Jonathan Taylor had one of the best careers by a running back in NCAA history at Wisconsin yet wasn’t even a first-round pick in this year’s draft, with Indianapolis snapping him up early in Round 2. Taylor now gets to run behind one of the NFL’s top offensive lines. Here are Taylor’s odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year as well as the Colts’ over/under win total.
The Colts surprisingly nabbed Taylor with the 41st pick of April’s draft despite having a good younger back in Marlon Mack – although Mack’s contract is up after 2020. The Colts surrendered picks No. 44 and 160 to move up three spots to take Taylor.
An argument could be made that Taylor had the best college career of any tailback despite not winning a Heisman. He finished as the No. 6 all-time rusher in the NCAA and the first player in history to rush for more than 6,000 yards in any three-year span. He was Top 10 in the Heisman voting three times, finishing sixth as a freshman, ninth as a sophomore and fifth as a junior. During the past two seasons, he was named a unanimous first-team All-American and recipient of the Doak Walker Award as the country’s top running back.
Taylor was just the third player in FBS history with multiple 2,000-yard rushing seasons and only player in FBS history to rush for at least 1,900 yards in three consecutive seasons. His 6,174 yards are the most by an FBS player in any three-year span and his combined 4,197 yards as a sophomore and junior is highest two-year total in FBS history. Taylor set FBS records for rushing yards by a freshman (1,977) and by a sophomore (2,194). His career total ranks No. 2 all-time among Big Ten players, trailing only Badgers great Ron Dayne (7,125).
Taylor led the nation in scoring in 2019 by tallying 26 touchdowns (21 rushing, 5 receiving). He ranked No. 2 in the FBS in yards from scrimmage, averaging 162.9 yards per game and 6.6 yards per play. Taylor finished the season ranked in a tie for No. 3 nationally in rushing, at 143.1 yards per game. He logged four 200-yard performances on the year – giving him a remarkable 12 for his career. Taylor easily led the nation in runs that resulted in a first down (97) and/or 10-plus yards (61) in 2019.
Taylor also crushed it at February’s combine, running a position-best 4.39 40 and a solid 7.01 three cone despite a hefty 5-foot-10, 226-pound frame. His combination of size, speed and cutting ability is precisely what you want in a running back, and Taylor couldn’t be in a better situation than behind that strong Colts offensive line.
Taylor doesn’t have great hands as he tied for the FBS lead in fumbles (6) in 2019, additionally dropping an abysmal 8-of-50 career targets (per Pro Football Focus). He did commit to becoming a better receiving back last offseason, tripling his reception total between his sophomore (8) and junior seasons (26).
Taylor’s three-down potential hinges on that pass-catching growth continuing. If it does, he will undoubtedly be a top Rookie of the Year candidate but short-term value will suffer with incumbent early-down back Marlon Mack and passing-down specialist Nyheim Hines in the fold.
Colts coach Frank Reich admitted “there’s definitely inherent respect for the starter returning” when asked about the team’s backfield and Mack. The “inherent respect” line is telling, as teams typically do give the veteran first shot at claiming and retaining the starting job. It might take a misstep, injury or simply for Taylor to outplay Mack to unseat the veteran. Reich has already confirmed he envisions the team’s backfield as a “one-two punch.”
Over the last two seasons, the Colts have had one of the league’s most dangerous ground games, ranking ninth in that time with 120.3 yards per game. They hit the 150 rushing yards mark in 11 games, including six 200-yard games. According to Pro Football Focus, the Colts had the second-best run-blocking unit in the NFL in 2019 with a grade of 85.1.