When Marlon Mack went down in week one with an Achilles injury that ended his, most fantasy pundits thought that Jonathan Taylor was about to be a league winner. Eight weeks into the season, the more prevalent question is how far we can trust Jonathan Taylor. Since taking over the starting job in Indianapolis, Taylor has been an RB2 in four of six weeks. But his sudden drop in usage after the Colts bye week coupled with some disappointing performances has fantasy managers concerned. What we need to figure out is have the Colts lost faith in Jonathan Taylor.
Jonathan Taylor’s rushing numbers
On the surface, Jonathan Taylor’s rushing numbers seem to be an issue of opportunity. Since week two, Taylor’s snap count in the Colts offense is under 60%. Moreover, outside of a great week two performance, Jonathan Taylor’s usage has been disappointing. Since week three, Taylor is only averaging 15 touches a game, which is a pretty low number for a lead back.
Jonathan Taylor has 100 rushing attempts on the season, ranking him 16th among all running backs. His 389 rushing yards puts him 20th among running backs, which on the surface, seems like his averages are consistent. However, Taylor’s 3.9 yards per carry ranks 39th among running backs and his 55.6 yards per game is 26th among running backs.
Jonathan Taylor’s advanced stats
For all his opportunities, it feels like Jonathan Taylor’s rushing totals should be higher. A look at the advanced metrics indicates that maybe there is a reason for Taylor’s limited usage. Before contact, Taylor ranks 15th in the NFL with 244 yards. After contact, Jonathan Taylor ranks 26th with 145 yards per contact. Per attempt, Taylor averages 2.4 yards before the first defender hits him, but once contact is initiated, he only averages 1.5 yards.
When you draft a running back in the second round, there is an expectation that he will make defenders miss. Jonathan Taylor has the third-worst broken tackle rate. On the season, he has broken two tackles. Two. Over eight games. You’d think Taylor would’ve broken more tackles by accident. Once every 50 attempts, Jonathan Taylor makes a man miss. Once contact is initiated, Jonathan Taylor has been neutralized.
The real issue with evaluating Jonathan Taylor is that we don’t know how the Indianapolis Colts are going to treat him. The Colts invested a second-round pick on Taylor, so they have every reason to keep leaning on him. And the fact of the matter is that since taking over as the starter, Jonathan Taylor has been an RB1 once, an RB2 four times and an RB3 once. The only bad fantasy week Taylor had is week eight.
However, the distribution of carries in week eight is alarming. In a game where the Colts were able to run at will on the Detroit Lions, the team chose to give Jordan Wilkins the majority of the team snaps and usage. Wilkins was on the field for 39 of the team’s snaps, compared to Taylor’s 26 snaps. Wilkins also out-touched Taylor 21 to 14. While after the game, Reich indicated an ankle injury to Taylor, it feels like a statement that was made so Taylor could save face.
When asking if the Indianapolis Colts have lost faith in Jonathan Taylor, I would say it is too soon to tell. Week nine is going to tell us a lot about how the Colts feelings on Taylor. If Wilkins dominates the snaps and looks, then I think you should definitely be alarmed. If Taylor’s usage goes back to normal, then it is probably safe to treat Taylor’s week eight performance as a blimp on the radar. Regardless, if you have Jonathan Taylor rostered, you probably should grab Jordan Wilkins to hedge your bets.