Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor has answers for NFL draft questions
The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.
Perhaps nobody arrived at the NFL combine in February having accomplished more while answering fewer questions for scouts than Jonathan Taylor.
Sure, he broke Herschel Walker’s three-year rushing record with 6,174 yards at Wisconsin … but what about those 18 fumbles?
Yeah, his durability is a known commodity … but what about his lack of sustained pass-catching out of the backfield?
Yep, he seems like he might make a really good pro running back … but what about all those other enticing prospects who might be more complete players?
ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. told ESPN Wisconsin that Taylor, despite his prolific college career, most likely would be a second-round pick because of those nagging uncertainties.
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“I know the fumbling issues are there, and he’s got to correct that, because he’s got those ball-security problems,” Kiper told the network. “But he’s not an elite receiver out of the backfield, and that’s the issue. You’ve got to be complete now, you’ve got to be a guy who can be very, very productive in the pass game. That’s an area where Jonathan still has to work on that aspect.”
Taylor predictably dismissed the concerns at the combine, saying he was an all-around back who could thrive in more than a power running game as he did with Badgers. He pointed to Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst’s ability to showcase him as a playmaker by getting him the ball in space as well as his consistency from season to season.
“If you look at the next level, what separates the great backs from the elite backs is really them playing on an elite level day in and day out every Sunday,” Taylor said at the combine. “I think that’s one of the biggest things that separates me is my ability to be consistent year in and year out.”
Doubts about his ability to catch the ball, Taylor said, should have been eliminated during a junior season in which he caught 26 passes for 252 yards and five touchdowns. He had made a combined 16 catches over his first two seasons.
Taylor said he modeled his rushing style after former Houston Texans star Arian Foster, who led the league in rushing in his second NFL season.
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“Arian Foster was really smooth in and out of his cuts for his size,” said Taylor, also on the brawny side at 5 feet 10 and 226 pounds. “So, me being kind of a bigger back, making sure when I play, I play smooth so it looks natural. And I thought it was just like rhythm and poetry in my eyes.”
Running the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds at the combine proved that Taylor blends size and speed. But will it be enough for him to overtake a host of other talented running backs such as Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, Utah’s Zack Moss, Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins and Florida State’s Cam Akers on draft day?
That question will be answered soon enough.
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