Position: Running Back
Weight: 215 pounds
School: Wisconsin Badgers
Combine Performance Data
40-yard dash: 4.39 seconds (best among running backs)
Bench press: 17 reps
Vertical jump: 36 inches
Broad jump: 10 feet, 3 inches
Three-cone drill: 7.01 seconds (fourth-best among running backs)
20-yard shuttle: 4.24 seconds
Jonathan Taylor 2020 NFL Draft Profile
Despite being highly regarded, Jonathan Taylor was relatively lightly recruited. A four-star prospect according to Rivals.com, the Salem, NJ native received just five scholarship offers from Power Five programs. Two came from Big Ten programs including one from Rutgers in his home state. But he ultimately decided to make the journey to Madison for his college career, committing to Wisconsin.
Suffice it to say that he burst onto the scene rather quickly. In his first career start against Florida Atlantic, he tallied 223 rushing yards and added three touchdowns. In so doing, he became the first true freshman in Wisconsin history to rush for at least 200 yards in a single game. When all was said and done on his inaugural season with the Badgers, he accounted for 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 6.6 yards per carry. He subsequently won the Thompson-Randle El Big Ten Freshman of the Year award and was also a finalist for the Doak Walker Award.
Taylor would figure prominently into consideration for that latter honor for the rest of his collegiate career. That much is certain given that he took home the Doak Walker Award in both 2018 and 2019. He also won the Ameche-Dayne Big Ten Running Back of the Year in both seasons. Each year, he rushed for over 2,000 yards and finished top-three nationally in yards per game. So it didn’t come as much of a surprise that he declared for the draft with a year of eligibility remaining.
- hugely impressive initial burst;
- hits the holes with authority;
- a patient runner who lets the play develop in front of him;
- always keeps legs going which enables him to generate yards after contact;
- has the requisite speed to beat would-be tacklers to the perimeter;
- touchdown production improved in each of his three years in college;
- showed significant improvement as a pass-catching back in 2019;
- proved himself capable of taking on a heavy workload as a bell-cow;
- played in an extensively pro-style offense at Wisconsin;
- finished with the second-most rushing yards in Big Ten history in just three years.
- lateral twitch is a tad underwhelming;
- generally brought down on initial contact;
- pass-catching acumen improved late in his college career but still needs work;
- not particularly effective as a pass-blocker;
- benefited from running behind a dominant offensive line;
- already has quite a bit of mileage on his legs.
NFL Comparison: Knowshon Moreno
Projection: Late first to early second round
Jonathan Taylor is the latest Wisconsin running back to showcase NFL-caliber qualities. Melvin Gordon is probably the first one who comes to mind for a lot of NFL fans. But others include three-time Super Bowl champion James White and, going even further back, Heisman Trophy-winner Ron Dayne.
What stands out about Taylor is his raw quickness. He effortlessly gets to full speed and that makes him immensely hard to bring down once he’s in the open field. And the fact that he averaged 2,058 yards per year during his three seasons in college hints at a strong work ethic and the ability to take on a significant workload week by week. Though he needs to improve as a pass-catcher and a blocker, there’s much to suggest that he can make an immediate impact in the league. He’ll certainly be a part of the running back depth chart on whichever team drafts him. And he should ease his way into a more prominent role as his pro career develops.