Despite inconsistencies in his wide receiving corps, Charles Clay missing time due to injury, Taylor managed to finish 2017 at QB16 despite starting only 14 games.
During his three years in Buffalo, Taylor’s wide receiving group was both underwhelming and inconsistent. Taylor’s only real threat at wide receiver during his time in Buffalo was Sammy Watkins, and he only played one full season in 2015 before injuries cost him half of his 2016 campaign. Taylor’s group of receivers was also constantly changing. The only primary pass catcher who was with Taylor for all three of his years in Buffalo was Clay.
In 44 games as a Bill, Taylor threw for 8,857 yards with 51 touchdowns and only 16 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,575 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Taylor is now in Cleveland which, I can’t believe I’m saying this, is an upgrade.
He now has a legitimate deep ball threat in Josh Gordon, a reception monster in Jarvis Landry, and a very promising young slot receiver in Corey Coleman. He also has Duke Johnson Jr. in the backfield, one of the league’s best receiving backs. Throw in second-year tight end David Njoku along with whoever the Browns take in the draft, and Taylor for the first time in his career, has a really solid, well rounded group of pass catchers to throw the ball to.
Lastly, Taylor played for two coaches in Buffalo, Rex Ryan and Sean McDermott. Both of those guys spent their careers on the defensive side of coaching. Taylor is now playing for a coach, albeit Hue Jackson, who is offensive minded.
The bottom line: Things are looking good for Taylor. He’s always been a safe-floor guy because of his rushing ability, and now he can show off his throwing ability with more than one legitimate receiving option. Don’t be surprised to see Taylor sneak into the top-10 or 12 fantasy QB’s next year.
Duke Johnson Jr.
Johnson finished at RB11 in 2017, and it wasn’t because of his rushing ability. It was because he caught 74 passes for 693 yards and three touchdowns.
He now has a quarterback in Taylor who certainly isn’t afraid to throw to his running back. In three years with LeSean McCoy, Taylor never targeted him less than 50 times. In 2017, McCoy led the team with 77 targets and 59 receptions.
Seeing that Taylor wasn’t afraid to feed McCoy, who’s not primarily a pass catcher, gives me a lot of confidence that Johnson, who is primarily a pass catcher, can duplicate the success he had in 2017.
Johnson’s rushing ability shouldn’t be slept on either. In 2017 he rushed for 348 yards averaging 4.2 yards per carry, and added four touchdowns.
Should the Browns pass on Saquon Barkley in the draft, and Carlos Hyde continue trending down, Johnson could very well be the feature back in this revamped offense in 2018. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a top-10 fantasy running back next year.
The man doesn’t age.
At age 34, Fitzgerald was second in the NFL with 109 catches in 2017, totaled 1,156 yards and six touchdowns, finishing as WR4 on the year. And that was with Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton starting in nine of the team’s 16 games.
Now, Sam Bradford will be under center for the Cardinals to start 2018. In 2015 Bradford’s completion percentage was 65%. In 2016 he led the NFL at 71.6%. Those numbers aren’t that high because of his ability to thread the needle on deep balls, it’s because he loves throwing the short underneath routes. Who runs those in Arizona? Fitzgerald.
If Bradford can stay healthy for even most of the 2018 season, Fitzgerald will have a field day. Seeing what he did last year with the QB situation being what is was, as well as no David Johnson basically all year, I’m confident that Fitz will once again surpass the 100-catch mark and be a reliable fantasy wideout.
Given what Fitzgerald did with what he had in 2017, we may very well see him inside the top-three wide receivers in PPR leagues in 2018.
Be sure to check out the latest episode of the Loaded Box Podcast as the guys break down the offseason in the NFC North.