Friday, August 5, 2022

Jonathan Taylor receives key props from NFL leaders, players and coaches

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It is official. The top two running backs in the NFL play in the NFC South.

That was a pretty well-known fact at the end of the 2021 regular season. Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor emerged last year as the league’s leading rusher in the absence of Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry. But Henry still dominated when he was on the field.

ESPN staff writer Jeremy Fowler has compiled opinions from NFL executives, coaches, scouts and players to rank the top NFL players at each position this offseason. Running back, Taylor and Henry finished in first place with the most votes.

Henry won the tiebreak, leaving Taylor second on the list.

Although Taylor lost the tiebreak, Fowler’s list moved up significantly. Taylor earned an honorable mention on last summer’s list of the best running backs by the Staff Writer.

“Last year Taylor lost a tiebreak with Josh Jacobs for 10th place which seems silly now,” Fowler wrote. “Taylor exploded as a sophomore with 1,811 yards — leading all running backs for 500+ yards — and 18 touchdowns on 332 carries.”

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Taylor didn’t have many opportunities to catch a pass while studying in Wisconsin. Some NFL scouts wondered if he could be an every-down back at the NFL level.

He was that and more.

“A scout in the AFC added that Taylor is the total package for the Colts, a humble player and an incredibly hard worker to withstand the blast on the field,” Fowler wrote. “Taylor had seven rushing touchdowns and 700 yards more in 2021 than his rookie year.”

Taylor is just getting started.

“He’s only going to get better,” a scout told Fowler. “And his escape speed can change the game at any time.”

At 5ft 10 and 226lbs, Taylor is an imposing force, but it’s that bursting speed that Fowler mentioned that makes him so dangerous. He led the NFL with five carries for 40+ yards in 2021. His 83-yard streak against the Houston Texans was the longest in the NFL last season.

Taylor also led the NFL with 1,811 rushing yards and 18 rushing scores. He was first with 2,171 yards from scrimmage and 20 total touchdowns.

In two NFL seasons, Taylor has averaged 5.3 yards per carry. He rushed for 5.5 yards per attempt in 2021.

For his spectacular 2021 season, Taylor made All Pro and finished second to Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp for NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Indianapolis had its inconsistencies elsewhere last season on offense, but not on running back. Taylor was enormous and was developing into the star that opposing defenses must take into account in every game.

“You go into the game with the Colts and you’re like, ‘Don’t let him kill you. Let the quarterback hit you,'” an NFC executive told Fowler. “He’s number 1, 2 and 3 on the board.”

The Colts are hoping that taking on Matt Ryan will change that a bit. Not that Indianapolis won’t have Taylor as the center of offense again, but the Colts want Ryan’s passing attack to be consistently productive as well.

When the defense has to account for Ryan and his passing guns, Taylor becomes even more dangerous.

By the looks of it, he’s arguably the best running back in the NFL.

In two NFL seasons, Taylor has averaged 5.3 yards per carry. He rushed for 5.5 yards per attempt in 2021.

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