I’ve kicked around the idea of writing this article for a few weeks now. Actually, since Jonathan Taylor beat the brakes off the Jets. So, I guess for about two weeks plus four days. Then, in week eleven, Jonathan Taylor made the brakes-off-beating he took to the Jets look like a nice brake pad change and tire rotation at Pep Boys. So, I guess it’s time to explore this idea: is Jonathan Taylor the first overall pick in 2022 fantasy football leagues?
First, let’s take a look at the absolute drubbing Taylor put on the Buffalo Bills (of all teams). Taylor rushed the ball 32 times for 185 yards and four touchdowns. But, he didn’t stop there. He kicked in a receiving touchdown and 19 yards on three targets and receptions. All told, that’s 204 yards, five touchdowns, and three catches, or 51.9 points in a half-PPR league. Before we talk about Jonathan Taylor, let’s put this game into perspective.
Coming into the game, the Buffalo Bills allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to running backs; Jonathan Taylor literally could not have had a worse matchup. In their last three games, the Buffalo Bills allowed 42.9 points to running backs combined. That comes out to 14.3 points per game in half-PPR, which means all backs against the Bills not only combined to not score as many points as Jonathan Taylor did in this game, but also, as a group, they were worse than the worst running back room in the league (Miami at 14.6 points per game).
So, Buffalo’s defense became a wall the last few weeks, and Jonathan Taylor turned them into the butter to his hot knife. That ticks the first box for the 1.01 pick in fantasy football drafts: matchup proof.
What about Jonathan Taylor’s workload? Earlier in the year, the Colts stymied his ability to score fantasy points by making him split a ton of time with Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines. Well, the Colts have made that less of a problem. From weeks one through five, Taylor averaged just over half the snaps (50.2%). Since that point, not only have his snaps steadily ticked upward, but he hasn’t played fewer than 65% of the snaps while playing 74% of the Colts’ snaps, on average. He’s also notched 84% of the team’s snaps in each of the last two weeks.
This snap share puts him in the same range as Derrick Henry on the year, who played 72% of the Titans’ snaps before succumbing to his foot injury. So, a second check box: ticked.
What about the thing we actually want from a fantasy football player… fantasy football points. Well, before week eleven and his massive game, Jonathan Taylor also ticked that box. He ranked second in fantasy points per game (HPPR) to Derrick Henry’s monstrous half-campaign. But, therein lies the rub for the #1 overall pick.
Jonathan Taylor can be great but is he greater than his peers: Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, and Dalvin Cook. I wager that Taylor has the fewest question marks of all of those players, which puts him at the top of a tier for 2022.
First, Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry, since their issues are somewhat related. CMC is a monster when he plays, averaging 125 yards, 6 catches, and almost a touchdown per game over the last two years. He’s also missed 18-of-27 games so far over the last two seasons. You can argue that “injury-prone” is not a thing, but you can also argue that Christian McCaffrey, who will enter his sixth season next year, might have reached his “glass cannon” phase. Arguably, he still deserves the number one spot but a cautious manager might go ahead and slot in Jonathan Taylor.
As for Derrick Henry, the inevitable happened; he suffered an injury because he suffered tons of abuse on a weekly basis for years. He’s a big guy, and foot injuries tend to linger and be chronic problems for big guys (see every foot injury for every NBA big guy ever).
So, what about the other guys? Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook. Well, let’s do the easy move: Dalvin Cook has a massive legal situation sitting over his head, and even then… Jonathan Taylor has reached heights that Dalvin Cook has not yet reached. Jonathan Taylor is already a better overall running back than Dalvin Cook, which is no slight on Cook. There’s also the messy legal situation with Dalvin Cook. That’s enough for me to put Jonathan Taylor over him for 2022.
Then there’s the Alvin Kamara of it all, who actually topped Jonathan Taylor’s five-touchdown output in recent memory, notching six scores on Christmas Day 2020. The Saints offense simply has too many question marks right now for me to lean into Alvin Kamara over Jonathan Taylor.
Jonathan Taylor has everything you would want in a top-flight running back. He gets touches, production, and snaps. He gets so much of those things that he entered elite company on Sunday. Aper NFL Network, Jonathan Taylor tied LaDainian Tomlinson for the longest single-season streak of games with 100+ scrimmage yards and at least one touchdown with eight. Taylor has fewer question marks than his peers and is ascendant without injury issues. He has a strong case for the first overall pick in 2022 fantasy football drafts, but the next six weeks or so will tell the tale of his 2022 ranks.