Matt Nein / @mnein9
We are 4 weeks into the NFL regular season and I am already seeing talk of how Jonathan Taylor is the next Trent Richardson and an NFL bust. I might as well start telling people the sky is green and the grass is blue. 2020 has been crazy for a lot of reasons but already bailing on an elite talent like JT after 4 games might be the craziest of them all (not really).
4 weeks into the season and JT currently sits at RB15 (pending MNF results).
(Photo Credit: Sleeper)
JT is the clear lead back for the Colts and it is not even close. He leads the team in rush attempts (65), rush yards (250), rush TD (2), red-zone carries (16), and carries inside the 5 (5). As far as receiving goes he is second on the team in targets (10) and second in receiving yards (90), (RB receiving stats).
As far as NFL ranks go, JT is tied for 7th in carries, 13th in rush yards, and 3rd in red-zone carries.
We need to take a step back and evaluate the situation as a whole before we start jumping ship. Taylor is an elite back and one of the highest-graded offensive players ever to come into the NFL. Taylor is getting the work and we need to be patient.
The Colts had a plan coming into the season. They wanted Marlon Mack to be the primary starter and let JT come in from time to time and to relieve Mack. Unfortunately for Mack, he suffered a serious injury week 1 which left the Colts with no choice except to throw JT in the RB1 role.
I know there has been some concern as to JT's vision and him not being able to read the gaps correctly so I want to touch on that some.
1) Stay patient. This is a 21-year-old rookie playing against some of the best athletes in the world. Gaining yards in the NFL is difficult for any player let alone a rookie.
2) The Colts knew there would be growing pains and this is why Mack was the starter. Yes, JT balled all camp, made ridiculous plays, and showed the Colts why he was worthy of a second-round pick but the Colts knew he needed some time to grow before he was ready to be able to take on a full workload. The Colts wanted to let JT learn behind Mack and slowly work him in more and more each week until he was ready to take over. As I eluded to before, Mack's untimely injury forced the Colts to throw JT into the fire right away.
I have watched several analysts break down JT's first 4 games and talk about some of the gaps he is missing. Yes, he has missed some gaps but even some of the best RBs in the NFL miss gaps from time to time. The mistakes he is making are typical rookie mistakes and they are easily correctable. He is overly excited and is not fully going through his progressions.
The way I see it, Mack's injury is a blessing in disguise for JT. He needs more reps to be able to see gaps develop in the line. These are reps he would not have gotten standing on the sideline watching. Practice makes perfect. I fully believe that he will start to hit those big gains we were accustomed to seeing while he was at Wisconsin.
Another thing that is not really helping JT is the coaching staff. If you have watched any of the Colts games this year you should have noticed the staff constantly putting him on the field and pulling him off, back on and back off, on and off, again and again and again. How in the world is a player, who needs reps, suppose to get a rhythm going when he is playing so sporadically? Are the Colts really that in love with Wilkins and Hines so much that they can't leave JT out there for a complete series so he can find some sort of rhythm?
The Colts offensive line over the last 2 years has been one of the best, if not the best, in the league. In 2018 and 2019, they were ranked the 2nd best run-blocking unit in the NFL. Through 4 weeks in 2020, they have dropped down to 13th in the league. This also has something to do with the lackluster rushing attack the Colts have had over the first 4 weeks. On top of that, through the first 4 weeks, the Colts have faced 3 top 13 run defenses from a year ago (Jets 2nd, Bears 9th, and Vikings 13th). I am excluding week 1 against the Jaguars since JT only played a partial game.
According to PFF, the Colts have the 10th most difficult run schedule for the remainder of the season. This may seem grim but the schedule moving forward is actually much easier than weeks 1-4. The o-line is elite and JT is elite. I am not worried.
What we are seeing right now is JT's floor. People are complaining over the RB15 because he missed some gaps and didn't break a long run. Once he slows it down, can you imagine the numbers he will produce? He doesn't even have a 50% snap share and he is still RB15! There is still a ton of room to grow.
There is a flaw that will forever exist in the fantasy world and that is over-hyping a rookie so much to the point that 26 carries for 101 yards and a TD is a disappointment (JT's week 2). We need to temper expectations for rookies. Sometimes we forget that these players are only 20, 21, and 22-year-olds. We can have high expectations for a player long-term but to assume they hit those expectations right out of the gate is foolish.
It has only been 4 weeks. Be patient. His time is coming and it is soon. The top-end RB1 we all hoped he would be is right around the corner.
If you own JT, under no circumstances do you sell.
If someone in your league is panicking though, this would be the perfect time to buy.