Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 4/6/13
I don't know what it is.I don't watch much college football, but during the run up to bowl season, one of the backs that jumped out at me was Stepfan Taylor.It seemed like every time I watched, he was playing with a blend of speed and power.  He has a level of talent that makes me believe he can perform as an NFL running back.Still, initial gut reactions aren't always right. I need to actually analyze him and figure out if I'm seeing what I think I'm seeing.The VitalsHeight: 5'9 1/8"Weight: 214 poundsPosition: RBSchool: Stanford, class of 2013College Production YearRush AttRush YardsYPCTDsReceptionsRec. YardsYPRRec. TDs'09 (FR)563035.4234314.30'10 (SO)22311375.115282669.51'11 (JR)24213305.510251827.32'12 (SR)32215304.813412877.02As is probably obvious from the stats, Stepfan Taylor became the starter for Stanford in his sophomore year, and he's kept the job ever since. After his senior year, Taylor was named second or third-team All-American (depending on the source), and has been named second-team All-PAC 12 twice behind Lamichael James and Chris Polk in 2011 and Kenjon Barner and Ka'deem Carey in 2012.He was also the 2013 Rose Bowl's Offensive Player of the Game.Stanford reached a BCS Bowl in all three years that Taylor started, and won two of those games (Stanford lost 41-38 in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl to Oklahoma State, the home of Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon, and Joseph Randle).StrengthsTaylor's biggest strength is his ability to make opponents miss. He has good vision of the field around him, which means he can anticipate the incoming defender and use a juke or jump-cut to get around said defender into open field.That type of move only works if you have quick feet, and Taylor definitely has them.He's also got power, and can finish a run by punishing a defender and getting a couple of extra yards. This power also helps in protection -- Taylor usually blocks his man, and doesn't need to cut-block regularly to make it happen.He's also got good hands out of the backfield, making Taylor a more complete back, the type of player that can stay in the game in any situation.WeaknessesTaylor does have an issue with ball protection -- he tends to carry the ball away from his body, counting on his athletic ability and vision to keep the ball. It's a habit that will need to change at the NFL level.Also, he has poor times in drills, "improving" his 40-yard dash at Stanford's Pro Day to around a 4.65. However, that doesn't make Taylor slow. Just watch him play and you'll see a player who does have good straight-line speed.NFL ComparisonWhen I first started watching film for this article, I was struck by how much Taylor reminds me of Tiki Barber, and it took me a minute to figure out why.Barber was known for never taking a blow directly - he used his body control to take glancing blows rather than full-on body shots. He also had the same vision and cutting ability that I saw displayed by Taylor, and Barber struggled with fumbles early in his career in the same way that I expect Taylor to struggle.However, Taylor has an advantage - Barber didn't develop power until late in his career, while Taylor enters the league with a power game. Barber played somewhere between 190 and 205 pounds, while Taylor is already 215, which helps explain the difference in power.Draft ProjectionTaylor has the talent to succeed in the NFL, but so do several other running backs in this year's Draft. With so many options available, Taylor will likely fall to the third round, and might still be available in the fourth. Whatever team lands him will get a great deal, landing a complete starter in the middle rounds of the Draft.Potential Landing SpotsTaylor is a rare complete back, and with the popularity of running back by committee any team could use him. However, there are a few specific teams that I believe he'll wind up with.Dallas Cowboys: This is the main reason I wanted to write this article. Current rumors link Taylor to the Cowboys, and a third round pick could be spared in Dallas, depending on who is available and who the Cowboys draft in the first two rounds. With DeMarco Murray having trouble staying on the field, a back who is more complete than Felix Jones to tandem with Murray would be a huge boost to the offense.Green Bay Packers: If Ted Thompson recognizes the potential of Stepfan Taylor, don't be surprised by this pick. Taylor's abilities in pass blocking and catching means he would fit well into the Packers' current offense, and would help add a power running element, creating more space in that famous aerial attack.New York Jets: With so many needs, John Idzik might now want to spend an early pick on getting a running back. Mike Goodson, Joe McKnight, and Bilal Powell don't exactly inspire fear in defenses. If any team uses a second round pick on Taylor, this might be the team. However, that does make them a little more likely to take a player like Montee Ball.
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