Should Colts fans be sold on rookie running back Jonathan Taylor already?
It didn’t take long for Colts fans to sign off on general manager Chris Ballard’s decision to draft Jonathan Taylor with the No. 41 overall of the 2020 Draft. The selection was initially critiqued because Indianapolis already flaunted a top rushing attack — which finished seventh in the NFL last season with 133.1 yards per game — and could have proven to benefit by bolstering other areas of the roster.
However, passing up on a player of Taylor’s caliber prior to a season in which Marlon Mack was entering the final year of his rookie contract simply wasn’t up for debate. Though the two-year starter was exceptional in 2018 and 2019, the Colts also had to consider the fact that he hadn’t played a full 16-game slate across the first three years of his career.
Ballard ultimately looked like a genius for drafting Taylor as Mack suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the first half of Week 1 against Jacksonville, paving the way for the 21-year-old rookie to silence the critics who claimed he wasn’t ready to handle a full NFL workload.
It’s clear that he’s capable of great things given his contributions this early in his career, but anyone who isn’t completely sold on the former Badger has a valid reason.
We hate to be a prisoner of the moment, but stats don’t lie and they prove that Taylor is struggling to find holes behind the Colts’ stout offensive line, which ranks as the sixth-best unit in the NFL through the first three weeks, according to Pro Football Focus.
For the season, the rookie has recorded a whopping 48 carries — which is tied for the 10th most in the league and is just six shy of being tied for fifth — and has just 182 rushing yards to show for it.
Those numbers equate to an inadequate 3.8 yards per carry, which ranks 37th out of 48 qualified players and they look even worse when you consider that Indy’s offensive line is providing 1.3 rushing yards before contact. It’d be an entirely different story if the big fellas up front weren’t doing their job, but that simply isn’t the case.
In comparison, Mack averaged 4.5 YPC over his two seasons as the Colts’ No. 1 back. He wasn’t nearly as efficient as a rookie in 2017, but his minimal workload — 93 carries for 358 yards — makes that side of the argument almost worthless.
In his first year with a workload similar to one that Taylor is currently handling, Mack totaled 908 yards and nine touchdowns on 4.7 yards per tote. He was also working behind an offensive line that wasn’t close to the finished product it is now.
This all isn’t to say that Taylor won’t be a stud or isn’t cut out to be a starting RB in the NFL, because we believe he will eventually reach those heights. However, we simply need to see more consistency before we crown him the unquestioned running back of the future.