Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football Reaction: Carson Wentz missing time due to injury could help Jonathan Taylor

Jan 3, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) runs the ball while Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Chris Claybrooks (27) defends in the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz is expected to undergo surgery on his left foot and will miss the next five to 12 weeks, according to head coach Frank Reich. The time frame allows for the possibility that Wentz will return by opening week, but he could also be out through the first seven weeks of the 2021 NFL season.

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The recovery time is not long enough to expect the Colts to trade for another quarterback, so second-year man Jacob Eason is likely to see his first NFL starts. This will impact everyone in the Colts offense and their early-season fantasy production.

Jonathan Taylor szn

Jonathan Taylor’s ADP has dropped in recent weeks, as drafters are concerned about backups eating into his workload. Marlon Mack has been handling everything the Colts have thrown at him in training camp after his season-ending ACL injury last season. Fantasy managers expect their first-round running backs to hit 20 touches per game, and it would be hard to accomplish this with Mack and Nyheim Hines in the mix. 

Wentz’s injury could lead to more work by all of the running backs early in the season, as the team will lean hard on the ground game with Eason starting. Wentz is missing valuable time to develop chemistry with his new receivers, making it likely the Colts remain run-heavy as he gets back into the action upon returning. 

Sep 13, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) runs with the ball during the third quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field. Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Taylor should be able to pick up exactly where he left off last season. He was one of three running backs with an overall PFF grade above 90.0 over the last eight weeks of the regular season and was a top-15 running back in PPR leagues in each of his last six starts. Taylor finished in the top five in three of those starts. Losing a few opportunities to Mack won’t matter if there are more opportunities to go around.

Nyheim Hines can be a flex play during the first month of the season. He was a top-24 back in PPR in four of his last six games in 2020 and managed three top-five games. Hines is arguably the second-best skill player in the Colts offense, so he should maintain a significant number of touches.

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

Nobody was over-the-moon excited about the Colts’ group of receivers, considering the highest-drafted player, Michael Pittman Jr., was being selected as the WR48 in Underdog fantasy drafts. Removing the team’s starting quarterback for any significant time is going to do their ADP no favors, so Pittman, Parris Campbell, and T.Y. Hilton can’t be viewed as anything more than late-round dart-throws. Without Wentz, it will be extremely difficult for them to overcome the most difficult schedule for wide receivers through their first five games.  

This group simply can’t be trusted to provide any sort of value, with the offense most likely turning to the running game as the main contingency plan with Wentz on the shelf.

Dec 13, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) is defended by Las Vegas Raiders strong safety Johnathan Abram (24) on a touchdown catch in the second quarter at Allegiant Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s an option to target in the later rounds, it’s probably Campbell, presuming health. Reich dialed back Philip Rivers’ aDOT and average time to throw to last season, so anticipate plenty of short, quick throws with an inexperienced quarterback under center. 

Campbell is slated to take over the starting slot role in 2021 and could see his fair share of short targets that will take advantage of his ability to create yards after the catch.

Hilton benefits from Eason’s strong arm as the team’s primary vertical threat — he was the highest graded Colts WR on deep balls over the past two seasons (91.4). He'll have some weekly splash potential. 

As for the tight ends (which was already a mess to decipher), it’s hand’s off. Mo Alie-Cox was the most popular of the Colts' tight ends, but he’s now a desperation play at best. 

Quarterbacks

Wentz was already the top quarterback fade before the injury. His upside was limited by a below-average receiving group and the team’s run-first offense. Missing training camp is brutal for his chemistry with the team’s receivers and will cause the offense to lean even more run-heavy. Wentz and Eason should not be on draft boards at all outside the deepest of league formats. 

Verdict

The Colts’ running backs have been the most intriguing options for 2021 fantasy football throughout the offseason. That’s only amplified now, leaving most of the team’s skill players as late-round dart throws. 

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