The word “tandem” isn’t typically an endorsement for a player sharing a workload, in terms of analyzing NFL fantasy value.
So why is Indianapolis Colts rookie running back Jonathan Taylor a sexy fantasy selection, despite the fact he will be sharing carries with returning starter Marlon Mack in a tandem arrangement?
Because Taylor, before the second-round selection can take his first pro snap, is already regarded as a better running back, at least from a fantasy perspective.
In the recent 2020 Fantasy Football World Championships, Taylor was snagged quite high in the second round with the 23rd overall pick. That selection raised some fantasy eyebrows, to say the least.
Part of that is because Mack, a fourth-year pro who had a career-best 1,091 rushing yards in 2019, has missed eight games in three years due to injuries. Yes, he’s scored 22 TDs as a pro, which makes him an attractive mid-round option at the position, but fantasy analysts see Taylor as an upgrade who will eventually win the starting job.
Colts head coach Frank Reich has reiterated the team’s plan to alternate both and admitted there’s an inherent bias toward Mack as a returning starter. But here’s another reason why Taylor is the more popular pick.
Fantasy seasons, just like in the NFL, have increasingly important games later in the year. Fantasy playoffs are typically in December, when NFL teams are fighting for playoff spots.
The tandem arrangement to start is one thing, but the player who performs better should be getting more carries late in the season. If Taylor, who amassed 6,174 rushing yards with 55 TDs in three years at Wisconsin, is as solid as projected, it stands to reason the Colts will turn to him later in the year.
As with all fantasy evaluations, the situation is fluid. Mack could get hurt earlier in the season and Taylor could become the No. 1 back sooner than expected. Then again, it’s also a reasonable possibility that Taylor will be eased into the fold behind Mack, which might limit touches and fantasy production in September and October.
What’s certain at this early juncture is the fantasy favoritism shown Taylor. Sports Illustrated fantasy football analyst Shawn Childs predicts the rookie will rush for 1,000 yards in 2020.
Despite being a one-dimensional offense due to a passing game that failed to consistently throw the ball down the field in 2019, the Colts were seventh in rushing offense behind a stout offensive line that didn’t have a missed start.
Adding Taylor behind that line, and allowing him to utilize his power, speed, and vision to read blocks and make the decisive cuts to space, has Colts fans excited about the possibilities. And they aren’t the only ones. Fantasy analysts predict impressive production.
(Phillip B. Wilson has covered the Indianapolis Colts for more than two decades and authored the 2013 book 100 Things Colts Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. He’s on Twitter @pwilson24, on Facebook at @allcoltswithphilb and @100thingscoltsfans, and his email is email@example.com.)