What Jonathan Taylor Landing With Colts Means For His Dynasty Upside
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jonathan Taylor
Jonathan Taylor Dynasty Rookie Analysis
- Position: RB | School: Wisconsin
- Height: 5’10” | Weight: 226 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.39 seconds
- 2020 Age: 21 | Class: Junior
- Recruitment Stars: 3
- Draft Position: 2.41 (Colts)
Jonathan Taylor’s Fantasy Fit with Colts
As a rookie, Taylor seems likely to be in an unfortunate timeshare with running backs Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines, but he still figures to lead the backfield, as it’s Mack’s last year under contract and Hines is just a pass-catching complement.
In 2021, Taylor should be a locked-in high-volume dominator with three-down potential and top-10 upside.
Jonathan Taylor: Dynasty Analysis
Most dynasty analysts had Taylor ranked as the No. 1 rookie in fantasy entering the draft. I imagine that’s longer the case, but I do appreciate Taylor: He’s an impressive player.
A two-time Doak Walker Award winner as the top back in the country and a two-time consensus All-American selection, Taylor had three straight seasons of 2,000-plus scrimmage yards in college. Based on his production, he looks like the kind of historical back who would be taken high in the draft, maybe even in the top 10.
Taylor’s production — especially his rushing production — is the stuff of legends.
- 2017 (FR): 299-1,977-13 (14 games)
- 2018 (SO): 307-2,194-16 (13)
- 2019 (JR): 320-2,003-21 (14)
But here’s the thing with Taylor: The guys he’s often compared to are either between-the-tackles grinders from another era or modern-day backs with markedly inferior pass-catching skills.
Even though as a junior he had a respectable-looking receiving stat line — 26 receptions for 252 yards and five touchdowns — Taylor is a net negative in the passing game.
At best, he’s mediocre as a receiver. He doesn’t run routes. He just sort of runs to where he thinks the ball might be thrown. He can’t be lined up across the formation: He’s a backfield-only back. And when it comes to catching the ball, his hands might as well be elbows: On 50 catchable targets for his career, he had eight drops. On passes he should have snagged — passes that were primarily dump-offs — he had a 16% drop rate.
Not even the least reception-inclined early-down backs in the NFL have drop rates that bad.
If you check out the Pro Football Focus draft guide — a terrific resource, by the way — you’ll see that Taylor is ranked as the best between-the-tackles runner in the class. He’s a magnificent runner. He glides.
But his career receiving numbers are horrendous for a guy who was on the field for the supermajority of snaps for three straight years.
- Receptions per game: 1.0
- Yards per target: 6.1
- Catch rate: 64.5%
Every once in a while, a guy who doesn’t catch the ball in college does so in the NFL. It happened with LaDainian Tomlinson — but LT is probably an exception. Almost no one compares to him. It would be foolhardy to think that any given prospect would have a career as distinguished as Tomlinson’s.
And yet Tomlinson — as unbelievable as this sounds — actually is the guy to whom Taylor is most comparable as a prospect. With his elite athletic profile and college production, Taylor has an incredibly high floor.
Based on a combination of his PFF rushing and receiving grades, missed tackles per carry, yards after contact per attempt and yards per route run, Taylor is the No. 2 backfield prospect from the 2017-20 draft classes.
Now, I don’t think Taylor is actually the No. 2 running back prospect from the past four years — and I definitely don’t believe that Zach Moss (Utah) is the No. 1 back — but pretty much any back-of-the-envelope calculation will point to this fact: Taylor is a good football player.
As a point of comparison: D’Andre Swift is the better all-around player because of his receiving ability: He’s the crisper route runner, he has better hands and he can line up in the slot and out wide. But Taylor is still good enough to see heavy volume in the NFL. He’ll get some three-down work.
If you have the No. 1 pick this year in rookie drafts and take Taylor, I can’t blame you. I have doubts about his ability to finish consistently in the top 10 because of his receiving shortcomings, but his rushing ability makes him a near certainty to have multiple top-20 campaigns.
NFL Prospect Comp: LaDainian Tomlinson but younger and with significantly worse hands
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Matthew Freedman is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs, part of The Action Network.