Background: Taylor comes from an athletic background, as his father, Jonathan James, was a former basketball player at San Francisco State (1982-1986). To this day, the former Badgers rusher is constantly tagged as being one of the best high school players to ever play in New Jersey. He didn’t have much interest in football and the only reason that he decided to give it a try it was because he wanted to spend more time with his cousin Amani. During his career at Salem High School, all he did was go on to total 4,642 rushing yards and 51 total touchdowns in his career. He also set a state record for rushing yards in a single season (2,815) during his senior season. A record that was previously held by another former Wisconsin rusher in Corey Clement.
Taylor’s legacy didn’t only take place on Friday nights though. A standout track athlete, he won state championships in the 100-meters and 4x100 relay as a junior and senior. With his strong academic background, Taylor was heavily leaning towards attending Harvard, but instead he switched to Wisconsin. He wasted little time announcing his presence as a true freshman. Starting 13-of-14 games, Taylor collected 1,977 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns – breaking Adrian Peterson’s previous freshman record of 1,925 rushing yards.
He followed up his record setting rookie year with an even better 2018 season. Starting all 13 games, he rushed for 2,194 yards and 16 touchdowns on 307 carries – surpassing the 100-yard mark in 12 contests. The winner of the 2018 Doak Walker Award (nations top rusher), he joined Ron Dayne (1999), Montee Ball (2012), and Melvin Gordon (2014) as the Badger rushers to win the illustrious award. For the first time ever, Taylor ran track at Wisconsin in 2019. He participated on the 4x100-meter relay team. His historic career continued as a junior where he marched for 2,003 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. He also set career highs in receptions (26), receiving yards (262) and receiving touchdowns (five).
Scheme Fit: Man/Gap Blocking
Round Projection: Mid-Late 2nd-Round
Versatile Concept/Level Runner: Because of the heavy ground and pound type of offense that he was within, he has the repetition and vision of being in both zone and man/gap blocking concepts. Taylor has had success with running behind both, but he’s essentially scheme proof and an ideal fit in either. He’s shown the patience in order to survive in gap-oriented concepts while still having the makeup to be successful in a zone scheme as well. Often wrongly tagged as being a bigger back with little wiggle, that is far from the case. He has the longevity to maximize plays and finish them in the paint of the end zone.
Strength/Durability: Stoutly built body with a thick trunk. He’s a true workhorse and one who possesses a hard hat mentality when stepping onto the field. He has accumulated over 400 career carries and yet to miss any significant amount of time with any type of injuries. A bruising in between and outside of the tackles type of runner, whose durability and endurance were often put to the test. He had minimal issues with shouldering the load and often put the team on his back when a play was needed or when milking the clock was necessary.
Finishing Runs/Contact Balance: Taylor treats every run as if it’s the last of his career. He runs with an unruly sense of urgency and with plenty of power behind his pads. A tank-like build is structured to withstand all violence levels of contact to every location of his body. He’s shown to be capable of easily breaking through arm tackles and low attempts because of his body strength. A straight ahead runner that doesn’t waste any body movements trying to be overly creative or with juking. He gets downhill right now and forces defenders to tackle him cleanly.
Mileage: Any rusher that has already accumulated the amount of carries that he’s already recorded in his career (926), there will be longevity concerns of just how much tread is left on the tires. Taylor may be an instant hit because of his maturity, but questions down the road may arise because of the constant utilization during his collegiate career that could catch up to him eventually.
Receiving Consistency: He wasn’t asked to be much of a receiver during his career with the Badgers until his final season. Taylor proved to be comfortable with doing so, but moore consistency needs to be shown in that area over the long haul. Extended reps on late or passing downs could be a continued trend. If not, he will limit himself to being strictly a two-down rusher.
Ball Security: He had 18 fumbles (15 lost) in 41 career games. Taylor can get very loose with the ball and become so fixated on accelerating through lanes that he omits the minor details of protecting the it high and tight along his breastplate/forearm. Over his career, the former Badgers rusher has fumbled once every 54 carries – an alarmingly high mark.
Through three seasons, there wasn’t a better player in college football history who racked up more yards and awards than Taylor. A perfect fit in Wisconsin’s downhill power system, he proved to be the answer to many of their offensive woes. A strongly built and mature all-around frame help him become a nuisance between the tackles runner who also has more than enough speed to maximize long gains. Ball security has been a constant issue and one that he will need to be improved. With 926 career carries, mileage and remaining tread on his tires are other notable worries with Taylor as many are skeptical about just how long he will last after a heavy workload as a college player. For the time being, Taylor has the potential to step in right away and become an instant impact contributor, but the fumbling issues have to be coached out of him over time in order to become a reliable starter.