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Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor declares for NFL draft after back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons

Jonathan Taylor is leaving Wisconsin after topping 2,000 rushing yards in back-to-back seasons.

Taylor officially declared for the NFL draft on Friday and joins a stacked running back class that already includes Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins and Georgia’s D’Andre Swift.

“I may be leaving Madison, but at heart I’ll always be a Badger,” Taylor said during a declaration video he posted to Twitter Friday night.

[Tracking the underclassmen declarations for the 2020 NFL draft]

Simply put, Taylor is one of the most productive running backs in college football history and a two-time Doak Walker Award winner. A 94-yard effort in Wisconsin’s Rose Bowl loss to Oregon on Wednesday put Taylor at 2,003 yards for the 2019 season. That came on the heels of a 2,194-yard season in 2018 as Taylor averaged over seven yards a carry.

Taylor barely missed three 2,000-yard seasons too. He rushed for 1,977 yards as a freshman and finished sixth in the Heisman voting. Remarkably, Taylor never got invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony in any of his three college years. His best finish came this season when he was fifth behind LSU QB Joe Burrow, Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts, Ohio State QB Justin Fields and Ohio State DE Chase Young. 

Taylor should be an early-round pick in the draft. But he could go behind players like Dobbins and Swift and maybe even Clemson’s Travis Etienne if he declares for the draft after Clemson plays LSU for the national title. While Taylor has been incredibly proficient and upped his receiving totals significantly in 2019, he’s had problems with fumbling. Taylor has lost 15 fumbles in his three years at Wisconsin.

Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor rushed for 2,003 yards in 2019. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Second-fastest RB to 5,000 yards

Taylor joined an elite group of college running backs in the first quarter of Wisconsin’s loss to Illinois on Oct. 19. 

He topped 5,000 career rushing yards that game and officially became the third running back to break 5,000 yards in his first three college football seasons. 

It took Taylor just one game longer to top 5,000 yards than Georgia legend Herschel Walker. Walker ran for 5,259 yards in his career at Georgia and broke the 5,000-yard barrier in 33 games. That Illinois game was Taylor’s 34th. 

Oregon’s LaMichael James is the only other running back to officially break the 5,000-yard mark in his junior season, though Ron Dayne can lay claim to that as well. Unofficially, anyway. Dayne (and Walker) played before bowl stats became part of a player’s official statistics in 2002. Dayne officially has 6,397 rushing yards, and has over 7,000 yards when bowl games are included.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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