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NFL Rumors: Jonathan Taylor to Return & Maintain Trade Request (2023 Fantasy Football)

NFL Rumors: Jonathan Taylor to Return & Maintain Trade Request (2023 Fantasy Football)

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Check out the latest news and notes around the NFL.

Jonathan Taylor expected back at camp, request stands

According to Stephen Holder of ESPN, disgruntled RB Jonathan Taylor is expected to return to practice this week, though his position on his trade request stands and he will not participate until he’s 100% healthy.

Fantasy Impact

Taylor was given an excused absence from the team and has been away for less than a week rehabilitating his ankle. Head coach Shane Steichen said they expect Taylor to join them this upcoming week, though which day isn’t clear. Taylor is currently on the team’s PUP list and is trying to avoid reinjuring his ankle which hindered him in 2022. Taylor ran for 861 yards in 11 games last season, averaging a career-low number of 4.5 yards per carry. If Taylor is not activated from PUP before the season, he will miss at least four games, and fantasy drafters should be cautious as Taylor is still firm on his trade request.

Jordan Epp

Fantasy Football Draft Outlook

2023 was a year to forget for the consensus 1.01 in last year’s fantasy football drafts. Jonathan Taylor underperformed as the RB30 in 11 games played, averaging 12.6 fantasy points as the RB18 when healthy. JT’s usage was that of a top-8 running back – 8th in expected points per game, 4th in touches per game (20) – but a lack of touchdowns decimated his fantasy stock in the Colts’ anemic offense. After scoring a combined 33 TDs through his 1st two seasons, Taylor scored just four rushing TDs in 2022.

From an efficiency standpoint, I’d expect a bounce-back effort from Taylor in 2023. He will be healthier in 2023, and rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson‘s mobility under center should increase JT’s rushing efficiency. When Taylor first returned from injury (Weeks 10-13 in the 2022 season), he ranked as the RB3 overall. And he should experience some positive TD regression entering the final year of his rookie deal. However, it should be noted that with Richardson under center, Taylor won’t cannibalize all the goal-line carries.

However, a mobile quarterback didn’t stop Shane Steichen’s running back, Miles Sanders, from scoring 13 TDs in 2022. Considering the wide talent gap and proven production from Taylor compared to Sanders, I’d bet Steichen’s new RB1 will reach double-digit scores even if his rookie QB runs in a few himself.

But that’s under the presumption that the JT remains a Colt in 2023. The All-Pro running back has demanded a trade from Indianapolis after the team failed to give him a new contract with him hitting free agency at the end of the year. He’s currently on the PUP list – recovering from January ankle surgery – but the team has talked about putting him on the NFI list. This stems from a report that he suffered a back injury away from the facility, but Taylor has denied he has ever suffered a back injury. Again, it’s clear that Taylor is disgruntled and that these two parties are going to part sooner rather than later. Jim Irsay has claimed they won’t trade him now and they won’t trade him in October. The Panthers GM said the same thing last offseason about Christian McCaffrey, who got traded after the team started 1-5. So, I think there’s a pretty good chance Taylor gets dealt away at some point, whether that be in the offseason or before the trade deadline. And most likely, it would be to a contender in a favorable situation.

As for JT as a Colt, it’s ambiguous if he’s going to hold out; he’s yet to play during training camp but is present in a potential effort to avoid hold-out fines. Even so, the new CBA is designed to keep players from holding out, because they do not accrue a season by sitting out. Therefore, Taylor would be just hurting himself more by not playing, because he would not be able to hit FA with accruing the final year of his rookie contract.

And has an impending free agent, Indy as all the incentive in the world to “churn and burn” their star RB, which will likely benefit Taylor’s short-term production. The downside to this is that should JT get hurt or banged up, he’d likely do whatever possible to not actually suit up. However, Taylor did say back in April that he made a four-year obligation to the Colts when he signed his rookie contract and he would essentially play it out, with massive undertones suggesting that he didn’t expect to get extended before the 2023 season. Head coach Shane Steichen and Irsay have been vocal about Taylor’s presence in the development of Anthony Richardson, further suggesting that he is in their short-term plans for the season. Throwing your rookie QB to the wolves without the team’s best offensive player is not a recipe for success in any manner.

Currently behind Taylor on the Colts depth chart includes former Buffalo Bills RB Zack Moss, 2023 rookie Evan Hull and third-year RB Deon Jackson. Moss will miss the next six weeks after suffering a broken arm.

All in all, this is another “buy the dip” situation if/and Taylor’s ADP nosedives into Round 3. If he plays for the Colts, he will undoubtedly be a bell cow. And if he gets traded, he will be on a contender in a better offensive situation.

-Andrew Erickson

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