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Fantasy Football Roundtable: Jonathan Taylor, Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller & More (2023)

Fantasy Football Roundtable: Jonathan Taylor, Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller & More (2023)

Two weeks of the preseason down, one to go. With the heart of fantasy draft season upon us and the regular season coming up quickly, FantasyPros analysts Derek Brown, Andrew Erickson, Pat Fitzmaurice and Mike Maher continue a series of preseason roundtables by discussing how to handle Jonathan Taylor and Josh Jacobs in drafts, whether to buy into the Giants’ passing game, concerning injuries and more. And check out last week’s fantasy football roundtable for even more expert advice.

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Fantasy Football Draft Advice

Let’s get a temperature check on two early-round RBs. Josh Jacobs is now expected to rejoin the Raiders before Week 1, but … well, he hasn’t rejoined the Raiders yet. Meanwhile, the Colts have given Jonathan Taylor permission to seek a trade. Where do you currently rank Jacobs and Taylor, and where in a 12-team 0.5-PPR draft would you be willing to take them?

Mike Maher: I have Taylor and Jacobs ranked RB8 and RB9 right now. Both could ultimately be discounts based on how I think the next few weeks will go. I expect Jacobs to report to the team about a week before the start of the season. Maybe he’s somewhat limited Week 1. Maybe he’s ready to roll. But I expect him to show up and play and be fine. He doesn’t really have a choice at this point. The Taylor situation is murkier. It feels like he could actually be traded in the next week or so. If that happens, he’ll be miraculously healed. But unless he lands in Carolina with Frank Reich, he’ll be learning a new offense. We’ve seen running backs incorporated fairly quickly in the past, but Taylor will still have to learn a new playbook on the fly, and his snaps could be impacted in the early part of the season. All that being said, I don’t anticipate having too many shares of either RB. I will probably wait until Round 4 in most drafts to see if they fall, and someone else will snag them. I love that both RBs are in contract years, but I worry about either RB shutting things down in December or January with a surprise “injury” if their respective team is out of contention.

Derek Brown: Currently, I have Taylor ranked RB9, with Jacobs on his heels at RB10. I’m not crossing either off my draft board, but neither player is a priority. If they fall past ADP on whichever site I’m drafting on, I will take a swing, but I won’t aggressively pursue either. I still prefer wide receivers being drafted in the same range over either of these backs. But I’m in if I can get a discount on either player.

Andrew Erickson: I have Taylor ranked as my RB7 and Jacobs as my RB13. I am looking for a major discount on JT and will happily take him at the end of Round 2 or the start of Round 3. Either he plays for the Colts or gets traded to a contender that will feature him in a contract year. So, I like the value at the 2/3 turn for a player of Taylor’s upside. As for Jacobs, I am staying away from him unless he falls outside RB1 territory into Round 4. Leading the NFL in touches is the kiss of death the following year. Since 2013, only two running backs have finished as RB1s the year after leading the NFL in touches.

Pat Fitzmaurice: I’ve got Taylor ranked RB7 and Jacobs RB9. A lot of people say Nick Chubb is the NFL’s best pure runner, but Taylor belongs in the conversation. A trade is an intriguing possibility. On the other hand, it would be fun to see Taylor teaming with Anthony Richardson to make linebackers’ lives miserable on RPOs. Regardless of whether Taylor stays or goes, it’s hard to envision a Le’Veon Bell-type holdout when that strategy turned out so poorly for Le’Veon. Taylor is a value at the 2/3 turn, and to get him beyond 25th overall is stealing. I’m pumping the brakes on Jacobs. I worry about the risk of breakdown for a running back who had 393 touches last season, and I worry about the possibility of the Raiders quitting on Josh McDaniels. I’m not sure if those are rational fears, but I’ll let someone else take Jacobs unless he falls to me in the fourth round (which won’t happen).

Fantasy Football Draft Kit

The Giants’ first-team offense looked terrific on its one and only drive last week, marching 75 yards for a touchdown against the Panthers. Daniel Jones and Darren Waller combined for three completions (and one near-completion) on that drive. How are you handling Waller and Jones in fantasy drafts? And are there any Giants WRs you’re targeting in the late rounds?

Andrew Erickson: I was pounding the table for Waller all offseason as my TE3, so the drafting train won’t stop now that my priors are becoming a reality with Waller emerging as Daniel Jones‘ go-to target. I think he remains an elite tight end option in Round 6. If he stays healthy, Waller will be a league-winner. As for other Giants WRs, I still think Darius Slayton is vastly underrated. He’s a full-time player who emerged as the WR1 for the Giants in the latter part of last season, posting solid numbers and establishing himself as a deep threat. He posted a 37% air yards share — a top-12 mark among all WRs.

Derek Brown: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Daniel Jones and Darren Waller are my league-winning stack in 2023. Each player offers elite upside at his respective position. Jones could crack the top five fantasy quarterbacks if the passing volume increases, as I’m forecasting. Waller could rival Travis Kelce for the throne of TE1 overall. I have been drafting both on as many teams as possible all offseason, and I’m not stopping now. Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins are the only wide receivers I’ve been targeting from the Giants. Each player looks to start in two-WR sets. After them, the Giants could use a rotation of players in gadget roles and as slot options.

Pat Fitzmaurice: DBro and Erickson will heap scorn upon me for it, but I’m avoiding Waller and am happy that his price is going up. I’m just not very interested in a player who’s entering his age-31 season having missed 14 games over the last two years. Jones is my QB10, and I think he’s a fine option for anyone who misses out on the upper-tier quarterbacks. Jones offers Konami Code rushing upside, and he’ll be playing with an upgraded group of pass catchers. One of the new pass catchers is Parris Campbell, who’s usually effective when healthy. I don’t mind throwing a late-round dart at either Isaiah Hodgins, Campbell or Darius Slaton — in that order.

Mike Maher: I have no idea what to do with the Giants WRs. Let’s just get that out of the way. Of the roughly dozen slot WRs they acquired over the last 24 months, who knows how that rotation works out. Jalin Hyatt has flashed, but I worry about how much of that is just using his elite speed against bad players and vanilla defenses. Even so, he’s my late-round dart throw. I’m not the biggest Daniel Jones guy, and I don’t think Waller has a prayer of staying healthy this season if he is featured in this offense as much as has been teased this preseason. But Jones should be valuable for fantasy, regardless of how I feel about his real-life abilities. He’ll be commanding an improved offense with way more weapons than he had last year, and his rushing ability gives him a high floor. I’m fine stacking these two, especially given their current cost, but I definitely want to diversify my fantasy portfolio and limit my Waller exposure because of the injury history.

As the regular season draws closer, which injury situation most concerns you?

Derek Brown: I remain tentative about Javonte Williams. Every camp report has been sparkling, and while I want to believe it, there’s still a sense of hesitation in my bones. I have begun to mix him into my best-ball exposures. I won’t go overboard, though. Samaje Perine remains a fine draft pick even if Williams is 100% the entire season. We have a long history of Sean Payton running a substantial amount of his offense through his backfield, especially in the realm of touchdown production.

Pat Fitzmaurice: Javonte Williams seems well ahead of schedule in his recovery from a torn ACL, LCL and posterolateral corner (PLC), but I’m treading lightly around Williams in fantasy drafts. Sure, it’s plausible that youth and athleticism have helped speed Williams’ recovery. Still, we should probably remember how long it’s taken J.K. Dobbins to recover from multiple torn ligaments in his knee. I’ve been fading Williams and drafting a lot of his backfield partner, Samaje Perine.

Mike Maher: I was already worried about De’Von Achane because of the crowded Miami backfield. Now, he’s week-to-week with a shoulder injury at a time when he really needs reps. The hope was that Achane would come into the league, flash his elite speed and potential, and make it hard to keep him off the field, even with two veterans ahead of him on the depth chart. But he needs to stay on the field for that to happen. And if the Dolphins actually pull off a Jonathan Taylor trade, things could get interesting quickly in South Florida. I’m still bullish on the Achane talent but am concerned about the opportunities.

Andrew Erickson: Cooper Kupp is a middle-first-round pick but is entering his age-30 season after suffering a hamstring injury in the offseason … coming off a season-ending injury. You don’t have to squint too hard to see where this could go wrong for fantasy drafters.

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Which rookie has most excited you with his performance in the preseason so far?

Pat Fitzmaurice: It’s Zay Flowers. Lamar Jackson reportedly calls Flowers “Joystick,” and it’s easy to see why. The rookie from Boston College has extraordinary movement skills and is absolutely lethal in the open field. Flowers has drawn rave reviews throughout training camp, and it’s possible he’ll be the Ravens’ best receiver right away. I’m trying to scoop him up in as many drafts as possible.

Mike Maher: I have to agree with Pat that it’s Zay Flowers. He immediately looks like he belongs, and he happens to play in an offense that is starving for a WR1 to emerge. The Ravens are going to pass the ball more this season, and Lamar Jackson could create some huge openings for Flowers, especially when he scrambles and looks to push the ball down the field. Flowers is still cheap in drafts, so I’m grabbing his upside wherever I can.

Andrew Erickson: The top guys like Bijan Robinson, Zay Flowers, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Kendre Miller are the first names that come to mind. But for the sake of diving deeper, I am going with Cowboys RB Deuce Vaughn. I wrote off Vaughn earlier because of his historically small height. (At 5-5, he’s the shortest player to measure at the NFL combine.) But Vaughn has shown during the preseason that it doesn’t matter. I’ve been getting MAJOR Tarik Cohen vibes from Vaughn this preseason. Keep in mind that Vaughn totaled over 4,800 yards from scrimmage and 43 TDs en route to an RB class-leading college dominator rating. With Dallas searching for a complement to Tony Pollard, Vaughn looks like he could be the guy.

Derek Brown: I remain bullish on Tank Bigsby‘s ability to eat into Travis Etienne‘s workload in 2023. Bigsby has looked fantastic at every opportunity. Among 69 running backs with at least 10 preseason rushing attempts, Bigsby ranks 12th in breakaway run rate (per PFF). I’ll continue hammering him in the later rounds of drafts as a weekly flex play with massive upside if Etienne were to miss time with injury.

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