INDIANAPOLIS — It just made too much sense when the Indianapolis Colts selected Jonathan Taylor in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
For a team that had built its offense around the run game and was coming off of one of its most productive seasons on the ground in years, Taylor — one of the most accomplished running backs in college football history — was staring the Colts right in the face, so they traded up three spots to make sure they didn't miss out on drafting him.
Nationally, people immediately loved the fit, as Taylor graced several lists identifying the best picks, the best team-player fits and rookies who can make an immediate impact.
A couple of those most recent lists are from Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus, who ranked Taylor No. 1 among the best situations for the NFL's 2020 rookie running backs, and Chris Roling of Bleacher Report, who listed Taylor among seven NFL rookies who can take the league by storm in 2020.
First up, here's what Renner wrote:
"When the Colts moved up to select Taylor at pick No. 41, it was a rare occasion for two reasons. He became the first Colts running back drafted before the fourth round in Chris Ballard's tenure as general manager. That and the fact that Ballard traded up to do so for only the third time in his career tells me all I need to know about how many carries Taylor will command in 2020. He also goes to a Colts offensive line that finished last season ranked third in PFF's offensive line rankings and is the only one of the top five to return all five starters. It's hard to be in a much better situation than that."
As Renner mentioned, the Colts not only taking a running back of Taylor's caliber in the second round, but trading up to get him, means they have big plans for him. You don't invest that rich of draft capital into a position player for them to ride the bench all year.
The potential heavy involvement that Taylor may have is going to be done behind one of the most imposing offensive lines in the NFL; a group that helped the Colts finish No. 7 in rushing last year with 133.1 yards per game (and 1.5 rushing yards per game out of the top-five), and whose 2,130 total rushing yards were among the best in franchise history.
All five of the Colts' starting offensive linemen return in 2020, so there's little question there about change. In 2019, according to PFF, left guard Quenton Nelson's 90.1 run-blocking grade ranked third among all NFL offensive linemen, right tackle Braden Smith's 86.4 grade ranked fifth, center Ryan Kelly's 74.6 ranked 14th, and left tackle Anthony Castonzo's 70.2 ranked 22nd. That means that four of their five linemen were among the NFL's top 25 run blockers.
Between run blocking support from wide receiver Zach Pascal, tight end Jack Doyle and newcomers in fullback Roosevelt Nix and tight Trey Burton, the Colts' run game should keep on rolling in 2020 behind Taylor and Marlon Mack.
Now, let's check out why Roling believes Taylor could "take the league by storm:"
Don't discount Jonathan Taylor in the rookie breakout race at running back.
Taylor always had the feel of a back who could challenge for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Running for 6,174 yards on a 6.7 per-carry average and 50 touchdowns at Wisconsin, with 42 catches as well, he solidified his chances regardless of landing spot.
Then the Indianapolis Colts took him with the 41st pick.
He gets to play behind an elite offensive line headed up by Anthony Castonzo and Quenton Nelson while not being overly threatened by the presence of Marlon Mack, whose performance didn't stop the Colts from addressing his position in the top 50.
While defenses worry about Philip Rivers, T.Y. Hilton and others in a Frank Reich-directed passing attack, Taylor will be free to go to work in three-down fashion. His performance could have the NFL wondering why he wasn't off the board in the first round.
The Colts added a dependable new veteran quarterback this offseason in Philip Rivers. One of the most prolific passers in NFL history, Rivers and wide receivers T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell pose a threat from the Colts' passing attack that should keep defenses from invest too much support in the box toward the run game, leaving fewer defenders for Taylor, Mack and the rest of the Colts' backfield to have to cut through.
With the value the Colts placed in Taylor's selection, it's fair to assume that he'll be "the man" at some point in his career in the Colts backfield.
With the Colts wanting to keep Taylor and Mack as a "one-one punch," if Taylor has the "hot hand," it could certainly lead to plenty of opportunities for him to "take the league by storm in 2020."