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The performance brings everybody in Wisconsin back to his time with the Badgers. The breakaway runs, great vision, ability to fall forward and overall dominance were more of the same stuff everybody watched from 2017-2019.
But when Taylor entered the NFL Draft there were many who doubted how his game would translate. The JT NFL Draft bingo card includes his fumbles, too may college carries, inability to catch the ball and more.
Jonathan Taylor 76-yard house call on 3rd-and-15! 🏠
— ESPN (@espn) October 12, 2021
So, since Taylor is dominating in the NFL just like he did here at Wisconsin, let’s look at what some NFL Draft analysts had to say about the former Badger entering the 2020 NFL Draft.
Dane Brugler, The Athletic (draft guide):
“A three-year starter at Wisconsin, Taylor was the lead back in head coach Paul Chryst’s pro-style scheme. He is one of the most productive runners in college football history, breaking Herschel Walker’s record (by 578 yards) for the most rushing yards by a player through his junior season, finishing his career sixth on the FBS all-time rushing list. More than simply a north-south runner, Taylor understands where and when to hit the hole while also keeping his options open, smoothly redirecting and making it tough on defenders to square him up for the tackle. His horrendous fumble rate (one every 52.9 offensive touches) and lack of pass pro reps are concerns, although he saw an uptick in targets as a pass catcher in 2019 and handled it well. Overall, Taylor needs to eliminate the fumbles and improve his reliability on passing downs, but his balanced, instinctive run qualities and controlled movements project him as a featured NFL starter.”
Brugler wasn’t far off when looking at what Taylor did extremely well entering the NFL. He also wasn’t someone who said the former Badger “couldn’t catch.
Brugler might’ve been the closest to the point here.
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com:
“Supremely productive, well-built runner with an all-day, every-day mentality that helped lead him to three Big Ten rushing titles. Taylor runs with bend and burst as an outside runner and has home-run speed once he gets into the open field. He displays an ability to weave around interior traffic but might have evolved into more of a thinker than reactor inside due to fumbling issues and the litany of loaded fronts he faced. His patience and understanding of the where/when of blocks allowed him to thrive in multiple run schemes. He’s more body puncher than knockout artist, wearing down his opponents with carry after carry. His traits, toughness and talent should make him an early starter with a solid ceiling and more third-down potential than we saw at Wisconsin.”
Like Dane Brugler, Zierlein was pretty spot-on in his analysis.
Jordan Reid, The Draft Network:
“Through three seasons, there wasn’t a better player in college football history who racked up more yards and awards than Taylor. A perfect fit in Wisconsin’s downhill power system, he proved to be the answer to many of their offensive woes. A strongly built and mature all-around frame help him become a nuisance between the tackles runner who also has more than enough speed to maximize long gains. Ball security has been a constant issue and one that he will need to be improved. With 926 career carries, mileage and remaining tread on his tires are other notable worries with Taylor as many are skeptical about just how long he will last after a heavy workload as a college player. For the time being, Taylor has the potential to step in right away and become an instant impact contributor, but the fumbling issues have to be coached out of him over time in order to become a reliable starter.”
Some analysts put more emphasis on Taylor’s college fumbles. Well, he’s now only fumbled once on 305 NFL touches. At least Reid didn’t address the fumbles like an anonymous NFL executive did…
Anonymous NFL executive:
The Bleacher Report article also quotes Matt Miller saying Taylor could become a two-down back because he “has to prove himself as a route-runner and pass-catcher.”
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller:
“Taylor boasts an impressive combination of size (5’10”, 226 lbs), speed, production and vision. It’s easy to project him in any NFL offense, especially one that values outside-zone or off-tackle plays. His heavy usage in college (more than 900 carries) and high fumble rate are concerns, though. If he can hold onto the ball better at the end of runs, he should be an early starter in the NFL.”
Josh Norris, Rotoworld:
“Likely leads the class in traditional under center carries, but Taylor’s game extends beyond the typical productive Badger back. Slalom skier between the tackles to weave and cut to make box defenders miss. Has big play upside thanks to an athletic profile in the 89th percentile. His combination of vision, speed and comfort on contact likely means he’d star in a zone system.”
Patrick Conn, Draft Wire:
“The two-time Doak Walker Award winner is looking to be the next Badgers’ running back to make his mark at the NFL level. Taylor is one back who can really make an impact in the running game.”
Mike Renner, Pro Football Focus:
“In a zone-heavy scheme, we had very few questions about Taylor’s ability in the NFL. If he can keep his feet churning, make a decision, and explode, he is an elite runner. All we needed to see was that he could do something in the passing game and Wisconsin made a decided effort to get him more involved in that regard. After housing two receptions out the gate against USF, Taylor reverted back to his same old self with four drops on 28 catchable including another nullified by penalty. That’s a tough fit for modern offenses.”