NFL Hot Press: Taylor First-Round Survey

Taylor First-Round Survey

Updated Jan. 2, 2020
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

Over the past decade, there was a stretch of years in which the running back position was downgraded in the NFL drafts. Teams were waiting on backs while favoring the passing game, and that resulted in some talented players slipping to the second day of drafts. That trend started to die away in 2015. Players like Todd Gurley (2015), Melvin Gordon (2015), Ezekiel Elliott (2016), Leonard Fournette (2017) and Saquon Barkley (2018) all went as top-20 picks – with five of them going as top-10 choices. In speaking to some team sources, they say the 2020 NFL Draft could have an odd combination of both trends. A few running backs have a shot at going high, but a loaded class of running backs could cause teams to wait to draft the position because they know they can get a good value at the position on the second day of the 2020 NFL Draft.

One player who could be greatly impacted by this combination of events is Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor. In speaking to nine team sources, six of them said Taylor was a first-round talent, but three said they had a second-round grade on him. A couple of teams said they had Taylor as the top back for the 2020 NFL Draft. One said they thought Taylor could go in the first half of Round 1, and another sees him as top-20 pick. Most thought that Taylor would go in the first round, but he could slide because teams decide to address another position without as much depth as they feel they can still land a good running back on Day 2.

“[Taylor’s] a first-round talent,” said an NFC director of college scouting, “If the runners slide like the offensive tackles and wide receivers slightly did last year, then he’ll go [at the top of Round 2].”

Team sources noted a potential running back slide could hurt other runners as well, with prospects like Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, Clemson’s Travis Etienne and Utah’s Zack Moss specifically named.

Taylor is expected to run fast at the combine, and the 5-foot-11, 219-pounder put together a prolific career at Wisconsin, with a stack of tape showing him dominate the competition. It will be interesting to see if the depth at the position pushes Taylor down or he ends up going where his talent level suggests he should.