FAB 2. Swift, Taylor Lost In The RB Shuffle
Buccaneers fans who tuned into the College Football Playoffs saw a trio of talented running backs in Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins, LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Clemson’s Travis Etienne – any of which could help upgrade Tampa Bay’s struggling running game. Of the three junior rushers, Etienne returned to school, but Dobbins and Edwards-Helaire opted to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft.
The 5-foot-10, 217-pound Dobbins had three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons for the Buckeyes, finishing with 4,459 yards and 38 touchdowns in his career, while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Dobbins, who had 71 career receptions for 645 yards and five touchdowns, rushed for a career-best 2,003 yards and 21 TDs last year as a junior.
Edwards-Helaire is slightly smaller at 5-foot-8, 209 pounds, but is just as hard to tackle. He didn’t enter 2019 with as much fanfare as Dobbins did, but Edwards-Helaire had a breakout junior season with 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging 6.6 yards per carry in helping LSU win a national title. Edwards-Helaire also showed phenomenal hands with 55 catches for 453 yards and one score.
Either Dobbins or Edwards-Helaire would look great in red and pewter and either push Ronald Jones II towards greatness or push him to the bench, but there are two other stellar junior running backs that have gotten overlooked since the end of the regular season. Had Georgia or Wisconsin made the playoffs instead of Oklahoma, D’Andre Swift or Jonathan Taylor would be getting more love from the draft media and the mock draft community because they would have been featured all over ESPN. Instead it was Dobbins and Edwards-Helaire
The 5-foot-9, 215-pound Swift had to bide his time behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and share carries last year with Elijah Holyfield, but became the feature back last year after rushing for 1,049 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2018. Swift rushed for 1,218 yards and seven scores while averaging 6.2 yards per carry.
With 73 career catches for 666 yards and five touchdowns for the Bulldogs, Swift is a multi-purpose runner with a killer juke move similar to New Orleans Pro Bowler Alvin Kamara. Swift is versatile enough to play all three downs. Because of that, Swift’s skill set lends itself quite well to playing in Bruce Arians’ offense.
At 5-foot-11, 219 pounds, Taylor is a bigger back with tackle-breaking ability, breakaway speed and ridiculous production. He averaged 2,058 yards per season in his three years at Wisconsin. Taylor scored 50 touchdowns in his Badgers career while averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
Taylor wasn’t involved in the passing game much until his junior season in which he showed he could both pass protect and catch the ball. After catching a combined 16 passes for 155 yards in his first two years at Wisconsin, Taylor caught 21 passes for 252 yards and nine scores while showing off natural hands.
While Swift and Taylor might not be featured in many mock drafts, they are highly regarded in the NFL scouting community, and there is a chance that either back – or Dobbins – could go in the first round this year. As of right now, Swift appears in just one widely regarded first-round mock draft, going to Miami with the 18th overall pick in NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah’s initial mock draft.
Taylor appears in one, going 31st overall to Kansas City in The Draft Network’s Benjamin Solak’s latest first-round mock draft, while Dobbins in featured as the lone running back in three other TDN mock drafts from Joe Marino, Jonah Tuls and Jordan Reid.
So when projecting running backs to the Bucs, don’t get too focused on Dobbins and Edwards-Helaire and forget about Swift and Taylor. One of those backs should be available to Tampa Bay if it wants to draft a running back in the second round.