INDIANAPOLIS – It was a pre-draft dream that the Colts had very high on their board of ‘wants’ back in 2020.
Chris Ballard’s goal in the ’20 offseason was adding more guys that could be ‘stars,’ especially on the offensive side of the ball.
While acquiring a future first-round pick was the ultimate dream in that 2020 Draft, one that was close by was a scenario in which the team came away with both Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman.
Fast forward to a year and a half into Taylor and Pittman’s NFL careers and throwing around the word ‘stardom’ is not too big.
That’s certainly the case for Taylor, while Pittman is on a trajectory to reach a similar level.
Frank Reich thinks back to that second day of the 2020 NFL Draft, when the debate over Tee Higgins and Pittman was settled when the Bengals took Higgins at No. 33 overall, thus giving Pittman to the Colts.
With the Colts slotted to be on the clock next at No. 44, Jim Irsay spoke up in the draft room about how much the staff had coveted Taylor throughout the draft process.
Teams trading up for running backs are rare, but moving up 3 slots for Taylor looks like a genius move.
“Chris (Ballard) was talking about Jonathan (Taylor) to me all the time – about Jonathan Taylor this and Jonathan Taylor that,” Reich recalls. “This is exactly what we were hoping, and really the kind of consistency. We have to continue to make it be better, and more productive. Jonathan is up to that challenge and works hard. A very humble young man.
“With Pittman Jr., it’s the same thing – different kind of a player, different approach, but same results. You have two pretty starkly different personalities, both giving outstanding output on the field.”
Taylor is a bit quieter. Pittman a bit more outgoing.
However, one aspect to their method is the same.
“They are just different personalities, but they are both equally ferocious competitors,” Reich says.
Any debate about the NFL’s best running back not named Derrick Henry has to include Taylor.
He finished his rookie season ranked 3rd in rushing, despite not securing that lead back spot until November. In 2021, Taylor is 2nd to Henry in rushing yards.
“I think (Taylor’s) one of the best players in the league,” Reich said on Wednesday.
Pittman has emerged this season as the unquestioned No. 1 wideout spot in Indy.
Through 7 games, Pittman has 35 catches for 508 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’s on pace for 1,234 receiving yards on 85 catches. Pittman’s path to being one of the league’s top-flight wideouts is on the right trail.
While there are some questions about the future of other second-round picks on the Colts roster, Taylor and Pittman aren’t in that group.
And it all goes back to that night of April 24, 2020.
“We never thought we’d see Pittman and Taylor together like this,” Irsay said that weekend. “That was our dream scenario—Taylor and Pittman.”
“We really feel we have two football players that are ready to be guys that play on Sunday, immediately.”
Those words have held true.