1.01: Taylor or Harris?

So you have the first pick in the first round of a PPR or half PPR draft (redraft league). I’ll even toss in superflex to make it interesting. Do you take RB Jonathan Taylor of the Colts or Najee Harris of the Steelers? Or someone else?

I am taking Harris. He has Taylor’s upside, and with the Steelers starting a new QB, they might run him even more to take pressure off the passing game. and Harris is young and built like Derrick Henry, so he can withstand a lot for now.

With Taylor, I am concerned about 2 things: They ran him a ton last season, which increases injury risk. But even ignoring that, they also acquired Matt Ryan, who is a far more capable QB than Carson Wentz ever was. The Colts could throw more than they did, and have more success with it. This means fewer touches for Taylor. Good for his health, bad for his overall numbers. I still expect Taylor to have a solid floor, and if I was drafting 2nd and he was there, I’d grab him. But the negatives drop him from 1.01 consideration, in my opinion.

The only remote possibility I might consider here is Josh Allen, since it is superflex. But I prefer waiting on QB in later rounds (possibly 3-7 or later), where I can grab QB’s to play matchups. The only way I grab Allen is if he drops to round 2. I get the inclination to grab a QB in superflex in the first round, but 1.01 is a smidge too early, even for me.

Any thoughts?

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I am running some long-term stats on my main fantasy league (12 team dynasty half-PPR SFLEX).

Over the course of the last 5 years, the gap between #1 and #10 at their respective positions by points per game were:

QB: 30.3 vs. 23.4 (6.9 points per game)
RB: 25.1 vs. 14.9 (10.2 ppg)
WR: 21.3 vs. 14.8 (6.5 ppg)
TE: 15.3 vs. 9.1 (6.2 ppg)

So you are right - in a redraft SFLEX league, there is nothing wrong with preferring the potential RB1 over the potential QB1. In other words: JT or Najee over Josh Allen.

In a dynasty startup, I would still recommend to go QB, as they have a much longer shelf life. But we’re talking redraft here.

And that’s also why I disagree with taking Najee over JT. Not strongly, but still.

Let’s look at the 2021 season. JT and Najee did us both the favor of playing all 17 regular season games, which makes it easier to compare them:

JT:
Rushing: 332 for 1,811 yd (5.5 per) / 18 TD
Passing: 40/51 for 360 yd / 2 TD
Total 364.10 half-PPR points (21.4 per game) = RB1

Najee:
Rushing: 307 for 1,200 yd (3.9 per) / 7 TD
Passing: 74/94 for 467 yd / 3 TD
Total 266.70 half-PPR points (15.7 per game) = RB4

That’s a pretty big gap to close.

Najee benefited from many dropoff passes that boosted his PPR performance. This will not necessarily repeat this year. Remember you are high on Chase Claypool because you expect a lot more deep passes this year. That cannot be good for Najee.

Plus, if Trubisky is to start the season, the goal line opportunities may not increase for Najee. Trubisky isn’t exactly what I would call a rushing QB. But he is certainly a lot more mobile than Big Ben, and does score a rushing TD every now and then.
(Edit: this could be even worse with Kenny Pickett, who didn’t rack up a lot of rushing yards in college, but quite a few rushing TDs.)

I expect Najee’s rushing yardage to improve. But it would have to improve by an outrageous amount for him to bypass JT.

As for the injury concerns - yes, I hear you on JT. 1,800 rushing yards are a lot, but I wouldn’t call it insanely high. Other RBs withstood such volume for 2-3 years in a row. Plus, as you said, he may see a little less action this year. Plus, defenses will also not be able to play “just stop JT” against the 2022 Colts, which should bode well for him.

In dynasty startups, I would indeed consider Najee over JT. In redraft, just give me Taylor. Even if they break even at rushing yards and caught passes, the TDs should make the difference. Matt Ryan does not fall into the end zone more than once a season, so JT’s goal line carries are not in jeopardy.

Taylor 100%. Talk in camp is they are reducing his workload this year.

Michael Irvin was once a beast on a Cowboy team that made Emmitt Smith the all-time rushing leader. Top WR efficiency in a run-first offense isn’t unheard of. Najee will get the rock, period.

There are two effects happening here. One is an increase in Najee’s rushes, and the other is a regression of JT’s. As @elemonator1985 just pointed out, there is talk about decreasing JT’s workload. This is a direct result of the Colts adding Matt Ryan, who is still one of the best QB’s in the game (in spite of playing on some miserable Falcon teams in recent years). Frank Reich recently raved on Ryan’s accuracy, so that tells you what the coach thinks.

Somewhere, between these two events, I see Najee bypassing JT. Najee is a Derrick Henry-esque talent, and should not be underestimated. On top of that, Najee can being the PPR love with his work in the passing game.

Finally, the whole Trubisky versus Pickett discussion doesn’t really change much of this for me, unless Tomlin manages to unlock a Josh Allen in Trubisky. But I rate that an unlikely scenario. More likely is Trubisky looks better than Pickett, but Pickett is probably close enough that first round draft capital rules and Pickett gets the starting nod. Since they have similar styles, I don’t rate that as a game changer, except for maybe Najee gets a few more carries to start the season.

And that’s the part where I’m not so sure anymore. JT’s workload being reduced? Probably. Najee’s rushing yards increasing? I’d bet on it.

But his passing volume was largely a result of Big Ben’s range being limited, as well as his lack of mobility and unwillingness to get hit. The result was a healthy number of dump-off passes to Najee and Muth.

Both Trubisky and Pickett are a lot more mobile and will probably use their legs to extend plays, rather than just dumping the ball off to Najee.

Najee is a competent pass catcher, no doubt about it. But I’m not sure how many short-distance passes the Steelers’ game plan will still include. And I don’t expect Najee to be able to bypass JT without improving his passing production.

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Even though both Trubisky and Pickett can extend plays, there will be plenty of times where the Steelers line simply breaks down, and even they will have to dump off passes. I’m not saying Najee will exceed his pass production from last year, but I’d expect comparable numbers.

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Comparable numbers - absolutely. Najee is too competent as a pass catcher to not get the occasional designed pass play out of the backfield. And that could even mean that his passing game will become more efficient, i.e. more receptions and yards with the same number of targets.

I just don’t think that will be enough to close the gap to JT. I’m not trying to talk Najee down here, he absolutely is one of the top 3 RBs in dynasty. It’s just that, if I had to chose between JT and Najee, I’d prefer JT, albeit not by a huge margin. The gap between the two will grow smaller, but outside of injury scenarios, I don’t see it closing entirely.

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Both of these guys broke the 370 touches threshold last season, so the injury risk is comparable for both. However, Najee is bigger (6’1" 232 lbs. vs. 5’10" 226 lbs.) and has one less season than JT. In addition, a lot of Najee’s touches came in the passing game, with 74 catches (a nice PPR bonus). A guy almost as big as Derrick Henry who can catch the football? Sign me up.

All that said, I don’t fault anyone for taking JT with the first pick in any draft, dynasty or redraft. They are both easily the two guys I pick if I see them anywhere in the first round, in any format.

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