Fred Taylor: Proving It Again and Again

At the age of 32 and with 10 years as a starter in the NFL, one would think Jaguars running back Fred Taylor shouldn't have to prove his status as an elite running back. Find out what Taylor thinks of being rated #35 in a recent book.

After all, Taylor heads into the 2008 season ranked No. 17 on the NFL's all-time rushing list and is likely a season and a half away from cracking the top 10. With 10,715 career yards, Taylor is less than 1,600 yards behind Jim Brown, who's ninth on the list with 12,312 yards.

Yet Taylor continues to find himself gaining little respect outside of the Jacksonville community. A recently released football book, The Pro Football Historical Abstract, has Taylor ranked as the 35th-best all-time running back, trailing a number of backs that did not accumulate as many yards as Taylor has, some of whom played more than 10 seasons in the NFL.

"Tell that dude (author Sean Lahman) I'm one of the top five running backs of all time," said Taylor, possibly over ranking his status as much as Lahman under ranked it. "Looking at the caliber of running backs that have played the game, I'm definitely in the top 10. I've got to prove him wrong and make the top 10 before it's all said and done."

If you look at Taylor's career average-per-carry mark, he's already in that grouping. His 4.7 yard average on 2,285 carries in 10 years is tied for third all-time with Tiki Barber and O.J. Simpson.

Taylor was also miffed when the NFL Network didn't include him on its list of the top 10 elusive backs.

"I couldn't make that list? I thought I was a slippery runner, that's my game," Taylor said.

In his book, Lahman opined that history suggests Taylor's best years are behind him and that he wasn't sure that anybody today "would consider him one of the best backs of his era. He was a good, but not great, running back."

Taylor's statistics in recent years would suggest that he's still at the peak of his game. His rushing totals of 1,146 and 1,202 yards the last two seasons marked the sixth and seventh time, respectively, that he's topped the 1,100-yard mark in a season. The only three years that he didn't reach that total is when he missed a combined 25 games due to injuries those three seasons.

His average per carry in 2006 and 2007 were 5.0 and 5.4 yards per attempt, respectively, the two highest marks in his 10 years in the league. Don't give any credence to the thought that Taylor has retirement on his mind. In March of 2007, Taylor signed a new contract extension that would pay him $23 million from 2007 through the 2010 season. He plans to play the contract out and possibly more after that.

"I'm not going to put a timetable on it," said Taylor, who's shared the rushing workload the past two seasons with Maurice Drew, a concept that will help extend Taylor's playing career even if it means fewer carries each season. "There's going to come a time when Mo (Drew) is going to have a little bit more juice than I have. I don't know what time that is going to be though. Who knows how much longer I could stay?"

Chances are, it will be long enough to crack that elusive top 10 career rushers' list.


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