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49ers' Warner gave teams early endorsement of Colts' Taylor

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Jonathan Taylor

SANTA CLARA -- Even though running back Jonathan Taylor was two years away from entering the NFL draft, he was still a topic of conversation at the 2018 scouting combine.

And, for that, he owes a big thank you to 49ers All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner.

Taylor, who has proven to be one of the top handful of runners in the league during his nearly 1 1/2 professional seasons, will lead an Indianapolis Colts offense that comes to Levi’s Stadium on Sunday night to face Warner and the 49ers’ surging defense.

It will not be the first time Warner and Taylor have gone against each other.

Taylor was a true freshman at Wisconsin in 2017 when Warner was a senior at BYU. One week after Taylor gained 223 yards rushing against Florida Atlantic, the Badgers came to Provo, Utah, for a non-conference matchup.

“I think he ran for, like 200 yards or something crazy, 250, maybe,” Warner recalled on Wednesday. “I was like, ‘Man, that dude, he’s a beast.’”

Warner’s recollection was off, as Taylor actually gained 128 yards and a touchdown on 18 rushing attempts in a 40-6 victory.

But Taylor clearly made an impact on Warner, who registered seven tackles that day.

“At the combine, coming out for the draft, you always get asked the question, ‘So who’s the best player you went against throughout your career?’” Warner said. “For every team that asked me that, I always said, ‘Jonathan Taylor.’

“For some reason, he always stuck in my mind. So I got a lot of respect for Jonathan. He looks kind of deceptive on tape, but he’s got breakaway speed. He runs the ball hard. He’s a really good back. So, obviously, we’re going to have to bring all 11.”

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Taylor (5-foot-10, 226 pounds) ranked third in the NFL last season with 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie after entering the league as the No. 41 overall draft pick.

He is off to an even-better start this season with 472 yards (5.4 average) and four touchdowns. He also has 15 receptions for 210 yards and a touchdown.

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