Size: Taylor has the kind of size I really like in a running back. He’s short, but he’s compact and strong. He is 5’9”, 216 pounds and he has the lower body strength necessary for running through tackles and gaining tough yardage. He definitely has the size to be a feature back in the NFL.
Speed: This is definitely one of the weakest aspects of Taylor’s game. His lack of great straight line speed is more than evident when you watch him play, and his fastest time at his pro day was a 4.64 40 yard dash. That’s definitely not going to break any land-speed records, and it shows up when he gets into the open field and even when he is running in shorter distances. This definitely limits Taylor’s upside which is unfortunate because he is a well rounded back despite his lack of straight line speed.
Quickness: Taylor may not be a burner, but he definitely has quality quickness for his size. He is actually surprisingly shifty in the open field and made more defenders miss thanks to his shiftiness than I anticipated despite having seen him play for the last three years without taking notes on him. He definitely has enough burst to hit the hole though and to me that means he can be a productive back at the next level. You can get away with lacking elite speed, but lacking quickness is tough to overcome.
Inside Running: This is where Taylor is going to provide NFL teams value. He’s a between the tackles runner and that’s not going to change at the next level. He runs with good patience as well as good pad level which makes him tough to tackle initially. He has good acceleration and very impressive lower body strength so he generates tough yardage after contact and runs through arm tackles easily. Once he finds a seam he hits it consistently and typically doesn’t dance much behind the line of scrimmage (though on rare occasions I have seen him do this). I haven’t seen him try to bounce runs outside much, and he is reliable in short yardage situations.
Outside Running: Taylor leaves plenty to be desired as an outside runner. First and foremost he lacks the straight line speed to threaten the edge against faster defenders. That means he is largely forced to look for cut-back lanes and doesn’t often gain considerable yardage unless the defense vastly overpursues. He runs patiently outside as well, but running him outside just isn’t playing to his strengths as a running back. That won’t change at the next level either.
Receiving: Taylor is a very reliable receiver. In the last three years he has never caught less than 25 passes (last year as a junior) and this year he hauled in a career best 41 balls for 287 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’s not going to be a home-run threat out of the backfield, but he catches the ball well on check-downs and he has the quickness and power to gain some yardage after making the reception. He won’t be a game-changer in this phase of the game, but he will be an effective receiver in the NFL.
Blocking: Taylor isn’t great in this area, but he is definitely good. He usually picks up the right guy and thanks to his power and strength he can pick up bigger defenders and slow them down. He steps up to engage defenders “among the trees” and consistently showed that he is an effective cut-blocker in pass protection.
Vision: Taylor’s vision actually isn’t quite as good as I expected it to be when I started watching him based on my preconceptions from watching him live or while scouting other Stanford players last year. His vision is good, but there are times when he seems a bit slow to see the hole or just doesn’t seem to see it at all (those instances are rare, however). His vision is good on both inside and outside runs and he uses his blockers effectively in the open field, but obviously he isn’t at his best when running outside.
Ball Security: I was surprised by this, but I actually have some questions about Taylor’s ball security. He fumbled a couple times in the games I watched but he generally runs with the ball high and tight and even covered it with two hands at times in the face of contact. I was surprised he fumbled especially since there were rarely instances where he let the ball get away from his body. I don’t have serious concerns about his ball security, but it was strange to see him fumble at all much less multiple times.
Overall: Taylor isn’t a flashy back but he is a guy that I definitely like. NFL teams aren’t going to be blown away by him because of his lack of great straight line speed and he doesn’t have an abundance of upside left. What you see at Stanford is what you’re going to get- a back who is quicker than fast with impressive power, reliable hands, good vision and trustworthy pass protection. He’s well rounded, but not explosive or dynamic. That means he is going to be a Day 3 pick, but I think he still offers plenty of value in round 4 and that’s where I have him graded. I like him plenty, but because he lacks upside I just can’t give him a round 3 grade. Taylor has gotten a lot of carries and touches at Stanford, but I don’t have concerns about him being a workhorse at the next level and he will likely be a rotational back initially anyway. On top of that he has proven to be durable, so as a well-rounded back I think he will be ready to contribute immediately even as a Day 3 selection.
Projection: Round 4-5. He could go even later than this due to the depth of this running back class, but I like him and think he warrants consideration in this range. He may not be a stud in the NFL, but I have no doubt that he can be an effective back from the get-go even if he doesn’t go day 2.