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Jonathan Taylor Fantasy Outlook, 2021 Projections, Rankings & More

Jonathan Taylor Fantasy Outlook, 2021 Projections, Rankings & More article feature image

Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images. Pictured: Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor Fantasy Rankings

Overall 9
Positional 6
Consensus rankings via Sean Koerner and Chris Raybon are based on half PPR scoring and as of early June.

Jonathan Taylor ended 2020 looking like an elite fantasy running back, and current rankings and average draft position (ADP) data reflect his powerful finish to the season.

This year, he will have to again compete in a crowded backfield and adapt to a new quarterback, but his upside remains sky-high heading into 2021.

Taylor’s 2020 Season

  • Games played: 15
  • Rushing stats: 232 attempts, 1,169 yards, 11 touchdowns
  • Receiving stats: 39 targets, 36 catches, 299 yards, 1 touchdown
  • Fantasy finishes (Weeks 1 through 16): RB7 in PPR; RB7 in standard; RB7 in half PPR

Taylor entered the year as one of the most exciting running backs of his rookie class.

The two-time unanimous first-team All-American opted to forgo his senior season at Wisconsin and ended his college career with 6,174 rushing yards — the fourth-most all-time in FBS history. The Colts selected Taylor 41st overall in the second round of the 2020 draft — he was the third running back off the board behind Chiefs’ Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Lions’ D’Andre Swift. 

Taylor started training camp in a position battle with Marlon Mack, who had posted a 1,000-yard season in 2019. Mack, 25, is a former fourth pick from South Florida. He suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in Week 1, leaving the rookie in an opportune position to take over the Colts’ backfield.

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The 22-year-old made an immediate impact in Week 2, tallying 26 carries for 101 yards and his first career touchdown. The performance led many to suspect he would be the unrivaled back moving forward, but his touches declined in the ensuing weeks as the Colts opted to distribute the workload among Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins.

Taylor’s touches reached their nadir in Week 9 against the Ravens when he saw just six attempts for 27 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for seven yards. In Week 10, he saw seven attempts for 12 yards and caught two passes for 25 yards.

The former Badger capped off the year strong, averaging 22.2 touches for 139.5 scrimmage yards per game and eight total touchdowns over Indianapolis’ final six games of the regular season. He set the Colts’ franchise record for rushing yards in a single game in Week 17 against the Jaguars with 30 attempts for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He was named the FedEx Ground player of the week for that performance and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month in December.

Taylor finished the regular season with 232 attempts for 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns over 15 appearances. He caught 36-of-39 targets for 299 yards and a touchdown — good enough to finish as RB7 in fantasy for all formats and behind only James Robinson among the rookie class.

He appeared in the Colts’ lone playoff game during the wild-card round and had 21 attempts for 78 yards and a touchdown.

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Photo credit: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images. Pictured: Jonathan Taylor.

Taylor’s 2021 Fantasy Outlook

The Colts have made zero changes to their running back depth chart for 2021, which currently consists of Taylor, Mack, Hines and Wilkins.

Unlike last year, Taylor will begin the season in a position of strength as the team’s presumed bell-cow — not as an untested rookie in a positional battle. Mack — who signed a one-year, $2 million extension in March — is a talented back who will undoubtedly see carries if healthy, but his devastating injury in 2020 has a strong likelihood to have long-term lingering effects.

Taylor was highly lauded as a rushing star coming out of college, but his prowess as a pass-catcher elicited some concerns among the NFL community. Hines, 24, handled the majority of the pass-catching work out of the backfield for the Colts and reeled in 63 passes (third among running backs) on 76 targets (82.9% catch rate) for 482 yards (third among RBs) and four touchdowns.

It remains unclear if the Colts plan to increase Taylor’s pass-catching role heading into 2021, especially with Hines still rostered. He proved to be an effective receiver when utilized and finished the season with 36 catches (21st among RBs) on 39 targets (92.3%) for 299 yards (17th among RBs) and a touchdown.

One major change the Colts have made to their depth chart at large this offseason was the acquisition of former Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz to replace Philip Rivers, who retired in January.

Rivers, 39, was serviceable during his one-year stint in Indianapolis and completed 68% of his passes for 4,169 yards, 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Wentz, 28, may or may not be an upgrade for the Colts’ offense.

The former No. 2 overall pick enjoyed success in previous years and earned Pro Bowl honors in 2017 and helped Philadelphia advance to the Super Bowl. Wentz is fresh off of his worst season to date, in which he was benched in favor of rookie Jalen Hurts and completed just 57.4% of his passes for 2,620 yards, 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions over 12 starts.

It’s worth mentioning that the Eagles’ offensive line allowed an NFL-worst 4.1 sacks per game, which contrasts starkly with the Colts, who allowed just 1.2 sacks per game — the second-fewest in the league.

How to Draft Taylor

Taylor’s strong rookie campaign — and even stronger finish to the season — remains fresh in the minds of fantasy managers heading into 2021.

Optimistically, the end-of-season push could reflect his actual potential and he could be poised to have another 200-plus attempt season with well over 1,000 rushing yards.

Pessimistically, the Colts offense could be even more anemic this season with Wentz at the helm and a healthy Mack could steal enough of the RB workload to drag down Taylor’s value.

His limited pass-catching makes him a slightly more attractive buy in standard formats than PPR. Taylor is currently being drafted as a mid-RB1 behind the first tier of elite running backs in all formats, which feels appropriate in light of his high upside and undeniable talent.

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