clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Jonathan Taylor appreciation roundtable

Our writers get together to remember one of the best players to ever grace Camp Randall Stadium.

@B5QPhotos; Matt Fleming

With Jonathan Taylor off to the NFL Draft we at Bucky’s 5th Quarter wanted to take some time to reflect on what Taylor meant to the Wisconsin Badgers football team. Bob, Owen, Belz and Ryan joined up electronically and talked about why Taylor is one of the greatest running backs to ever play college football.

What was your favorite moment of Jonathan Taylor’s career?

Bob: While the call is a bit uninspired given the situation, Taylor’s 72-yard touchdown in 2019 against No. 11 Michigan stands out to me. Michigan’s defense was highly touted going into that game, and Taylor outran the entire Michigan defense. The safety (No. 24) took a wrong step early in the play, and J.T. made him pay by running past him.

Ryan: I have to go with Wisconsin’s 3OT win at Purdue in 2018. Taylor ran for 321 and three touchdowns. It was one of those games where Wisconsin needed him to come up big and he didn’t disappoint.

Belz: I will go with the second game of his career. After running for 87 yards against Utah State on limited duty, he grabbed a hold of the reins fully against Florida Atlantic. The play that really jumps out is in the first quarter when he burst through the first level and takes it 64-yards for the house-call. I remember sitting in the stands at that time and thinking woah, that dude is for real.

Owen: I think the moment that always stands out to me first, it’s probably not his most iconic or anything, but in 2018 against Purdue when he ran for over 300 yards in triple overtime, he scored the final touchdown. But I think what made it standout so much was the release of emotion after the score. Taylor is usually fairly robotic or at the least, non-demonstrative, so for him to really celebrate I think to me was a genuine response that we don’t often get from him in-game.

What round do you think he gets drafted and which team do you think he fits best on?

Bob: I have a feeling that Taylor is going to shine in the combine. Right now he’s a borderline late first to early second round pick from what I see, but I think he will boost up to a solid first rounder.

Ryan: I think Taylor will be a first round pick. I am guessing he will go somewhere in the middle of the first round. I personally would like to see him go to the Jets. There has been a lot of talk of the Jets trading Le’Veon Bell, so that would leave an opening for Taylor to take the reigns. I feel like the Jets would be a good fit, mostly because he would be playing in his own backyard and Sam Darnold has shown signs of progress this season.

Wisconsin v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Belz: I think he will be picked somewhere between the late first-round and the middle of the second-round. Jonathan Taylor is unlucky that the running back class is so stacked this season with three other players who will likely get similar grades as him in DeAndre Swift, Travis Etienne, and JK Dobbins. Add in Chuba Hubbard, Zack Moss, Cam Akers and others, teams don’t have to reach early for one of the top backs if they don’t want to.

Owen: Now I’m probably fairly alone on this, but I still think running backs matter and I think he should be a first round pick. I think he’d be an excellent pick by the Dolphins with their third first round pick, which was the Texans, so it’ll be somewhere between 25-28 likely. Somewhere like Miami where they’re completely rebuilding the entire roster and they don’t have a workhorse or even above average talent at the position, he could slide in there and immediately be their bell-cow and continue to improve his receiving ability.

What sort of legacy does Taylor leave at Wisconsin?

Bob: I agree with Owen (see below). I don’t think he quite had the balance that Melvin Gordon had or quite had the power of Ron Dayne. He wasn’t quite as slippery as a Brian Calhoun type back. However, he had the best breakaway speed I’ve ever seen at Wisconsin. He was an incredibly smart running back, too. He was excellent in every category, though, even if he wasn’t quite the best. All-around best back ever at UW.

His legacy of cementing the New Jersey running back pipeline is really important too, as the Badgers have been able to keep Rutgers’ grubby little paws off of N.J.’s best RB recruits.

Ryan: I think he goes down as one of the best in Wisconsin history. He was the whole package - speed, power, elusiveness. You can’t ignore the numbers he put up in the time he did it. I still think Dayne has to be the top-back, because he is the all-time leading rusher.

Belz: I think in terms of his body of work he is right up there with Ron Dayne as most impressive back Wisconsin has had toting the rock. His combination of speed, power, and balance is elite. I still think that Melvin Gordon’s junior season was the best ever by a Wisconsin back because of the way he would burst through the hole and sheer ability, but Taylor is a bonafide top four back in Wisconsin history in my eyes.

Owen: To me, he’s the best of the bunch. He had the speed of Melvin Gordon, and while I won’t be that hyperbolic, near the power of Dayne, and the smoothness of James White. Maybe this is recency bias rearing it’s head, but to me, Jonathan Taylor is probably the best all-around runner the Badgers have had, which is really much more of a compliment to Taylor than an indictment of anyone he succeeded.

Which B1G team will be happiest that Taylor isn’t on their schedule ever again?

Bob: All of ‘em!

Ryan: Nebraska and Purdue. Taylor gashed both teams in all of their match ups, going for 200+ in each game and 300+ in one game against Purdue. I mean, I guess you could say really everyone except OSU…he has been a thorn in the side of every opposing B1G team.

Belz: I think they are all ok with Taylor moving on to the NFL. Nebraska has been gashed by too many Wisconsin backs to count since they joined the conference, so I will go with Iowa. The Hawkeyes front seven has been so good at stopping the run over the years against most of the conference. Their kryptonite in a back-and-forth rivalry has seemingly been Jonathan Taylor. Taylor led the Badgers to three straight victories, and he ran for over 100 yards in each contest highlighted by 250-yards this season in a narrow victory.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 06 Nebraska at Wisconsin Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Owen: It has to be Nebraska by far, right? In three years, he went for 249, 221 and 204 against the Huskers, who despite being the off-season champions of the Big Ten West, are still getting this idea of “run fits” down. I think they’re likely the most pleased to see Taylor leave the conference. If it’s not them, it’s likely Purdue who gave up 219, 321, and 222, but in seemingly lesser profile games.

Where do you rank Taylor in the history of Wisconsin running backs AND in the history of college football? Who are your top-3 for both?


Wisconsin RBs:

  1. Jonathan Taylor
  2. Ron Dayne
  3. Melvin Gordon


  1. Barry Sanders
  2. Jonathan Taylor
  3. Ricky Williams

Ryan: I think Taylor is in the discussion on both sides. I think the distance between Dayne and Taylor is slim. Dayne played two more games than Taylor did in his career and holds a slim lead in rushing yards.

Wisconsin RBs:

  1. Ron Dayne
  2. Jonathan Taylor
  3. Melvin Gordon III


  1. Ron Dayne
  2. Jonathan Taylor
  3. Ricky Williams

Belz: I think Taylor is up their on both lists. Here is my best stab at it.

Wisconsin backs:

  1. Ron Dayne → He had two Rose Bowl victories in which he ran for over 200 yards in each. In the biggest games Dayne was at his best and completely dictated a game. He would alter the entire Wisconsin program moving forward based on his career.
  2. Jonathan Taylor → I could write 500+ words on this, but instead: Stud.
  3. Melvin Gordon for his plain breathtaking ability, but Montee Ball should also be in this discussion as well.

NCAA backs:

  1. Ron Dayne → he should have the record, damn you NCAA.
  2. Barry Sanders → his junior season was the most impressive season in collegiate history in my eyes.
  3. Jonathan Taylor → his consistency in all three seasons in remarkable.

Owen: This is where I have some issue - despite him being on pace to shatter every rushing record imaginable, I don’t know if I can call him the best back ever, because he’s not going to break those records, and it’s probably a flawed thought process, but just not having the actual moment of it happening to associate that thought with seems to lessen it to me.

My top 3 Wisconsin backs would be:

  1. Jonathan Taylor
  2. Ron Dayne
  3. Melvin Gordon III

My top 3 collegiate backs of all time are (wrong, I know):

  1. Ron Dayne, Wisconsin
  2. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
  3. Ricky Wiliams, Texas