It all started during a pre-season scrimmage during a night practice in Madison in the fall of 2017. The Big Ten Network was in Madison for their pre-season preview with the Badgers, and a true freshman running back stole the show.
Jonathan Taylor, who the Badgers faithful would quickly come to know as the next great running back in Wisconsin history, was just getting started. As a freshman, he quickly took the reins and rushed for 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns. Not bad. As a sophomore, he followed that up with a 2,194 yard performance and 16 touchdowns. He got better, despite the team being worse and the offense solely dependent on him.
As a junior, he finished his Badgers career with 2,003 yards and 21 touchdowns, winning the Doak Walker award for the second time. He’s the only Badger to ever win the award twice, and joins Ricky Williams (Texas) and Darren McFadden (Arkansas) as the only two time winners in history.
While Taylor ran for over 2000 yards again as a junior, he was also able to expand his skill set, catching 26 passes for 252 yards and five touchdowns. While 26 passes is hardly a huge number, it was 10 more than his first two seasons combined. Even though Taylor continued to succeed and grow, his fumbling struggles continued. At the next level, he’ll need to improve his ball security.
Weight: 226 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.39 seconds
Vertical jump: 36” inches
Broad jump: 123” (10’3”)
Short shuttle: 4.24 seconds*
Three-cone drill: 7.01 seconds*
Bench press: 17 reps
*All testing numbers are from the NFL Scouting Combine held in Indianapolis
Strengths: Taylor has ideal size for the position. Also has above average speed for the position. Has experience in a multitude of running concepts. Has been the bell cow back, exhibited the ability to handle a heavy workload. Improved as a pass catcher as his career went on. Has impressive contact balance, ability to run through arm tackles. Rarely gets taken down by one tackler. Accelerates through his cuts, which allows his to keep angles against defenders.
Weaknesses: Fumbling has been a major issues that has persisted throughout his college career. Needs to sure up ball security, has fumbled 18 times, losing 15 of them. Has little experience in pass protection, as he was often taken off of the field regularly on third down. Will need to improve in that department before being depended on by NFL teams to play all three downs.
Summary: Jonathan Taylor is a home run hitter at the running back position with the size of a bruiser. He’s the most accomplished rusher in three seasons in NCAA history, and is arguably the best Badgers running back of all time. Taylor’s strengths are rock solid, but his weaknesses are legitimate concerns moving forward; both can be improved but will keep him off of the field early in his career. Jonathan Taylor can be a featured back in the NFL and has the potential to be a top five back in the league. He’s a special combination of size, strength and speed.
Ideal Scheme Fit: Run-first offense featuring both zone/gap concepts. Ideally paired with a pass-catching back.
Projected Round: Late 1st Round-Mid 2nd Round