Jonathan Taylor won't be playing this season until October at the earliest. That's the biggest news to come out of Tuesday's roster cutdown deadline, as the Colts couldn't find a trade for him and kept him on the Physically Unable to Perform list, keeping him out until at least Week 5.
And, to be honest, I'm kind of flabbergasted by this. Taylor never passed his physical entering camp, but I always just assumed that was a negotiating tactic as he tried first to get the Colts to give him a new contract and later to trade him. But I guess they called his bluff, and now we're left with a situation where we have to figure out where to draft Taylor, who is clearly unhappy with his situation in Indianapolis and may potentially not play at all this season. There's a lot of blame to go around here, and the fact that this situation ended up being as poisoned as it clearly has become is a shame. The Colts need Jonathan Taylor; he's their best player on offense, and his absence only raises the degree of difficulty for Anthony Richardson, their No. 4 pick and starting QB. It's a shame.
It's not quite a worst-case scenario for Fantasy – yet. But it's pretty much everything we didn't want to see come to fruition here, and it puts Fantasy players in a tough spot over the next week or so. Most Fantasy drafts haven't happened yet, which means most of you avoided the "second-round Jonathan Taylor" landmine, but you still have to figure out how to value him.
The best I can do is drop him to around 75th in my rankings, as I wrote in reacting to the news Tuesday. But it's not a position I hold especially strongly, so if you wanted to take him 50th, I could see the case for it; he might be a top-five RB from Week 5 on! And if you wouldn't take him anywhere inside of the top 100, I get that too; it very well may end up a wasted pick.
That's the biggest news to come out of cut day across the league, with other names like Melvin Gordon, Bailey Zappe, and Cole Beasley getting cut without much Fantasy analysis needed. One exception was the Cowboys decision to cut Malik Davis, though even that seemed likely after Rico Dowdle surpassed him for the No. 2 spot and Deuce Vaughn locked in a roster spot in the preseason.
We also had Albert Okquegbunam traded to the Eagles, a move that could matter if Dallas Goedert's injury struggles crop up again. And, in some noteworthy non-moves, neither Jerry Jeudy (hamstring) nor Jaxon Smith-Njigba (wrist) were places on IR, a sign they're expected to play in the first three games of the season, at least.
Those are the big headlines from Tuesday, and we'll surely talk about all of that and more tonight on the Fantasy Football Today Draft-A-Thon, airing Wednesday from 4 to 10 p.m. on the FFT Youtube channel. I'll be on right at 4 p.m. as well as throughout the night along with the rest of the FFT team and 20-plus guests, including former NFL players and other Fantasy analysts from around the industry, plus plenty of other FFT friends as we get you ready for your drafts.
And, as always, we're raising money for our friends at St. Jude Children's Hospital throughout the show. The thing about the Draft-A-Thon is, we're trying to help -- we want to help you win your leagues, and we want to help St. Jude. You can be a part of it by watching, jumping in the chat, and donating via our eBay store, which has opportunities to talk to your favorite Fantasy analysts, appear on various FFT programming, and more, all for a great cause.
Make sure you tune in, because it's going to be a great night. Before we get there though, how about one more round of breakout picks from the FFT team:
Quick note: I'm trying to avoid the "obvious" breakout candidates, so I'm letting my coworkers take the likes of Justin Fields, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and the rest. I agree that those guys should be awesome, and if you want to know why, keep reading for Jamey, Dave, and Heath's takes. Here are my slightly less obvious breakout picks:
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Dolphins
It's always a little iffy to play the "take out this player's worst games" game, but in Tagovailoa's case, given his well-documented struggles with concussions last year, I think it makes sense. And, in the 10 games Tagovailoa made it through healthy, his 17-game pace was: 5,001 yards, 39.1 touchdowns, and 25.7 points per game in six-point-per-pass-TD leagues. You can't just assume Tagovailoa will be able to do the same thing over 17 games – or, you know, stay healthy for 17 games – but the point is, we don't really have to project Tagovailoa getting better to call him a breakout. He just has to stay on the field and do what he did last year with those elite weapons surrounding him.
JK Dobbins, RB, Ravens
I'm struggling with whether I want to call Dobbins a breakout because it mostly just comes down to whether the Ravens' unwillingness to use him as a high-volume rusher was a Greg Roman decision or a John Harbaugh one. Dobbins is a tremendously talented runner, and playing alongside Lamar Jackson only enhances his abilities, if he gets to even 250 carries, he might be top five in the NFL in rushing yards. There's fringe RB1 upside here if the Ravens commit to giving him 15-plus carries – he's only reached 15 carries four times, and only topped it once in 27 career games. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt that Todd Monken will use Dobbins a bit more aggressively, and that should lead to easily the best season of his career.
In six games without Dalvin Cook, Mattison has averaged 20.4 PPR points per game in his career. It's not quite so simple as just saying, "See, he'll do that as the starter," because there's a big difference between doing it for a week or two knowing the starter is coming back and doing it for 18 weeks, but it gives us a picture of what the ceiling could be. But Mattison doesn't need to be anywhere near that good to be a viable breakout pick. The Vikings should be a pretty high-scoring offense, and while they've become increasingly pass-heavy under Kevin O'Connell, they still relied heavily on one back last season. Mattison probably isn't nearly as good as Dalvin Cook, but he's entering the season as the clear lead back, and if he holds serve, he's going to be a very good Fantasy option. I like snagging Ty Chandler as a late-round flier, but Mattison is well-positioned to make a run at a low-end RB1 season if everything goes right.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Lions
The biggest thing holding St. Brown back from being a truly elite Fantasy WR last season was a lack of touchdowns. After scoring three in his first two games – coming off six in his final six games to end the 2021 season, too – he managed just three more the rest of the way. This is not a situation where St. Brown just isn't used near the end zone, either, by the way – the Lions have been aggressive about moving him around the formation to scheme up plays for him near the goal line, both as a receiver and as a runner, and he had seven different plays where he was tackled inside of the 5-yard line. His numbers were also depressed by an early-season ankle injury – take away two games where he played 32% of the snaps or less, and St. Brown's per-game average in PPR leagues jumps to 18.6, which would have been good for WR6, just ahead of A.J. Brown. If St. Brown just repeats his healthy 2022 with better touchdown luck, he might get to 20 PPR points per game; if he earns even more targets, it's not out of the question he could have a Cooper Kupp-esque WR1 season.
Skyy Moore, WR, Chiefs
A lot of people will make the case against Moore being a breakout by pointing out that he's unlikely to have a significant target share in Kansas City's offense, and I agree that it's unlikely Moore has, say, a 25% target share. Heck, even a 22% target share might be asking too much on an offense that spreads it around as much as this one does. But the thing is, because the Chiefs pass so much, even a relatively pedestrian 20% share would have been 130 targets last season. And, to be clear, 130 targets from Patrick Mahomes. Moore didn't do much as a rookie, obviously, but he was also a 22-year-old early-declare from a relatively small college, so the learning curve at the NFL level was steep – Davante Adams made a similar leap as a junior from Fresno State and needed a couple of years to really figure it out. Moore is seemingly locked into a starting role for the Chiefs and he's a talented young player, and that's a profile I like betting on when the price isn't exorbitant.
Diontae Johnson, WR, Steelers
Johnson is such a tough player for me to figure out, but I think I'm back on board. He is objectively great at getting open when he runs routes, which means he's great at earning targets at a high level, and I have no reason to think that'll change this year. The question is whether he can finally do something with all those targets. Johnson is one of just seven players with more than 400 targets over the past three seasons, but while everyone else has a combined yards per target of at least 8.7 in that span, Johnson is at just 6.4; similarly, his 3.26% touchdown rate in that span is nearly two percentage points lower than any other player in that group. Something's gotta give at some point, and I think if you're going to buy optimistic reports about the Steelers offense this preseason, you should probably buy the idea that a rising tide will lift Johnson's boat enough to return him to must-start territory for Fantasy.
Darren Waller, TE, Giants
I initially had Kyle Pitts here, but I think you can make just as good a case that he's going to bust as breakout, so I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Waller has some risk of his own, as a soon-to-be 31-year-old who has missed 14 games over the past two seasons, so I don't want to downplay that. But every report out of camp indicates he's been Daniel Jones' favorite target, by far, this preseason, and he was targeted four times on just eight routes in his only preseason action, as they clearly made a point of getting him involved early. He won't be targeted on half his routes, obviously, but Waller has a chance to pace the TE position in targets if he stays healthy, which counts for a ton. There's plenty of bust risk here, too, but I do think Waller is a good bet for his best season since 2020, at least.
Jamey Eisenberg's Breakouts
Bijan Robinson, RB, Falcons
I have Robinson as the No. 3 running back this season behind Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler and the No. 6 overall player. Robinson, the No. 8 overall pick from Texas, has the chance to be special this year, and he could be the best rookie running back of all time. He landed with the right team in Atlanta since the Falcons led the NFL in rushing attempts in 2022, and he's already looking like a special talent in the passing game as well in training camp. Robinson profiles like other rookie running backs who have dominated recently in their first NFL season, including Ezekiel Elliott (No. 4 overall pick in 2016) and Saquon Barkley (No. 2 overall pick in 2018). Both of them finished top 3 in PPR, and Robinson has the chance to follow suit this year.
Garrett Wilson, WR, Jets
Wilson is dealing with a low-ankle sprain at the start of training camp, but he's expected to be fine. I have no problem with him as the No. 15 overall player in Round 2, and I love the potential for the second-year receiver. The addition of Aaron Rodgers as the quarterback for the Jets should help Wilson become a star. It's fun to look at how well Wilson did last season whenever he didn't have Zach Wilson under center. In seven games with Joe Flacco or Mike White, Garrett Wilson averaged 17.6 PPR points per game, including three outings with at least 24 PPR points. At that average, he would have been the No. 7 PPR receiver in 2022. There is plenty of competition for targets with Wilson, Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman, Randall Cobb and Corey Davis all competing for Rodgers' attention, along with the tight ends and running backs, but Wilson should stand out above the rest. He has top-five upside in his sophomore campaign.
Justin Fields, QB, Bears
I'm surprised Lawrence is being drafted ahead of Fields, but I expect both to have huge seasons in 2023. Fields just has a higher ceiling based on what he can do as a rusher, and you have to love the addition of D.J. Moore this offseason. Along with that, Darnell Mooney is healthy after dealing with an ankle injury last year, and hopefully guys like Chase Claypool, Tyler Scott, Cole Kmet and Robert Tonyan can contribute in a big way as well. If Fields can improve as a passer then he could break records. He only attempted 318 passes in 2022 and had 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, but all of those totals (minus the interceptions) should rise. But we know the allure to Fields is his rushing prowess, and he was amazing in that category last year with 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns. If he can somehow stay above 1,000 rushing yards and surpass 2,500 passing yards or more then Fields could be in the conversation for the No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in 2023. I love drafting Fields in Round 5.
Dave Richard's Breakouts
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jaguars
Pretty much the most obvious breakout quarterback this season, Lawrence's third year will see him work with his deepest receiving corps and best offensive line yet. His production in 2022 spiked in his last seven games when he averaged 22.6 Fantasy points per game -- and that includes just one passing touchdown in his final three matchups. There's plenty more where that came from as the Jaguars' addition of Calvin Ridley seems to be paying off for them in training camp. And here's maybe the best part: The Jaguars' 58.2% pass rate in 2022 was the second-lowest of any team coached by Doug Pederson in six seasons, meaning Lawrence should throw close to, if not over, 60% of the time this season.
Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys
Dallas' offseason moves included signing Ronald Jones, drafting passing-down back Deuce Vaughn and hanging onto Rico Dowdle while letting Ezekiel Elliott fly to Foxboro. In other words, Pollard has a highway as wide and as long as I-30 to being the main runner in the Cowboys' offense. That would mean exceeding the 14.5 touches per game he had last year as well as building on the seven touches he had inside the 5-yard line -- touches that were reserved for Elliott (he had 19!). Pollard has recovered from a broken fibula and has regularly looked the part of a lead back in camp this summer. It's worth adding that in the 10 seasons since 2013, a Cowboys running back has had at least 250 touches nine times.
Christian Watson, WR, Packers
In Watson's last eight games last season, he averaged 17.2 PPR points. That's amazing, and honestly, it's hard to imagine him being that good, but the totality of his skill set combined with Jordan Love actually playing great football in camp and the preseason makes that number a realistic ceiling for Watson. What's more likely is he'll mix in some spike weeks (like the four games with 21-plus PPR last year) with some modest totals, making him a consistent enough Fantasy wideout. Once Watson's playing time was locked in for those final eight games, he had a 22.7% target share, 6.5 targets per game, a 59.6% catch rate with a touchdown scored once every 4.4 catches. Love's accuracy isn't Aaron Rodgers' accuracy, but Watson should see more targets and probably with a shorter Average Depth of Target to help raise his catch rate. Tack on what is projected to be a favorable schedule and Watson has the exact kind of profile as the other top-tier second-year receivers like Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.
Heath Cummings' Breakouts
Kyle Pitts, TE, Falcons
In fairness to Pitts, we don't generally expect much from tight ends in their first two years in the league, and his 51.2 yards per game and 8.2 yards per target rank very well among tight ends who have not yet turned 23 years old. They're even more impressive when you consider the level of quarterback play he's dealt with. When you contextualize Pitts' first two seasons, he has been even better. His 23.5% target per route run rate would be good for a wide receiver, or any tight end, much less a tight end in his first two years in the league. His 2.02 yards per route run as a rookie was flat-out elite. Pitts has shown that he's every bit as good as his draft capital suggests. He just needs an offense that doesn't look like it was constructed in the 1940s and a quarterback who can hit the side of the barn. What we saw from Desmond Ridder, and Arthur Smith when Ridder was the starter, gives me hope. Ridder averaged more than five more pass attempts per game than Marcus Mariota and averaged 33 more yards per game in his final three starts. More importantly, we generally expect quarterbacks to take their biggest leap from Year 1 to Year 2, and we often see coaches extend their QBs leash when that leap happens.
Jahan Dotson, WR, Commanders
Yes, Dotson, like Watson, has touchdown regression coming. That won't matter if he can match Terry McLaurin in target share as he did in the last five games. In those final five games, Dotson was on pace for 71 catches, 1,170 yards, and 10 touchdowns on 119 targets. The addition of Eric Bienemy gives this offense, and Dotson, even more upside.
Rachaad White, RB, Buccaneers
Like Mattison, White is taking over for a departed veteran. And like Mattison, he has a three-game sample to get you excited. From Weeks 10-13 last year, White averaged 94.4 yards from scrimmage and 16.4 PPR FPPG. With Leonard Fournette gone, White will be the feature back and should benefit if Baker Mayfield wins the job because Mayfield led the NFL in check-down rate in 2022.