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Colts 2021 Fantasy Preview: RB Jonathan Taylor

After a stellar rookie season, the Colts' Jonathan Taylor is one of the highest-rated running backs heading into the 2021 fantasy football season. Should he be?

Today, we continue our 2021 Indianapolis Colts fantasy football profiles with star second-year running back Jonathan Taylor.

The college record-breaker spent his rookie season racking up the third-most rushing yards in the NFL, but he still has his doubters for 2021.

Let's dive in.

Average draft position and positional rankings from FantasyPros. Projections are based on traditional lineups with PPR scoring.

Relevant to all Colts fantasy players, quarterback Carson Wentz underwent a procedure on his foot on Mon., Aug. 2 and is expected to be out anywhere from 5-12 weeks, which puts his return in the regular season roughly between Week 1-Week 8. Although the team will have a better idea of his approximate timetable for return a few weeks post-op, they believe his return will be on the quicker side of the range.

RB Jonathan Taylor

  • Current ADP — 6.0
  • Current Positional Rank — RB7
  • 2021 Strength of Schedule 4th easiest
  • 2020 — 15 games, 232 carries, 1,169 yards (5.0 avg.), 11 TD, 36 receptions (39 targets), 299 yards (8.3 avg.), 1 TD, 1 FL
  • Average per game — 15.5 carries, 77.9 yards, 0.7 TD, 2.4 receptions (2.6 targets), 19.9 yards, 0.1 TD, 0.1 FL

Concerns about Timesharing

Being a first-round fixture in current fantasy drafts, people have been sharing their concerns about how much of the workload in the Colts backfield that Taylor will be sharing. After all, if you're going to spend that kind of draft capital on a position as shallow as running back, you want him to be "the man" for his team.

In fairness, the Colts do have a deep group of running backs also featuring Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, and Jordan Wilkins. However, it's the same cast of characters in 2021 as it was in 2020 with the exception of a "healthy" Mack, but he's coming off of an Achilles injury.

Taylor dominated the backfield snaps and touches as a rookie, outpacing the next-closest backs by 168 snaps and 116 touches. Including the postseason, Taylor had six games with at least 20 touches.

While other Colts tailbacks will have their roles, the Colts view Taylor as their top dog in the backfield, so it's probably a good idea for us in the fantasy community to as well. This offseason, Colts head coach Frank Reich even said as much when he said that Taylor earned the right to be the team's starting running back.

Strength of Schedule

The only other chief concern fantasy players have had in regard to Taylor is that he put in the majority of his numbers against a weak strength of schedule in 2020.

Between Week 11 and the Colts' final game in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, Taylor had the second-most rushing yards in the NFL behind only Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans. With the exception of the Green Bay Packers (13th), the five teams that Taylor rushed for at least 90 yards against in 2020 all finished in the bottom 10 in the league in run defense.

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However, he had games of 150 yards with two touchdowns against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 14 and a franchise-record 253 yards and two scores against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17. There's taking an advantage of a weak schedule, and then there's dominating.

Did Taylor get some cheap yards against bad defenses? Sure, but his strength of schedule in 2021 is currently pegged as the fourth-easiest among NFL running backs, so the forecast looks just as bright in Year Two.

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Productive Everywhere He's Been

When a player shows you what he can do over an extended period of time, believe it. In college at Wisconsin, you could make an argument that no other player in college football was as accomplished as Taylor.

Following consecutive 2,000-yard seasons in 2018 and 2019, Taylor finished his college career ranking second all-time in Big Ten history in rushing yards (6,174), and sixth all-time in FBS history. He was a Consensus First-Team All-American and the Doak Walker Award winner both years.

Taylor went from achieving an incredible amount as a college player to coming to the NFL and finishing third in the league in rushing as a rookie, compiling 1,468 yards from scrimmage to go with 12 touchdowns. He squashed the narrative that he couldn't catch the ball (no drops until Week 17) or protect it (one fumble).

Things that were clearly an issue for Taylor early in the year, such as his vision and decisiveness, stopped being an issue as the season progressed and you could see clear progress. While he once looked like a rookie running back just following his assignments, he transformed back into the athletic, powerful player with natural running ability that he was at Wisconsin

In total, Taylor finished the season as fantasy's RB6 even though he spent two games on the back burner for performance and then missed a game while on the COVID-19 list two weeks later.

It may scare people off to draft Taylor as high as the top 10 in fantasy drafts, but there aren't many players out there at his position as capable of what he could export.

Are you planning on targeting Taylor in your fantasy drafts? Drop your thoughts below in the comment section!

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