INDIANAPOLIS — If the Indianapolis Colts are getting aggressive in the draft, then you know they love the guy that they're gunning for.
That's what happened in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft on Friday when general manager Chris Ballard and the Colts sent the 44th- and 160th-overall draft picks to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the 41st-overall pick, where they selected Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor.
The 2019 Unanimous All-American is one of the most accomplished players in Wisconsin history, as he ranks second all-time in Big Ten history in rushing yards (6,174), which put him at sixth all-time in FBS history.
Those accomplishments resulted in Taylor twice being named the Doak Walker Award winner (2018 and 2019), which is awarded to the top running back in college football, as well as First-Team All-Big Ten and Big Ten Running Back of the Year twice.
After being selected by the Colts, the local media got a chance to welcome Taylor to town and spoke with him all about his time at Wisconsin and what he offers to the Colts as a player. You can listen to that session in its entirety above, but here are some takeaways:
» Taylor is already very familiar with Quenton Nelson's game: "I'm truly excited. I mean, I've played against Quenton Nelson. We've seen him from the sideline, so we know what kind of beast that he is," Taylor said about playing with the Colts and Nelson. "I think one of the biggest things is understanding he's a monster, he's a baller. We even watched clips of him in our meeting room sometimes when we were with the O-line going over protection meetings and just how to actually dominate an opponent. It's just gonna be an awesome feeling knowing that you've got guys up front that take pride in beating the man in front of them."
The Colts' highlight reel-worthy left guard has a reputation that stretches far and wide, and his new running back couldn't be more excited to get behind the big hoss and run.
"You definitely hear about a guy who's as tough as him (Nelson) as far as before he gets to where he's at today. You definitely hear about Quenton and you're like, 'Man, this guy is a mauler.' And now you see him at the highest level of football doing the same thing that he did in college," Taylor continued. "It's awesome to see, and now being able to team up with him, it's gonna be awesome. Just being able to make sure we're all on the same page. We could do something really special when a running back and the O-line is on the same page."
» Home, sweet home: The Wisconsin Badgers are no strangers to the Big Ten Championship Game, held annually at Lucas Oil Stadium. With Taylor already being familiar with the surroundings in Indy, he's excited to call the place his new home on Sundays.
"I think it's gonna be awesome. Like you mentioned, I've been there twice and now I get to call that my home," Taylor said. "In a sense, every Sunday is going to be Championship Sunday for me just because you've had those memories of that being the spot you go to when you're in college."
» "Back in the blue and white:" Taylor didn't have much contact with the Colts throughout the pre-draft process, but from the time he did spend with them, he could tell that they were interested in him.
"I didn't have much contact, but I had a sense, a small sense. I spoke with them once or twice, especially at the Combine, and by the questions they were asking, they were just trying to get a quick, brief, general idea of who I was, kinda like they already knew everything and they just wanted to confirm some things. Like they just needed to do their due diligence and say that they talked to me," Taylor explained. "I don't know why I had a feeling, I just — I don't know — but I'm back in the blue and white. I was blue and white in high school, so it's a good feeling."
» Trading up for Taylor was an interesting pick, but one that he wants to prove right: The Colts are coming off of a season in which they ran for more than 2,000 yards as a team — ranking seventh in the league in that category — and starting running back Marlon Mack eclipsed 1,000 yards on his own.
Because of that, running back wasn't looked at as much of a need from the outside. The point is, though, is that it wasn't really a need; it was about adding an impact player to the roster when they had the opportunity.
"That was definitely kind of not on the obvious side. That was a move where a lot of people were probably trying to figure out why they made that move, what could potentially be happening," Taylor said. "But I think the biggest thing is I'm excited. You know, they traded up, so you knew that they were really excited and felt like you could be a special player in that organization. I'm somebody that's gonna come in and soak up everything, every bit of information and try to learn as much as possible so if and when my number's called, I'm able to get in, do my job, and do it at a high level."
And just what kind of player are the Colts getting in Taylor?
"They're definitely getting a tough back who's able to run between the tackles, but has a track background so they're able to hit the edge and take one the distance," he said. "I think that's the biggest thing is you've got a guy who can run well inside, and also be able to hit the edge. It's kinda hard to defend, you've gotta make sure everyone's all over the field."
» Where does he stand with his history of fumbles?: In his three years at Wisconsin, Taylor was dinged for a total of 18 fumbles, 15 of which were lost. However, it's been something he's worked on throughout his time in college as he improves steadily.
His new running backs coach with the Colts, Tom Rathman, was a legendary fullback in his own right with the San Francisco 49ers, and his No. 1 teaching point day in and day out is ball security. There's no doubt Taylor will get a quick education in this area once he's able to work with the staff, building off of what he learned at Wisconsin.
"There's definitely a lot you can do. A bulk of them (fumbles) came from freshman year," Taylor explained. "Going on and trying to progress from that, you can speak with all of my coaches at the university, especially Coach Settle (running backs coach John Settle). He can attest we went through a lot of hard work and things that we put into that. There were some mishaps (on the field), whether it be a running back/wide receiver exchange, or whether it's a pass thrown behind you that you catch with one hand and the defender's on your back hip. So there's a lot of things that you work for to not happen, but there's definitely hard work that needs to go in every single day to make sure that's shored up."
» Is he an every-down back?: A popular topic on the call was Taylor's ability to be an every-down back, and how his abilities to catch the ball and protect the passer have evolved over the last few years.
"I definitely do," Taylor answered when asked if he thought he could play on all three downs. "Kudos to Coach Chryst (head coach Paul Chryst) for implementing that in his scheme this past year. When you think of Wisconsin football, you think of power scheme, gap scheme. You don't think of getting the back out in space, and he knew I definitely had that ability. He wanted to make sure that I was ready, so going into Year 3, he made a conscience effort to put that into the scheme to show my ability, because he knew I didn't have a lack of ability. So I definitely think that I'm an every-down back."
Specifically as a pass-catcher, Taylor's numbers have gone up from 16 total receptions in his first two seasons to 26 total in 2019. He's focusing on the opportunity, but also perfecting his route running.
"It's definitely something that I wanted to do," Taylor said about adding more receptions to his game. "I mentioned it before that Coach Chryst made a conscience effort to implement that into the scheme just because he knew I had that ability, and Coach Chryst is definitely a player's coach. He wants what's best for his players. So, he definitely knew that would help me in the future, and it definitely did, and I wanted to continue to improve on that. As well as routes, just be able to run the entire route tree so that whenever I'm in the slot or split out wide, I'm able to run a plethora of routes."
Aside from the ball security, another area in which Taylor will get well acquainted with Rathman is in pass protection, which is an opportunity that Taylor relishes.
"When we first came through at the University of Wisconsin, Coach Settle, the first things he says is, 'We're not gonna go over anything with a ball. The first thing I wanna go over you with is pass protection, because that's the largest jump between high school and college,'" Taylor said. "So I think that's something I'm gonna keep in mind because this is another step above, so I already know that I'm gonna have to lock in and you're gonna have guys that's gonna come with new techniques that you have to defend. And there's gonna be a lot of different blitzes that you haven't seen before, but all you have to do is make sure that you're locked in, focused, and do your playbook, know the rules of the scheme that you're running and you'll be able to block up anything."
Could Taylor see himself catching 50 or 60 balls per season?
"I definitely do, especially getting to play with a legendary quarterback like Philip Rivers," Taylor said. "I'm definitely gonna be ready to go, learning a plethora of routes, a plethora of protections to make sure that if and when Mr. Rivers needs me, I'm there, I'm ready to go."
» On "Run The Damn Ball": For a running back drafted to a team early like Taylor was to the Colts, their motto of "run the damn ball" has got to be music to his ears.
"It's kinda like a seamless transition in a sense," Taylor said on coming from the bruising Big Ten to the Colts in the NFL. "Coming from the University of Wisconsin where we want to focus on taking pride in dominating the line of scrimmage up front, it's the same thing with the Indianapolis Colts. So I feel like I'm just seamlessly transitioning from one culture to the next, but it's the same exact culture."
» Taking care of your body: One of the biggest concerns that analysts had with Taylor was the heavy workload he carried at Wisconsin, as he was the feature back for essentially his entire career. He touched the ball 968 times on offense, which is quite a bit before even getting to the NFL.
However, Taylor knows the importance of taking care of his body while shouldering that much of a workload.
"Yeah, you have to take full advantage of any opportunity you have to invest in your body," he said. "I think that's the biggest thing, is in the offseason you have to prepare your body physically and mentally in order to carry a load how I did at the University of Wisconsin. Especially now going into the next level of football, that's all I hear from is older guys is definitely take care of your body. But that's something I already took pride in, so that definitely is gonna be a seamless transition for me. I'm gonna take advantage of full resources through the Indianapolis Colts in order to make sure that my body is 100-percent ready to go on Sundays."
Get your first look at running back Jonathan Taylor after he was selected 41st overall by the Indianapolis Colts.