It’s an old phrase in football circles: results from the NFL Combine shouldn’t be used to move a player up in your rankings, but they can definitely be used to move a player down. There are plenty of examples of this happening every year, so I was a little hesitant this year going into the combine with my 1.01 pick in fantasy rookie drafts being Jonathan Taylor. Would he be able to show up like I thought he could? Would his results fall in line with what I’ve heard and seen all year? I think you already know the answer, but let’s dig in.[sv slug=”vegas”]
The 1.01 in 2020 Fantasy Rookie Drafts is Jonathan Taylor
Taylor’s 2019 Season
Taylor put up solid numbers this year as a Junior at Wisconsin. He impressed people early in the season and never looked back. In 14 games, he had 320 carries for 2,003 yards and 21 TDs on the ground, along with 26 catches for 252 yards and 5 more TDs through the air. He was all that and a bag of chips for the Badgers who went 10-4 overall, finishing their season with a crushing 28-27 loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Taylor didn’t do poorly in the bowl game, putting up 94 yards on 21 carries, but it was a down ending for his team to what was a great season for him personally.
This video breakdown thread from @angelo_fantasy on Twitter shows a lot of what I liked about Taylor before he participated in the combine:
'Why Jonathan Taylor’
Former Wisconsin Badger, Jonathan Taylor became one of the most decorated backs in NCAA history during his time in Madison.
As Taylor enters his NFL career, let’s take a look what separates him from the other talented prospects in this class.
— AngeloFF (@angelo_fantasy) February 8, 2020
After the season and leading up to the combine, as mock drafts started to roll in, more and more writers had him in the Day 2 conversation. This included our own Neal Driscoll who mocked him to the Falcons with the 47th overall pick in his latest seven-round mock draft and our own AJ Schulte who mocked him to the Chiefs with pick number 63 in his two-round mock draft. If Taylor were to get Day 2 draft capital to go with his production profile, odds are very good that he’d see the NFL field right away, which would make him a fantasy darling right away as well.
This made him a standout to our PFN fantasy analysts as well. Our own Jordan Woodson put together his list of targets at each position and ranked Taylor as the third-best RB in the class, and Taylor went at 1.08 in a rookie mock draft by Andrew Jordan last month. Even the pre-combine DLF ADP had him as the 1.03 pick, and the third RB taken in this year’s rookie mock drafts. He was clearly top five at his position, and everyone saw his potential to be a breakout candidate, but that was all before the combine where he blew people away with his in-line speed.
Jonathan Taylor’s 2020 NFL Combine Results
- 40 Yard Dash = 4.39 seconds (1st in RB group)
- Bench Press = 17 reps (16th)
- Vertical Jump = 36.0″ (13th)
- Broad Jump = 123.0″ (12th)
- 3 Cone Drill = 7.01 seconds (4th out of 11 participating)
- 2-Yard Shuttle = 4.24 seconds (6th)
- FootballOutsiders.com Speed Score – 121.7
- This is the 10th best running back speed score in 20 years
- For context, “the average running back who makes it to the NFL will have a Speed Score around 100.0, with most prospects at the position falling between 85.0 and 110.0.”
As soon as the dust settled on Friday night, and Taylor was officially the fastest running back at the combine, his name was being mentioned everywhere. Twitter went nuts with people freaking out about it. While the phrase I mentioned before about not changing your value of a guy based on the combine is true, a lot of people, including NFL scouts and front offices, don’t seem to care. They see those numbers and their eyes get wide. Our own Draft Insider, Tony Pauline, had this to say about how the NFL was reacting:
“A new RB1 for some teams in the NFL Draft?
I know of at least three teams who presently grade Jonathan Taylor as the number one back in the draft. It’s partly because of the game-breaking speed he proved on Friday night, as well as the fact he fits best as a featured runner compared to the other top backs in this year’s draft.”
Given his terrific metrics and obvious raw talents, it’s no shock that the world was finally coming around. To me, when I watched any tape of Taylor from this season it was hard to miss his skills on the field. It’s true that running without pads can be deceiving in a way, but that kind of speed is something that easily translates to the game of football, and you can see it easily when you watch his film. That’s why, since January, my 1.01 in fantasy rookie drafts has been Jonathan Taylor. D’Andre Swift has been considered the best RB in the class for months, and J.K. Dobbins has really come on strong since the season finished up, but Taylor has always been the complete package to me, so it was good to see him perform to my expectations when everyone was watching.
Fantasy Rookie Drafting Strategy
All of this information and speculation is great, but if you aren’t able to apply it back to your own fantasy team then it doesn’t really matter. All season long, fantasy players have heard that this class is full of stud wide receivers, potentially the best rookie class at the position in years, but don’t sleep on the running backs. This class is deep everywhere, aside from tight end, in my opinion, so if your team needs some running back depth, focus all of your messaging on how awesome the wide receivers are. If you have pick 1.03 and want Taylor for yourself, then now is the time to start spreading news and hype on the other players at the position. This combine hype will calm down, and you should be able to capitalize if you play your cards right, but keep your eyes on the prize, aka Jonathan Taylor.
Most importantly, pay attention to the real NFL Draft. Draft capital and landing spot are two of the most important metrics when ranking rookies. For example, if Taylor ends up on the Green Bay Packers as a Day 3 pick, playing behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, his value immediately takes a hit. But if he does end up going to the Atlanta Falcons or Kansas City Chiefs on Day 2, as our own mock draft writers have predicted, then he could be a top 5 dynasty asset right out of the gate. However, at the moment based on what I’ve seen up to now, the rookie 1.01 in fantasy rookie drafts is Jonathan Taylor. He should have been at the top of your list weeks ago, and his combine performance just confirmed what you already knew. What you choose to do with this information is up to you, so good luck out there.
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Andrew Hall is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndrewHallFF.