The Tampa Bay Buccaneers face Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor in Week 12, but the team wanted the former Wisconsin rusher to be wearing pewter and red. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Bucs were considering Taylor with their first-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft and would have taken the running back if Tristan Wirfs were off the board.
“The Buccaneers had Taylor on their short list of candidates whom they were considering with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft,” Schefter detailed on November 28. “One high-ranking Bucs official even said in recent weeks that had offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs been selected before their turn in the first round, Tampa Bay would have drafted Taylor at No. 14.
“But Wirfs was available, and Tampa Bay traded up one slot from No. 14 to San Francisco’s turn at No. 13 to draft the offensive tackle who has been a standout since joining the Bucs. But that selection didn’t diminish the way that Tampa Bay felt about Taylor, who enters Sunday’s showdown as the league leader in rushing yards (1,122) and touchdowns (15).”
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Tampa Bay Wanted to Draft Taylor in the 2020 NFL Draft
Taylor has emerged as arguably the top running back in the NFL notching 1,122 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns through his first 11 games this season. The Colts back also has 32 receptions for 322 yards and two touchdowns. According to Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds, the Buccaneers would have selected Taylor in the second round at No. 45 if the Colts had not traded up to snag the running back just ahead of Tampa with the 41st pick.
“The Bucs liked running back Antonio Gibson coming out of Memphis in the 2020 NFL Draft and seriously considered drafting him in the second round last year before selecting free safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. instead,” Reynolds noted on November 27. “Tampa Bay was hoping Gibson would last until their third round selection, but he was drafted by Washington 10 picks ahead.
“The Bucs were in the market for a running back in the draft and wound up choosing Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round instead. But the running back the Bucs truly coveted was Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, who was drafted by Indianapolis just four spots ahead of Tampa Bay’s second-round pick. Had Taylor been there at the No. 45 overall pick, he would have likely been selected over Winfield.”
Arians on His Pre-Draft Evaluation of Taylor: ‘I Loved Him. I Thought He Was Fantastic’
Taylor is likely on the verge of making his first Pro Bowl in just his second NFL season. Heading into Week 12, the league revealed that Taylor is the top player in total fan votes for the Pro Bowl.
Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians could not stop talking about Taylor as the Bucs prepared to face the running back. Arians noted that Taylor reminded him of David Johnson during his pre-draft workout with the Buccaneers.
“Big, big – he is great in the screen game, but he can go out and run routes,” Arians told reporters on November 26, per Buccaneers.com. “He had a lot of David Johnson in him when we worked him out. He could be a wide receiver if he wanted to be – he’s got the size and speed. [He is a] tremendous athlete. He is dangerous anywhere in space.”
Arians admitted that he “loved him” heading into the 2020 draft. The Bucs coach added that Taylor can “do it all” at running back.
“I loved him,” Arians explained during a November 23 press conference, via Buccaneers.com. “I thought he was fantastic. Big, active, speed – he has great hands, and he could do it all. It was only a matter of time playing behind that offensive line that he was going to be the force that he is. That offensive line is very, very special and he’s a special back. He’ll be a hell of a challenge for our run defense.”