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Frank Reich Fantasy Reaction: More Nyheim Hines Could Mean Less Jonathan Taylor

An expanded role for Nyheim Hines could mean fewer touches for fantasy darling Jonathan Taylor.

Wouldn’t it be great if NFL head coaches offered expert fantasy football advice? Apparently, the Colts’ Frank Reich has done just that, talking about backup running back Nyheim Hines after Wednesday’s OTA workouts. “If I was gonna be in a fantasy league,” Reich said, “I think I’d pick Nyheim this year.”

Well, O.K., but he didn’t say when to draft him. Indianapolis boasts the NFL’s leading rusher in Jonathan Taylor, who currently stands as the consensus No. 1 pick in fantasy drafts. So Hines would certainly be a solid handcuff. In the high-stakes National Fantasy Football Championship leagues, Hines’s average draft position is No. 153 – making him a 13th-round pick.

It’s sweet that an NFL coach is willing to talk about fantasy but take it with a grain of salt.

Hines’s best season was 2020 when he amassed 862 scrimmage yards and seven total touchdowns. Those numbers dipped to 586 and three last season, as Taylor emerged as a fantasy superstar. Taylor had 332 carries for 1,811 rushing yards and 18 TDs, leading the NFL in all three categories. Taylor added 40 receptions—same as Hines.

Reich did make an interesting observation, noting that Hines has posted better stats in even-numbered years. He caught 63 passes as a rookie in 2018 and matched that number in 2020. And with Taylor all but guaranteed (barring injury) to get around 300 carries, Hines needs to have more receptions to have any value.

Which is why this observation from Wednesday’s OTA was interesting:

Earlier this month, we pointed out how some teams may copy what the Falcons did last season with Cordarrelle Patterson. It looks like that might be the case with the Colts and Hines. Reich’s fantasy reference blew up on Twitter. Here’s some of the explanation that followed.

“We all know Nyheim’s a playmaker and we want to feature him,” Reich said. “But when we say that, we obviously have to understand we’ve got JT. We also have to understand we’ve got (Michael) Pittman. We’ve got a quarterback who’s not going to force the ball … he’s going to throw it to the open guy. So it’s incumbent upon us to spread the ball around … Would we like to have Nyheim be up there at the end of the season when we tally up who has the catches? Do we want Nyheim to be one of those top three guys? Probably, yeah.”

Thing is, Hines and Taylor were already tied for second on the team with their 40 receptions in 2021. Hines’s 63 catches in 2020 led the team. With Matt Ryan taking over at quarterback this season, the prevailing thought is that the Colts’ passing attack will be more formidable this season—especially off play-action. Of course, that leads to the most important fantasy take based on Reich’s comments.

While Hines should have a better 2022 season, fantasy managers can’t look at him as more than a solid handcuff. But if the Colts are planning to spread the ball around more, with Ryan throwing the ball more than Colts quarterbacks have done in recent years, then perhaps Taylor is not the No. 1 fantasy pick. If Reich wants to make sure Taylor is healthy and fresh for a playoff run, maybe Hines gets just enough carries to eat into Taylor’s numbers.

That doesn’t mean Taylor isn’t a high first-round pick. It just makes him less of a surefire No. 1.

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