total touches at Wisconsin with 926 of those being rushes. That’s a ton of touches for a running back coming out of college. Look at Taylor’s total rush attempts compared to the other top running backs in this year’s draft class. Sure, Taylor has been healthy to date and he’s only 21 years of age. Even so, an NFL team has to take into account that Taylor enters the NFL with a lot of college mileage on him.

Second, it’s important to remember that Taylor consistently had very good run blocking offensive lines in his three years at Wisconsin. He had some tremendous holes to run through and that’s usually been the case for a lot of Wisconsin running backs over the years. That’s not a statement meant to diminish Taylor’s accomplishments on the ground the last three years in both man and zone blocking schemes, because he is a very talented runner. That said, many very good college running backs look very below average behind sub par offensive lines.

Next, Taylor wasn’t much of an asset in the Wisconsin passing game during his three seasons there. Sure he had 26 receptions last year after having just 16 in his first two years, but he also had several drops. Four last season and eight in total during his college career To makes matters worse, Taylor isn’t very experienced in pass protection and when asked to do it on a limited basis at Wisconsin, wasn’t very reliable. He’s about a 50/50 cut blocker and nothing more. To get on an NFL field consistently, Taylor will need to vastly improve those two areas of his game and quickly.

Lastly, it’s been well-documented that Taylor has had ball security issues throughout his college career as evidenced by his 17 total fumbles in 41 games played in. Stats, however, are just stats. Because of that, I wanted to see all 17 of those fumbles for myself so I would have full context of them. Thankfully, I was able to track down all 17 of Taylor’s fumbles at Wisconsin and have since compiled them in one video for all to see. By watching all 17 fumbles, it’s clear that Taylor does have ball security issues as not only did he fumble by carrying the football away from his body, he also had it pulled out several other times by defensive players at the end of runs and knocked out a few others by smartly placed hits.

For those who believe NFL coaching can cure Taylor’s fumbling issue, good luck with that theory. Wisconsin coaches worked on Taylor’s fumbling issues for the last three seasons to no avail. In short, it’s hard to believe that Taylor won’t be a fumbler at the NFL level.

Yes, Taylor does have a lot of positives to his game with his ability to gain yards after first contact being at the top of that list along with his overall vision. His straight-line speed and this ability to register double explosive runs of 40 yards or longer, 18 in total at Wisconsin by my count, is also impressive. Even so, Taylor’s issues and concerns I outlined above can’t be overlooked and thus he should be considered a very risky second-round selection for any NFL team, including the Steelers.

Pro Football Focus currently has Taylor pegged as a third-round prospect in this year’s draft and I agree with that assessment. He’s likely to be off the board by the time the Steelers third-round selection happens, so they would likely need to take him at 49th overall if they want him, which I would heavily advise against.

Not that it’s a huge deal-breaker in light of a majority of college pro days being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin both failed to attend the Wisconsin pro day in early March. I’m not so sure that Steelers running back coach Eddie Faulkner even made it to his alma mater for that pro day to look at Taylor. One would think that at least one of the three would have attended that event if Taylor were viewed as a potential second-round selection.

We’ll see in less than a month who ultimately drafts Taylor and when. If it’s the Steelers that ultimately pick him, I will find it it a bit surprising and especially if they do so at No. 49 overall. Taylor might go on to be a fine NFL back that plays more than five seasons in the league. Even so, his heavy college usage and other easy-to-see flaws make him a very risky pick for the Steelers this year in the second-round.

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