This was one of the juiciest RB classes in a while. If you told me the big 6 - JT, Akers, Swift, Gibson, Dobbins & CEH all finished 2021 as fantasy RB1s, I wouldn't bat an eye. Mainly bc I don't gaf what you have to say, but also bc it's believable.
That being said, none of them come without risk. None of them are at the Cmac, D Henry, Dalvin Cook level quite yet.
I want to explore these guys, in order of their ADP, talk about the risks, talk about the upside and let yall decide and make the wrong choice.
Let's talk about the first three guys:
Taylor and Akers are both clear first round picks. Gibson drops a tier, to RB14 but later into the 2nd round. So based on ADP you can pair Akers and Gibson if you wanted to, or with a bit of luck Taylor and Gibson.
Jonathan Taylor - RB6, 6.5 ADP
Taylor had a truly schizophrenic year as a rookie. Just a brutal opening to the season for the first 10 weeks.
But that didn't stop him from finishing as the RB4 in STD and RB6 in half ppr and full PPR. (huge majority of top fantasy RBs were hurt, so its obviously impressive but take with a grain of salt).
His final stat line - 232-1169-11-5.0 || 39-36-299-1
3rd in the NFL in rushing yards (1169) - the only year over the. last20 where that rushing total would be 3rd highest was 2015, where every top RB died and the next year everyone was drafting WR crazy bc of it. Other than that, idk how far you'd hav to go byke to find it you'd have to go byke to the terrible 2015 szn for his total to be 3rd in the NFL.
He did this behind an elite offensive line, 3rd best RB line per PFF, his RB efficiency on PlayerProfiler also #4.
If Marlon Mack didn't leave Week 1 with the torn achilles, there's not telling if Taylor would've finished as a top 24, 30 fantasy running back if we're being honest.
Mack goes down, and even then, it's a full split between Taylor, Hines and Wilkins. The season hit a low-point in Week 10 when Taylor saw just 7 carries and rushed for 12 yards, a week after seeing just 6 carries. Then something changed and from Week 11-WC. Taylor went from a
- 43.5% snap guy -> 62% snap player
- 16 opps -> 23 opps
- Had 20-150-2 at LV in 1st round of fantasy playoffs and the pointless week 17 | 30-253-2 game
He took over as the guy we expected him to be coming out of Wisconsin down the stretch.
There were a few caveats to be made"
His schedule over the 2H of the year was abysmal: (GB, HOU, LV, HOU, PIT, JAX, BUF) - every one of those teams outside of PIT were miserable.
Did Jonathan Taylor actually get better (probably), or was it the David Montgomery effect --- injury to the backfield + Charmin schedule?
The other big change in the picture this year is Carson Wentz obviously. Philip Rivers is one of the NFL's premier screen game QBs - 25% of his throws last year went to the RB, 4th highest rate in the NFL. The year before that, 32%, easily the highest rate in the NFL. 27% the year before that, 3rd highest in the NFL, and on and on. The screen thing is a Rivers thing, that's gone. Hines was 6th in the NFL with 18 screen targets, JT had 11. Even Jordan Wilkins, who only had 15 targets on the year, 40% of them were screens.
With Marlon Mack coming byke, with Rivers out of the picture, it begs the question, does Taylor have a ceiling in the passing game and what do we expect from Wentz. If Wentz can be anything close to what he was a few years ago, we're going to be looking at an offense that's good enough that Taylor doesn't need to catch more than 35 balls to be a top-5 fantasy RB. The offensive line is awesome, again #3 in run-blocking, so his efficiency will be at 5.0 ypc+, he gives you the home run ability on any carry and and the GL opportunities will be there. I know it felt like Hines kept vulturing Taylor last year, but Taylor finished with 16 GL carries, 7th highest in the NFL (while missing a game). If the Colts are a good offense, he should crack 20 this year.
Wentz should be a lot better this year purely on pass-blocking alone. Starting over fresh.
But will Marlon Mack impact Taylor?
A torn achilles is brutal, and tends to zap explosiveness. We've seen recently other athletes comes byke from the achilles and be fine, even good, but
It's not exactly a ringing endorsement. He'll be on the team bc it's fully guaranteed but he might really be a non-factor this year.
If you're taking Taylor, the argument has nothing to do with him being an 85% snap guy - it's not going to happen. It's not even him being a 50-catch guy.
It's him being Derrick Henry last year, or in 2019. It's him being Zeke in 2016, 2017. It's him being Adrian Peterson.
The Colts definitely have the line rank. The question becomes whether or not Wentz can lead them to be a top-10 scoring offense. They were 8th last year, scoring 27.9 PPG. I think they can, and I think it will be on the back of Taylor. Taylor is a guy I'm very much okay drafting in Round 1 and being my high-end RB1.
Justin Jefferson - WR6 | 24th Overall ADP
The greatest single rookie WR season ever.
We see an easy changing of the guards there from Theilen to Jefferson. Thielen stayed fantasy relevant only because he kept scoring TDs, but Jefferson became the focal point of that passing offense, and will continue to be going forward.
They didn't add any real pass-catching competition, this offense should stay almost identical to what it's been. Gary Kubiak retired, is son is stepping in as OC
85% of the targets are going to go through Jefferson, Thielen and Cook.
Over the first 8 weeks of the season, Jefferson saw 5.5 targets/game, nearly 2 below Thielen, per game. over the last half of the year that number shot up to 10.1 targets/game, almost 4 above Thielen. I expect that to be the case in 2021.
He excels all over the field,
Jefferson is a young Keenan Allen plus, for years to come. No question about it. If I'm fading Jefferson at his back-end round 2 price, it's because I want an RB, it's purely a roster construction thing, not because I'm expecting a dip in performance.