One of the most underrated running backs in the 2013 NFL Draft, Stepfan Taylor, went in the fifth round to the Arizona Cardinals, a team with a running game desperately in need of a kick in the rear end.
The Cardinals’ first step towards fielding a better ground attack this offseason was signing veteran Rashard Mendenhall, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although Mendenhall is a quality back with plenty of production on his resume, his history of injuries should be a bit unsettling for the Cardinals’ offense.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ other top option at running back is Ryan Williams, a 2011 second-round pick who has been nothing but a disappointment since landing in Arizona. The former Virginia Tech standout spent his entire rookie season on the IR list and was utterly ineffective during his sophomore season. Even when he is somewhat healthy, Williams doesn’t appear capable of carrying the load for the Cardinals.
That’s where Taylor comes in.
An über-productive back at Stanford, Taylor is the epitome of a well-rounded ball-carrier who can make an impact in numerous ways. On top of being a durable player, the fifth-rounder runs with power and vision, is a reliable receiver out of the backfield, and does a solid job of pass blocking. Although Taylor doesn’t have the speed or elusiveness to create sparks in the NFL, his tremendous work ethic and explosiveness are terrific tools that the Cardinals must take advantage of.
When training camp begins, Taylor will face off with Mendenhall, Williams and fellow rookie Andre Ellington for snaps. Given his well-rounded offering and lack of health issues, there’s a good chance that Taylor could secure some touches by the time the regular season rolls around.
The only problem is that, due to late graduation at Stanford, Taylor was forced to miss out on Cardinals OTAs. It’s not a death sentence, but could put him behind enough to be at a disadvantage once training camp opens.
It’ll be interesting to see how Taylor responds once training camp begins. If he can be anywhere near as productive as he was with the Cardinal, he’ll become a vital part of the Cardinals’ ground game.