Fantasy Football 2020 NFL Draft Profile: Does Jonathan Taylor's 40 time make him the best RB in this class?
Jonathan Taylor is a ready-made NFL back. But is he a three-down back in the NFL?
Strictly as a runner, it's hard to find holes in Jonathan Taylor's profile. His breakout age (19) and production (6.3 YPC) are elite. He's rushed for more than 1,900 yards in three straight seasons with nary an injury to speak of. He can push the pile but he's also not getting caught from behind. He is everything you want from an NFL running back on first and second down. The question, as it often is with Wisconsin running backs, is whether he can play on third down in the NFL.
Numbers to Know
Date of Birth: January 19, 1999
Height: 5-10 1/4
Weight: 226 pounds
40 time: 4.39 seconds
2019: 14 games, 320 rush attempts, 2,003 rush yards, 6.3 YPC, 26 receptions, 252 receiving yards (9.7 Y/R), 26 total TD
That is what you call a workhorse role. Taylor averaged 24.7 touches per game and only had two games below four yards per carry all season long (Michigan and Ohio State). His 26 catches were his highest total in college, as was his 10% target rate. According to Sports Info Solutions, Taylor broke 83 tackles, which was the fourth most in Division 1.
Career: 41 games, 926 rush attempts, 6,174 rush yards (6.7 YPC), 42 receptions, 407 receiving yards (9.7 Y/R), 55 total TD
Taylor ran for 1,977 yards 13 touchdowns as a 19-year-old freshman. He followed that up with 2,194 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground in one fewer game! Some might worry about the 926 carries in college but I love what it says about his durability.
Known Injury History
Just about everything. Taylor is a decisive north-south runner with just enough wiggle. He has power and speed. Statistically, he broke out at a young age, proved he can handle a big workload, and was very efficient running the football. He has both big play ability and the strength to push the pile.
The one thing that's for sure a concern is ball security. Taylor fumbled once every 50 carries at Wisconsin and that will not fly in the NFL. His ability to pass block may be a concern; we just haven't seen him do it well enough. Finally, his receiving prowess is still a bit of an unknown. He had 16 catches total in his first two seasons at Wisconsin. Taylor says he wants to prove he can play on third down, but most backs do.
Josh Edwards' Take
No. 2 RB
Taylor has always been an impressive, productive running back. He really impressed the most with his commitment to catching passes ahead of his final season in Madison though. The New Jersey native elevated a weakness into a strength by simply working day after day on it. His patience is reminiscent of Le'Veon Bell. He is agile and changes directions effortlessly but does not get back up to speed as quickly as (D'Andre) Swift. Taylor is physical and does a good job shrinking his strike zone against oncoming defenders.
One area of concern is his workload. Over the past three years, he has accumulated 926 carries. By comparison, Swift had 440 career carries.
It's too easy to use Melvin Gordon, right? Gordon was better in his final year at Wisconsin, but like Taylor didn't really catch the ball until his final year. He's had mixed results as a pass catcher in the NFL, but he's been good enough to earn targets, which is what it's all about. If Taylor doesn't earn those targets his Fantasy production could look a lot like what we got from Josh Jacobs and Sony Michel. That would make him too touchdown-dependent for me to view him as a true Fantasy No. 1.
Favorite Fantasy Fits
The best case might be a bit of a pipe dream, but the Titans could let Derrick Henry walk and draft Taylor. He'd have a run-heavy offense, a good offensive line and his third-down ability would have time to develop because of how little the Titans throw the ball. There have been rumors the Falcons could let Devonta Freeman go and Taylor would be an instant upgrade, at least in the running game. That offense would provide double-digit touchdown upside in year one.
Fantasy Bottom Line
In the right landing spot Taylor could be the rookie 1.01 and a second-round pick in startup Dynasty drafts. At worst, I'd expect him to be a consensus top-four rookie pick and a pick in the first five rounds of 2020 redraft leagues. His non-injury floor looks like what David Montgomery gave us last year (especially if he goes to Los Angeles to share with Austin Ekeler) but the ceiling is a top-five back in 2020 and beyond.
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