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Countdown to 2021 fantasy football drafts: Jonathan Taylor No. 14

After shining as a rookie, running back Jonathan Taylor looks to become the fulcrum of a Colts offense that still lacks stability under center.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts OTA Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

While the Indianapolis Colts’ future under center remains as shrouded as ever, the situation appears a lot clearer at running back. Jonathan Taylor, a second-round pick in 2020, quickly established himself as the top playmaker in the Colts’ backfield and one of the most promising backs in the NFL.

To commemorate the 2021 NFL season, we will count down the 75 best fantasy players in the NFL. Picking a Top 75 requires subjective analysis — especially when projecting a whole season of accumulated fantasy points — but therein lies the fun. We will assume an average league, which is 12 teams, .5 PPR scoring, and a roster of 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, & 1RB/WR/TE. Kickers and defenses need not apply.

Change is the nature of the NFL beast, so trades and injuries will likely impact this list as it unfolds. But, of course, this isn’t rocket science. We’re here to have a little fun and build up some much-needed anticipation for a league cast in the shadow by baseball, soccer, hockey, etc. Sarcasm aside, the NFL is addictive and we’re here to give your daily fix as we close in on the season.

Check out the official fantasy football drafting tiers here.

No. 14, Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts, RB

Taylor, the latest powerhouse runner to emerge from the Wisconsin Badgers, took firm control of the starting job last season when veteran Marlon Mack suffered a season-ending Achilles tear on his fourth carry of the season. Taylor didn’t immediately find his footing, and his efficiency dipped around the midway point of the schedule, but by the end of 2020 few backs performed better. He finished the year with 232 carries for 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns, adding another 299 yards and a score off 36 receptions.

Competition for touches

The Colts re-signed Mack this offseason, and the veteran will have a consistent role in the offense. However, Taylor remains the fulcrum of the running game and should see more touches on a per-game basis in 2021 than he did last year.

Offensive expectations

Because of Carson Wentz’s foot injury and the lack of clarity at quarterback it caused, not even head coach and offensive play-caller Frank Reich really knows what the offense as a whole can do in 2021. Still, Reich has mostly leaned toward the pass during his three seasons at the helm, and that seems like the most likely outcome this year as well.

Player’s upside

With Taylor entering the season as the established primary back, he should see even more carries than he did a year ago. But, if Taylor has progressed meaningfully as a pass catcher, his total touches could skyrocket. The Colts create plenty of opportunities for their running backs in the passing game, and Taylor managed 39 catches as a rookie despite barely demonstrating those skills at Wisconsin. Further development as a receiver could push Taylor into the upper echelon of fantasy players.

Player’s downside

The Colts’ offensive line, one of the strongest in the league the past few years, suddenly has multiple holes. Longtime starting left tackle Anthony Costanzo retired this offseason and All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson will miss time with a foot injury similar to Wentz’s. If the replacements don’t hold up well, Taylor’s production could suffer considerably in the early weeks of the schedule.

Projection

1,300 rushing yards, 45 receptions, 350 receiving yards, 12 total touchdowns