Tyrod Taylor Is My QB7

July 24, 2018

 

 

The Premise

Tyrod Taylor has only been listed as a starter since 2015 though he’s in his 8th season this year in Cleveland. While he’s never played a full 16-game season, he has finished as a QB8 in season-long scoring. Taylor had a down year in 2017, scoring just under 14.9 PPG in standard formats. For reference, Taylor’s worst season as a starter was QB16 in season-long and QB19 in PPG.

 

QB19? That is not fantasy worthy. But let me explain.

 

 

The simple fact of the matter is that Tyrod has ALWAYS been underestimated. Since starting, not only has he managed to beat his ADP, but he’s turned out to exceed expectations as a streamer and perform as a viable season-long QB1. 2017 was his down year, and even though he didn’t necessarily hurt fantasy owners, he didn’t quite live up to his higher-ceiling potential.

 

But that was the outlier. Taylor has twice finished as the QB8 in PPG and once in a season-long finish. If he plays 16 games, it’s not unreasonable to expect a return to the QB8 realm. So why do I think he’ll be even better in Cleveland? Let’s dig in to his new situation.

 

The Upside

2015 was the last season Taylor’s top-targeted player was even a wide receiver. Not to bash on LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay (uber talents who deserve all the praise they get), but it’s rare form for QBs to have so few receiving options. Often we blame the quarterbacks, but in Buffalo’s case, I don’t think anybody would wrong the fantasy community for thinking Buffalo perhaps hasn’t provided their QB enough options to work with. 2017, easily Taylor’s worst year as a starter, featured rookie Zay Jones as the leading WR. Jones was almost historically inefficient and does not bode well for the long run. Kelvin Benjamin has disappointed both in consistency and season-long production since his rookie season with CAR, so I think we need to look a little bit sideways when considering Taylor.

 

Let’s move to Cleveland. If we’re using nothing but fantasy consensus to evaluate WRs, Cleveland’s WR1 and WR2 are projected to score a combined 245.2 PPR points (according to FantasyPros) as opposed to BUF’s combined 166.1. Yikes. Either of Cleveland’s top receivers could theoretically outscore both of BUF’s. And while Njoku is a likely downgrade to Clay and Chubb/Hyde is a likely downgrade to LeSean, Duke Johnson’s presence is one more happy reason to believe in the passing prowess of Cleveland over Buffalo in 2018.

 

Seriously. Tyrod Taylor has never had this level of pass catching players in his career.

 

The Downside

Baker Mayfield.

 

I don’t think I need to say more than this, but I will. It hasn’t been since Andrew Luck’s 2012 rookie season that a 1st overall QB has even been fantasy relevant (QB12 or above). Winston was close as the QB13 his rookie year, but it’s hard to expect a QB1 season-long finish from a rookie, no matter how early they were drafted. More troubling yet is that CLE is probably history’s worst team, matching only Detroit to go a season without winning a single game. And when was that season?

 

Last. Year.

 

The 2017 Cleveland Browns were 0-16. Sure, I get it, and in some regards, I’m shoveling coal on the hype train myself. Still, we have to temper our expectations. Although Cleveland has made some baller moves in the offseason, a team has little chance of a paradigm shift with just one year of separation. People who are calling for Cleveland to be AFC wildcard hopefuls are probably betting against rough Vegas odds, but not really giving serious thoughts to this team suddenly turning it around.

 

Cleveland is going to struggle. Even taking Taylor out for one game to give Mayfield a chance is not something fantasy owners can easily deal with. As my QB7, I’m expecting Taylor to offer up over 18 PPG in all formats. That’s not easy to replace if Cleveland suddenly decides to move in a different direction, which is highly likely. It hasn’t been since Carson Palmer in 2003 that a 1st overall QB selection didn’t play their rookie season. While Cleveland might currently consider sitting Mayfield for Taylor for his rookie career, history is against them.

 

The simple fact is that any time cut into Taylor’s season will hurt fantasy owners, especially if that change occurs later in the season toward the playoff games. Even if Taylor puts up decent fantasy numbers, the change occurs when Cleveland loses quite a few games. Guess what? They’ll probably lose.

 

The Outlook

I have Tyrod Taylor as my QB7 because I rank players largely on a PPG basis, or, in the case of suspended players like Edelman and Ingram, in terms of PPG plus realistic player replacement values. The problem with Taylor is that if he misses any games, it’s impossible to calculate where they’ll be, giving him an inherently large—and possibly corruptible—risk.

 

Will Tyrod Taylor play 16 games? Probably not. Is my outlook of QB7 outlandish for him this year? Also no. Just to throw myself in a foxhole once the grenades start flying, I’ll defer to ESPN’s Mike Clay’s projections as of May 16th, 2018, in which he projected Taylor for 18.3 PPG, equivalent to 2017’s QB5. So, yeah. It’s not unreal.

 

But why QB7 instead of his QB8 historical finishes? Opportunity. You’ll often read in fantasy articles that opportunity is king, and that’s no different here. In 2017 DeShone Kizer handled the ball 553 times, compared to Taylor’s 504 in the same number of games. Although things might change slightly given the additions of Hyde and Chubb, we shouldn’t expect Cleveland to focus more on the RBs than Buffalo did with LeSean McCoy. Simply put, Cleveland will give Tyrod the chance to do something with the ball far more frequently than BUF ever did. Buffalo’s ugly performance over the years hasn’t stopped Tyrod Taylor from being fantasy relevant, and even an ugly (if improved) Cleveland isn’t going to change that.

 

Although I might be generous, I have Tyrod Taylor on a 16-game pace for 617 total touches, coming second only to Cam Newton in both rushing yards and rushing TDs for QBs. Yes, he’s a longshot to finish all sixteen games, but if you’re a fan of drafting two QBs (I’m not), Taylor should be your target in 100% of leagues. He’s an exciting pair with late round sleepers like Mahomes and Trubisky and could pay greater dividends than any late-round QB.

 

Personal Projections

Passing: 318.4/508.9 for 3603.3/20.3/6.4

Rushing: 108.0 for 596.2/5.5

Misc: 6.5 fumbles

PPG: 18.27

 

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