According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is the league’s 2nd best running back via a poll of more than fifty voters (including league execs, coaches, and players)—trailing only the Tennessee Titans Derrick Henry:
2. Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: 7
Age: 23 | Last year’s ranking: Honorable mention
Last year, Taylor lost a tiebreaker with Josh Jacobs for the 10th spot, which seems silly now. Taylor exploded in Year 2 with 1,811 yards — leading all running backs by 500-plus yards — and 18 touchdowns on 332 carries.
“You go into the game with the Colts and say, ‘Don’t let him kill you. Make the quarterback beat you,’” an NFC exec said. “He’s No. 1, 2 and 3 on the game plan.”
A scout in the AFC added that Taylor is the total package for the Colts, a humble player and an incredibly hard worker to match the on-field explosion. Taylor had seven more rushing touchdowns and 700 more yards in 2021 than he did his rookie year.
“He’s only going to get better,” the scout said. “And his breakaway speed can change the game at any time.”
Indeed, he is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. His five runs of 40 or more yards led the league last year, and no other back had more than two. But conversely, one NFC exec calls Taylor a “compiler,” racking up yards in a favorable setup in Indy’s offensive system and top-shelf offensive line play.
“I like him a lot, I just think he’s set up for success more than most,” the exec said.
It shows what kind of monstrous season Taylor is coming off of for the Colts, when a second place finish feels entirely too low right now—and arguably a slight.
For perspective, en route to receiving NFL First-Team All-Pro honors in 2021, Taylor led the league in rushing attempts (332), rushing yards (1,811), and rushing touchdowns (18), while still averaging 5.5 yards per carry despite a robust workload.
Don’t get me wrong, Henry is a great player in his own right. However, he’s 28 years old compared to the 23 year old Taylor, which might as well be a century in running back years, where stars fade quickly and the shelf-life of effective playing careers is often short-lived.
Henry is a freak athlete, but there’s still a lot of mileage and wear-and-tear on the 247 pounder’s tires—even dating back to his Alabama days.
Not to mention, Henry is rebounding from a season that saw him miss 9 games because of a season-ending foot fracture, and he hadn’t quite regained his same explosiveness upon his eventual playoff return in the AFC divisional round (although some of that is reasonably understandable given his lengthy recovery and layoff).
When looking at his complete body of work—for Canton, sure, it’s still ‘King Henry’ over Taylor, but who would I rather have in my backfield entering 2022 and going forward? It’s clearly Taylor.
Youth, talent, production, and makeup, he’s the complete package right now.
Fresh off the historically great season J.T. just had, where he was a bona fide MVP and NFL Offensive Player of the Year candidate until the Colts’ shocking last season collapse (through no fault of Taylor’s own play), he should’ve topped this ranking.