Jonathan Taylor's Ceiling Is Higher Than Christian McCaffrey's
Welp. Ya boi got ratio'd this week.
Over 200 likes, 100 replies and counting. Some rational, mostly disparaging. I'm gonna address a few of the nasty replies before I answer why I believe Jonathan Taylor has a higher ceiling than Christian McCaffrey.
Out of the 100+ replies, it feels like 90% said I was "wrong", "bait", or "tweeting for clicks."
I've never chased traffic or clicks. My tweets usually get one or two replies, maybe a few likes, never anything like this, ofc I didn't expect it. If I tweeted something I thought people would react to, don't you think I would've proofread it for spelling errors? I was simply reacting to a tweet I saw that said if you have the first pick and prefer safe, pick JT. If you prefer upside, pick CMC. And I disagreed. I was hoping to have a conversation with one or two of my followers about it, to explain my thinking, not to be called a baiter.
"Are you whispering because you're embarrassed somebody might hear you?" I didn't say *whispers* because I didn't believe it. I whispered it because it's something Mina Kimes does when she has a thought that goes against consensus, and Kimes is someone I very much look up to for her bravery to have an opposing opinion.
I don't work for FantasyPros.com, I submit my expert rankings into the database. I don't even know if my rankings are a part of the expert consensus rankings, at least not yet.
"Shouldn't have tweeted this." How dare I have an opposing opinion? I never said it was a fact. Ceiling is molded and based on your projections. It's based on my belief in JT.
"'His higher' let's you know everything you need to know about this tweet." I was using the swiping text feature while waiting for my car to charge. If you're gonna rip on someone for a spelling error, maybe get your punctuations in order.
The most insulting one was "dam ur a football coach too?" Yes I am, and I'm a thoughtful, compassionate one too. I give a damn about the school I work at. Coaching high school football has nothing to do with fantasy football. But I think I'm pretty freakin good at both.
At least I'm willing to have a differing opinion and stray away from groupthink, not just because it's different, but because it's what I believe.
Why the hell is it so crazy that the consensus 1st overall pick has the highest upside?! Isn't that why they're being drafted as 1.01?
Perhaps the most rational question came from Luke Sawhook, who I absolutely respect in the fantasy community. He said, "We just gonna ignore the fact that if you took away literally every TD from CMC's 29 PPG season he outscored JT last season? His ceiling is WAY higher than JT."
This is a very valid point. I'm going to dive into that 29 PPG season, and why I think it's unrepeatable. But first, a little about the Colts RB.
In the past decade, there's three RB prospects I said has a hall of fame ceiling during the NFL Draft: Todd Gurley, Saquon Barkley, and Jonathan Taylor.
Taylor was one of the greatest runners in college history. He's one of the greatest young runners in NFL history. At age 22, in his second season, Taylor had 1,811 rushing yards, 22nd best all-time rushing season. McCaffrey reached the top 250 greatest rushing seasons just once, at age 23.
"But what about the targets?!" Ah yes, Christian McCaffrey had 142 targets in 2019. Ron Rivera was also coaching with his job on the line. What usually happens when a head coach is on the hot seat? They use their workhorses more than ever. What happens when the HC is fired in the middle of the season and an interim coach takes over? They use their workhorse harder.
Cam Newton only played two games that season. Journeyman QB Kyle Allen started 12 games, Will Grier started two games. No disrespect, but Allen and Grier were two of the worst QBs to play in this past decade.
Allen's 2019 ranks:
Accuracy rating: 30th
Adjusted yards per attempt: 31st
Pressured completion percentage: 33rd
True passer rating: 33rd
Deep ball completion percentage: 35th
Grier didn't play enough games to qualify in percentage ranks, but he was 70th among QBs EPA in 2019.
Only two RBs have ever had over 130 targets in a season: McCaffrey and LaDainian Tomlinson. And L.T. only reached 100 targets once before that season, and never again after that.
Simply put, 2019 was a perfect storm for CMC. He had horrible QB play. The offense was "can't throw it accurately outside the numbers, dump it off to McCaffrey as much as possible."
Compare that to the 2022 Panthers. Baker Mayfield is not going to be last in accuracy and completion percentages. D.J. Moore is a budding star and with Mayfield throwing to him, I promise, Moore is going to create more chunk plays than in years past.
More chunk plays = less chances for dump off passes to CMC.
Laviska Shenault had 100 targets in his second season. He might be a disappointment, but he's still developing and perhaps a change of scenery will do him some good. Robbie Anderson (not Robby) rounds out a better trio than what they ran with in 2019.
Reggie Bonnafon had 16 carries for the Panthers in 2019. New Panthers backup RB D'Onta Foreman had 133 carries with the Titans last season, including 23 red zone touches. And Chuba Hubbard was inefficient last season, but he was just a rookie and should improve some. There is legitimately a chance CMC's red zone touches are reduced.
Christian McCaffrey had the second greatest fantasy season ever in 2019. Panthers have better weapons, better competition, better QB play than they did in 2019. How can anyone expect him to repeat it?
Meanwhile, Jonathan Taylor's outlook looks even better than last season.
Here's the past four evaded tackle leaders:
Jonathan Taylor - 165 evaded tackles in 2021
Derrick Henry - 112 in 2020
Joe Mixon - 103 in 2019
Saquon Barkley - 114 in 2018
JT is the alpha male of our species. If the planet was on the line in a football game against 11 aliens, put JT at running back.
Yes, we mostly all play in points per reception leagues, not points per evaded tackle leagues. However, the most steady metric for top performing fantasy RBs is evaded tackles. If you're breaking tackles, you're an elite talent, and you're creating extra yards for yourself, regardless of situation.
Taylor is breaking multiple tackles and taking it 80 yards with his 22 MPH speed at 230 lbs at any moment in the game. He doesn't need 100+ targets to fill up a stat sheet. CMC's game is relied on being the guy. After two season-ending injuries, in a rebuild year, I'm not sure the Panthers want him touching the ball 400+ times again.
JT has the most secure red zone role in football. His 85 red zone carries was nearly double the second place's red zone carries in 2021.
Here are the past ten red zone carry leaders:
Jonathan Taylor - 85 in 2021
Josh Jacobs - 64 in 2020
Ezekiel Elliott - 59 in 2019
Todd Gurley - 63 in 2018
Le'Veon Bell - 58 in 2017
LeGarrette Blount - 68 in 2016
Devonta Freeman - 47 in 2015
LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray - 56 in 2014
Marshawn Lynch - 56 in 2013
Arian Foster - 74 in 2012
Ten seasons ago was the last time someone even came close to JT's red zone usage. No one had more carries inside the 5 yard line during that time.
This season? The offense is improved and Taylor should score more, and could be fed more touches. Carson Wentz and his 57 carries are gone. Surprise surprise, Matt Ryan has never carried the ball 57 times in a season. He does feed running backs, though.
Ryan targeted running backs at the highest rate among all QBs last season. Some are going to say Cordarrelle Patterson is a wide receiver. First of all, wrong. Patterson was a RB most of the time. He was in the backfield for 280 snaps, wide receiver for 95 snaps, slot receiver for 63 snaps, inline tight end for 15 snaps and wildcat for one play.
Second of all, backup journeyman RB Mike Davis was 11th in RB targets, 9th in RB routes run. Both Patterson and Davis were targeted more than Taylor and Nyheim Hines last season.
It's not like Taylor is a two-down back. He was 10th in RB routes run (just behind Davis), and 9th among RBs in yards per catch, but just 18th among RBs in target share. This tells me JT can keep his role, and his targets will increase with Ryan.
However, if we're to follow the trends to predict the future, Taylor is trending to replace Hines as the primary receiving back in Indianapolis.
Hines' 2020 - 76 targets
Taylor's 2020 - 39 targets
Hines' 2021 - 57 targets
Taylor's 2021 - 51 targets
It's so interesting what fantasy analysts consider coach-speak, and what they consider as the gospel. We now hear that Hines could be used more as a receiving back, and that Taylor could have his touches scaled back. I'm not buying it. Taylor is 23 years old, hasn't even touched his prime. The Colts added 37 year old Matt Ryan because they want to win a crap ton of games and hopefully a Super Bowl, not to preserve their first-team all-pro.
There is not a lot of target competition. Parris Campbell has mostly been a bust. Partially due to injuries, but he averages two catches a game in his career. And if you've read my rookie WR article, you'd know I'm not a big believer in Alec Pierce. With no established #2 in Indy, it's very possible that Taylor and Hines both receive 70+ targets and 50+ catches. That projection might even be low.
McCaffrey's second-best fantasy season was 15th among RBs all-time. Terrell Davis tied that season in PPR points with just 25 catches. Tomlinson had the greatest PPR RB season ever, with just 56 catches. Taylor has already reached 1,800 rush yards in his second season, he can reach 56 catches, and yes, with a QB who will funnel targets, give up less turnovers and prolong drives, I truly believe Taylor can break the all-time RB record with 31 TDs. And it's proven that a RB doesn't need 100+ targets to have an all-time fantasy season.
The average age of elite RB seasons (at least 250 PPR points since 2010) is 24 years old. At 26 years old, with more tread than ever, and more touch competition than ever, I truly don't believe Christian McCaffrey (or the Panthers) can recreate his dream 2019 scenario.
Nobody knows for sure what a player's 2022 ceiling is. It's not a fact, because it hasn't happened yet. I'm just going to trust my eyes, and my instincts, when saying that with an improved outlook for the younger, more talented running back in a better offense, the player with the highest ceiling in 2022 is Jonathan Taylor. And this shouldn't even be a bold claim. Stop adhering strictly to numbers from the past, think forward for yourself, then form an opinion. If you still think it's CMC, cool. At least you went with your gut... right?