I have long been against an addition of a running back in the NFL Draft for the Arizona Cardinals in 2013.
The Cardinals already have Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, William Powell, Alfonso Smith on the roster, so adding a rookie to that rotation made little sense, especially with the needs remaining coming into the fifth round of the draft.
But, when you looked at the running backs that were still on the board in round five, it became more of a reality that Steve Keim and Co. might pick one — not because of need, but because of the value they possess.
Stepfan Taylor was the pick, and what an excellent pick it was.
What does Taylor bring to the Cardinals?
Taylor is maybe the most complete back in this draft. He was on the field in every situation in his career at Stanford, and it shows up on film.
He’s a tough, inside, patient runner that comes from a power-based scheme, and should be comfortable in the Arians running scheme, even if it looks like the Cardinals are moving towards a more zone-based scheme.
Taylor isn’t necessarily a great athlete, but he shows enough of a burst to get to the hole and through it. He has excellent vision, knows how to bounce a run when needed even if he lacks a consistent burst to get outside on planned outside runs. And, even without that game-changing speed, he has enough giddy up to break a long run and take it to the house.
While Taylor is a deft receiver out of the backfield (he definitely has better hands than most of the other backs in the class), he also is good in pass protection. He consistently cuts down oncoming defenders, and is effective in blitz pick up.
In back-to-back plays we see Taylor step up into pass protection and pick up good blocks.
The Cardinal of Stanford had such faith in Taylor as a pass blocker — an absolute must in Arians downfield attacking offense — that they would even leave defenders unblocked on purpose in the belief that Taylor could pick up the block.
What the Arizona Cardinals are getting with Stepfan Taylor is a workhorse type running back that can carry the load, be a three down running back because of his effectiveness in the passing game, and possesses the ability to be a grind it out, wear down a defense type back.
He runs through arm tackles, keeps his legs churning and is able to pick up cheap yards. He shows a good subtleness to his moves in the open field, and knows how to make a man miss.
If you’re looking for a home run threat, well don’t get your hopes up, but if you’re looking for a smart, patient, and strong between-the-tackle runner, someone who can be a feature back and carry the ball 20 times a game for 85 yards and a touchdown, well you’ll enjoy watching Taylor work.