Unfortunately, Jonathan Taylor’s fantasy value for 2020 is about as clear as mud at the moment. He could be a stud in waiting and easily rush for 1,500 yards on 300 carries or he could end up riding the bench after a surprising output from teammate Marlon Mack, who is trying to show his worth once again. Rookie running backs that come into situations with entrenched starters tend to be more frustrating than ones that have clear roles on arrival, but let’s analyze the data points we have at the moment and see what conclusions can be drawn.
Jonathan Taylor’s Fantasy 2020 Outlook – The 2020 Draft
Before we get too far along, let’s first start with the draft itself. The Colts were very active in the 2020 NFL draft process, both before and during the draft itself. They traded their first-round pick, 13 overall, to the 49ers for DT DeForest Buckner prior to the draft, addressing a position of need on their defense.
The Colts used the second-round pick they acquired from the Washington Football Team, pick 34 overall, to select WR Michael Pittman Jr. They then traded their next pick, 44 overall, along with their fifth-round pick, 160 overall, to the Browns to move up three spots to pick 41 in order to select RB Jonathan Taylor as the second running back taken in this draft behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire at pick 32 overall.
Taylor was generally considered the best running back in this class, even getting comparisons to another Big Ten RB from a few years ago. PFN’s Brit Devine said that “Taylor looks like the second-best running back prospect in recent memory behind just Saquon Barkley after posting 6,174 yards rushing over three seasons in college and posting elite athleticism at the combine.” Clearly the Colts agreed and rather than wait to see if he’d make it any further, they made a move to make sure they got their guy.
Taylor’s expected role on the team
It’s no surprise that the Colts drafted Taylor to be their running back of the future. Marlon Mack hasn’t exactly done much to light up the stat sheet in his time with the team so his days are clearly numbered. But in terms of Jonathan Taylor’s fantasy value for 2020, it’s tricky to tell just when he’ll be given the lead back role.
Thanks to a crazy year, Taylor missed out on vital training camp and preseason time with the team. While the Colts have one of the best offensive lines in all of football, a running back still needs time to learn how they operate and how to see the holes being created in front of them. Without full speed playing time that preseason games would have given him, it’s tough to see Taylor starting out as the clearcut Week 1 starter.
Taylor being eased in makes a lot of sense from an NFL standpoint, with there being no reason to rush things and risk injury or a lack of confidence for the rookie. From a fantasy standpoint, however, knowing that he’ll be limited to start definitely lowers his 2020 value somewhat. Taylor’s currently going as the 42nd player (RB21) off the board according to Fleaflicker’s ADP for PPR leagues. PFN’s redraft rankings have him close to that as well, as 47th overall and RB21, so he’s not exactly providing a terrific value…yet.
Fantasy Football draft advice for Jonathan Taylor in 2020
All of this information is great, but what should you do with it in your own drafts? Let’s assume Taylor takes a few games to get acclimated to the Colts offense, similar to what Miles Sanders did to start last season. Assuming he ends up the full-time starter by Week 6, it is entirely possible that Taylor will be a top 10 running back the rest of the year. His current ADP includes the fact that he’s not getting a full workload to start, it’s baked into his price, but getting a stud RB for your playoffs could be a huge win for your fantasy team.
In dynasty leagues, Taylor is already considered a top 10 RB. I wrote about him a few times this offseason, even saying that “[a]ll signs point to him being the lead back in Indianapolis sooner than later, given the lack of true competition. If Philip Rivers and his receivers can do what they’re expected to do, there should be plenty of scoring opportunities to boot.” I still firmly believe this. If you can draft a top 10 RB in terms of talent in the 4th round of redraft leagues, that’s always a great move. But how does that translate to Jonathan Taylor’s fantasy value for 2020 alone?
Overall, it just comes down to how you like to build your team and how soon you think he’ll take the job away from Mack. If you are able to select other running backs ahead of him in your draft that can help you win while Taylor gets up to speed, or can grab Mack with a mid-round pick, then you will be sitting pretty whenever the change happens. If you opt to grab other positions in the early rounds and are looking at him as your RB1 in the 4th round, then drafting Taylor a risky move. Sure, it could pay off, but you might be 0-3 when it does, which can be difficult to come back from.
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Andrew Hall is a writer for PFN covering the NFL and Fantasy Football. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndrewHallFF.