The Case For Tyrod Taylor
If you would’ve asked me this a year ago, in no way shape or form did I imagine that I would be writing a defense piece for Tyrod Taylor and even now affectionately calling him “Rod Taylor”. (TyGod and T-Mobile are other nicknames people prefer.) Taylor has been a journeyman QB who had been a backup on the Ravens and was battling Matt Cassel and former 1st Round pick E.J. Manuel for the starting position in Buffalo Bills training camp last offseason. When he won the job, I yawned at the thought of him ever having major fantasy significance much less be a favorite player of mine. After moving beyond the end of season box score lines, I’ve been awakened to the fantasy feast that is “Rod Taylor”. Taylor is an intriguing late round QB in 2016 as he was extended by his team as a vote of confidence and displayed ridiculous consistency as a QB1 in 2015. He also might be the best rushing QB in the league while possessing fantasy league winning ability at a rock-bottom price. When we look at all these factors colliding together, “Rod Taylor” might just make you look a genius for waiting at the QB position.
Pay Day for Big Play Tay
Taylor flew under the radar last year as a top QB option for a number of different reasons. First, he had never been handed over the reins of an offense as an NFL player, something everyone including myself was skeptical of going into the 2015 season. He went undrafted everywhere including in 2-QB leagues who assumed he would lose the starting position pretty quickly to start the year.
Taylor started out hot posting 3 top-10 QB fantasy performances in the first five weeks, something other more well-known running QBs Cam Newton and Russell Wilson did not accomplish out of the gate. He compiled a monster Week 2 line of 242 yards passing, 3 TDs, 3 INTs, 43 yards rushing and another TD on the ground against New England. He was 2nd overall QB that week behind only Ben Roethlisberger. Before a knee injury, he started out Weeks 1-4 as the 4th highest scoring fantasy QB!
In 14 games played, Taylor’s 3,035 yards passing and 20-6 TD-INT ratio isn’t eye-popping in a league that regularly sees QBs put up 4,000+ yards and 30 TDs per season. And yet, he took care of the football while adding 568 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground. Despite being his first full year as a starter, Taylor posted a 99.4 rating, 67.84 QBR and 8.0 yards per attempt, all of which outperformed more highly regarded passers Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers in their first seasons as starters.
Taylor was richly rewarded with a contract extension worth $90 million over 6 years. He will make $9.5 million in 2016, up from a previous base contract of $2 million, among the lowest for starting QBs in the NFL. General manager Doug Whaley put it best “We have faith in Tyrod. The coaching staff has faith in Tyrod. But most importantly, the team has faith in Tyrod and Tyrod has faith in himself. So, we said let’s go with what we have on hand and we’re excited about the future.”
In other words, Taylor isn’t going to fade away from the team’s plans and instead his 2015 campaign is something he can easily build upon when you consider how consistent of a QB he was. Many scouts have also noted added improvement in Taylor’s performance in training camp as well as during the preseason.
Despite posting respectable numbers in his first year as a starter, Taylor has had his fair share of haters who’ve given him the label of “one-year wonder” and “fantasy flop” in 2016. When we look at his week-to-week consistency numbers, it’s clear many people are looking at the end of the year stat lines rather than surveying the QB1 charts. In order to get a better picture of the QB position from 2015, check out the two-part article series I wrote entitled “What Makes a QB1”.
In standard league scoring (4 pts. per passing TD), Taylor averaged 19.33 fantasy points per game. That total projected over an entire 16-game schedule would’ve earned him the title of QB5 overall. Taylor had one of the safest floors among QBs in fantasy last year with a QB1 average of 12.57, which ranks sixth best in terms of consistency over the course of the season. It would shock most prospective drafters that Taylor was a more consistent QB1 in 2015 than the higher-profiled Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Philip Rivers.
When I am looking for a late-round QB to finish off my team, I’m looking for QBs with a consistent floor able to offer ample upside week-to-week as well. In his 14 games played, Taylor was a more consistent weekly option than 35 other QBs you could’ve started in 2015.
QB Rushing Yards: The Fantasy Cheat Code
Some detractors will lay claim to a false assumption that the Bills’ low-volume passing offense is atrocious and a vote against Taylor as a viable fantasy option as the Bills ranked 31st in the league in pass attempts in 2015 with only 465. In a separate article on why Sammy Watkins is a league-winner, I demystified that statistic and gave reasoning why OC Greg Roman has been able to sustain WR1 numbers along with supporting a fantasy relevant QB for years now. His system as well as the number of pass attempts is a bit skewed considering Tyrod Taylor had 104 rushing attempts from the QB position. So in terms of total “dropbacks” the Bills’ total was closer to around 545 when we dive into the actual play-calling. The number of pass attempts is less telling as the efficiency Taylor displayed as he tied for 7th in Passer Rating with Cam Newton as 5th overall in yards per attempt, yards per completion and interception percentage.
And yet it is these rushing attempts which offer one of fantasy football’s untapped cheat codes for the quarterback position. Because rushing yards are more valuable than passing yards, Taylor offers a rare gift for fantasy owners as an “extra TD” per game. Taylor averaged over 40 yards per game on the ground, the same amount a passing TD is worth in standard leagues. In other words, the final stat line of 20 passing TDs and 4 rushing TDs might not look pretty. But with the 568 rushing yards added on the ground, Taylor essentially had 14 more “TDs” that were added to his fantasy box score without owners knowing. To compare, Tom Brady, whose 36 passing TDs led the league, compiled only 53 yards on the ground along with 3 more rushing TDs. Taylor’s final season “cheat code”-enabled total of 38 “TDs” was just two behind Brady when all factors are considered. In other words, Taylor is more than able to make up for the difference despite being in a “low volume offense”.
Not only did he scramble for extra yards, but Taylor had the second best yards per carry (5.5) in the league behind only Thomas Rawls. These are elite totals for a QB, reaching totals not seen since Michael Vick’s hey-day and when Colin Kaepernick was actually a thing. So I beg you to consider Taylor’s rushing ability as a secret weapon in your arsenal that most fantasy owners would overlook when they look at the final season tallies.
Taylor was also unbelievable down the stretch for owners who still had faith in him despite the Bills’ mid-season downfall as well as him recovering from an injury. Here is Taylor’s final 6 weeks[lptw_table id=”27078″ style=”default”]
From Weeks 12-17, Taylor was the 6th highest scoring fantasy QB when owners needed him the most. In short, this is someone with potential to win your week for you down the stretch again.
Week 12- vs. JAX
Week 13- @ OAK
Week 14- vs. PIT
Week 15- vs. CLE
Week 16- vs. MIA
Week 17- @ NYJ
The Bills finish this year with one of the easiest schedules with 4 out of their last 6 at home and against a Jets team they kicked out of the playoffs in Week 17 last year. The Jaguars, Steelers, Raiders, Browns, and Dolphins all ranked in the bottom ten against the pass in 2015. With the rushing yards there as a baseline, we need to take seriously Taylor’s end of season potential with the added fact that Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy are legitimate playmakers as teammates. There’s clear upside for Taylor to pop off a game with 300 total yards and 3 TDs. There are few players blending this type of elite top-end production available this late in drafts at the QB position. This leads to my final point…
If the aforementioned arguments did not sway your opinion of Taylor, perhaps the draft day cost you will fork out for the all-world talent might take you over the edge. His current ADP sits at just QB18 or the end of the 10th Round 12-team redraft leagues, according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com. Why not spend a 10th Round pick on a guy who was one of the most consistent QB1 performers in 2015? Many owners seem to be taking notice that the fantasy community has been low on Taylor as his ADP has risen 2 rounds since July 1st.
Some might disparage saying that Taylor is “injury-prone” and that there are better QBs available at the end of your drafts. Whatever risk you might forecast is currently baked into Taylor’s draft day cost. A pick past the 10th round surely allows you to load up at other positions while feeling secure in grabbing a QB with upside late in your draft.
If you aren’t considering Taylor as a legitimate late-round QB in 2016, perhaps you should take a deeper dive looking at the week-to-week consistency he offers along with the cheat code (shhhh don’t tell everyone) of his 40 yards per week on the ground. He was a league-winner last year and could be in store for an even bigger year across the board. Get ready to roll with Rod Taylor!