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Would trading for Jonathan Taylor add a spark to the run game?

Would adding Jonathan Taylor add a spark to the Rams running game?

Indianapolis Colts v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

For the most part, the Los Angeles Rams running game has left a lot to be desired throughout the 2023 season. Whether it’s been a lack of commitment to the running game or lack of consistency by the running backs, the Rams haven’t been able to get a lot going on the ground outside of Week 1.

So far this season, the Rams 84 rushing yards per game ranks 25th in the NFL. This is more than a Cam Akers or Kyren Williams issue. The Rams changed up their running scheme to more gap concepts in the offseason which has been an adjustment as well. At the end of the day 10-15 carries per game just isn’t enough.

The Rams may be looking to add a spark to the run game. According to Destin Adams of A to Z Sports, the Rams are among the list of teams that have reached out to the Indianapolis Colts about Jonathan Taylor. Adams says he was given a list of teams that have expressed interest in Taylor and on that list were the Miami Dolphins, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, and Washington Commanders.

Trading for Taylor wouldn’t be a surprise. Last season, the Rams attempted to trade for Christian McCaffrey, but in the end, got out-bid by the San Francisco 49ers. If I had to guess, the Rams’ interest in Taylor has likely only increased since they traded away Cam Akers to the Minnesota Vikings prior to their game against the 49ers in Week 2.

The question here becomes, should the Rams even be interested in trading for Taylor? There’s no denying that Taylor is one of the top-5 running backs in the NFL. However, is he a McCaffrey or Todd Gurley caliber player that would have success in the Sean McVay offense?

How close to Gurley or McCaffrey is Taylor? With the running back position in today’s NFL, you have to think about it more as an offensive weapon. If a player isn’t multi-faceted can capable of doing several things, a team can get that same production elsewhere. McCaffrey isn’t special because he runs the ball well. He’s special in the 49ers offense because he’s third on the team in receptions behind Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. In 2017, Gurley led the Rams offense in receptions and was third in 2018. Had he not gotten hurt, he likely leads the team in receptions again.

Unless a running back can add that receiving element, they simply don’t hold value in the modern NFL. Let’s put it this way. Without Taylor this season, the Indianapolis Colts are 2-1 and Zach Moss has had back-to-back 100-yard games.

Between 2020 and 2022, Taylor ranked 11th in the NFL in rushing yards over expected at 0.25 RYOE per attempt. However, take away his 2021 outlier season in which he rushed for over 1800 yards and averaged 0.93 rushing yards over expected per carry, Taylor ranked 14th in the NFL with -0.04 RYOE per attempt in 2020 and was 31st in the NFL last season at -0.55 RYOE.

Like all running backs, he’s reliant on the offensive line and scheme when running the football. In three years, the most receptions Taylor has hauled in during a season is 40. While Taylor averaged 1.47 yards per route ran in 2020 as a rookie which ranked 10th in the NFL. In 2022 his 0.56 yards per route ran ranked dead last. In 2021, his 1.23 yards per route ran were pretty average.

Additionally, in pass protection, Taylor graded as the fourth-worst running back in pass protection according to Pro Football Focus last season with a grade of 28.5. In 2021, Taylor posted a 31.2 pass-blocking grade and his nine pressures allowed were the second-most in the NFL among running backs. His 21.2 pass-blocking grade as a rookie was the worst in the NFL.

If Taylor’s not good in pass pro and he’s limited as a pass catcher, are you getting a slightly better Akers? We know how much McVay values a running back in pass protection. It was one of the reason Akers was traded away and why he couldn’t get on the field on passing downs. The numbers show that Taylor is much of the same.

There are running backs like Christian McCaffrey that are worth trading for because of what they add outside of their ability to run. While the Gurley contract is bad in hindsight because of his injury, at the time, he was the most valuable offensive weapon in the Rams offense. If the Rams trade for a running back, it has to be someone that can unlock part of their offense. Even when the Rams traded for Marshall Faulk back in 1999, he was able to unlock part of that offense.

CJ Anderson was able to replicate what Gurley did on the ground over the final weeks of the 2018 season. However, no player has been able to replicate what Gurley added as a receiver. It’s unlikely that player would be Taylor.

Again, this isn’t to say that Taylor isn’t a special player or one of the more talented running backs in the NFL. With that said, the Rams have a needs on the offensive line and at edge rusher. It’s hard to see Taylor unlocking a part of the Rams offense and adding a spark to the run game.