REWIND – Reviewing My Very Deep Sleeper Series from 2018 (S3, E13 Taywan Taylor)
My wildly popular ‘Very Deep Sleeper’ series was brought back by FantasyPros for its fourth season. In celebration, and preparation, and review – I’m going to post last year’s series, 17 articles in all, daily with new commentary for 2019.
My concept of the VDS series was to take a look at a dozen or so players who were way off the grid (like way off the grid/very deep ADPs or not even showing in top 100-150+ positionally on FantasyPros) for the upcoming fantasy season and try and make a case for them as shocking breakouts that year. I hoped if just one panned out each year that would be pretty amazing…these are like taking half court shots in basketball.
Well, we have had that one-a-season success and then some. The VDS series gave birth to Tyrell Williams eons before most people knew who he was. Given-up-for-dead Tyler Boyd was a sweet hit from our VDS series last preseason. A number of players have emerged from the VDS series…even if it was a year or two later. My goal is to educate on the player, at a minimum, and then hope 1-2 of them really pop at some point.
Let’s look back at the 2018 season, in the order they were published…and I’ll add some commentary from ‘the now’ as I’ve re-read it.
One of the more remarkable things I see watching/studying/betting on football outcomes is the absolute blindness to talent and unimaginativeness of head coaches and offensive coordinators. One of the reasons a Bill Belichick can dominate a league and Sean McVay can rocket to the top in the snap of a finger – the people they’re working/competing against are virtually clueless how maximize and utilize talent. Taywan Taylor is a great example for proof of what I speak…
Taywan Taylor was a highly successful college WR turned 3rd-round pick of the Titans in 2017. The rookie fought his way into the starting lineup later in his rookie season and showed a speed/gear that made him a real difference maker. So speedy with the ball, the Titans used him to run the ball 8 times his rookie year.
In 2018, Taylor blew up the preseason – by far their best, most explosive WR talent. They just needed to get him the ball. Early on in 2018, they did – 4.3 receptions on 5.7 targets per game Weeks 2-5. It looked like the Titans got the message…and then Taylor was just ignored as the Titans offense became a joke. He later had a 100+ yard game (Week 13) and had games with 6 and 7 catches during the season, but overall it was just second-class citizen work in a terrible offense/passing game.
A team dying for offense and passing game weapons, and Taylor being the easiest guy to work like a mini-Tyreek Hill for bubble screens, bombs, and jet sweeps, etc. – and Taylor was erratically used and not ONE carry of the ball the entire 2018 season. Stunning.
The offensive coordinator in 2018 was Matt LaFleur. You may know him as the Packers new head coach. I know him as the guy who couldn’t figure out how to maximize Taywan Taylor and was trying to push awful/bland Tajae Sharpe.
It’s not getting any better for Taylor with LaFleur gone. The Titans signed Adam Humphries to a huge contract for reasons I’ll never understand and then drafted A.J. Brown. If Taylor was a second-class citizen WR option before, he sure will be now as the Titans terrible GM tries to prove Corey Davis was not an utterly stupid, reach draft pick and that the Adam Humphries signing wasn’t setting a pile of cash on fire and then he’ll love to show you how smart the A.J. Brown pick was. All this happening with an anti-pass game head coach and one of the worst starting QBs in the NFL. Good luck with all that!
Hopefully, Taylor is traded or something because even starting for this team is a bottomless pit of despair for fantasy WR output.
What I was pitching about a year ago:
It seems odd to be talking about Taywan Taylor as a ‘Very Deep Sleeper’ today. Just last season, he was an early third-round (#72) NFL Draft pick for the Titans and a lot of people were high on his abilities and his measurables. But, as is the case with rookies, we all get hysterical their first season (oh, the possibilities) and then discard them the following year if they didn’t delight us immediately.
How far off the grid is Taywan? He’s the current #93 ranked PPR WR on the FantasyPros consensus expert rankings for 2018. It makes sense. Corey Davis has taken all the praise in a passing game none of us really respects, and then Rishard Matthews is still there – the established, experienced #2 WR for Tennessee. What’s left, in a weak passing game, for targeting for projected #3 WR Taywan Taylor?
There are two reasons to pay more serious attention to Taywan to start the 2018 campaign. The first reason just recently materialized. The second reason that I’ll discuss – it’s not crazy to include Taylor in the discussion as the most talented wide receiver prospect from the 2017 NFL Draft.
That last line should hold you to the end of the article.
First, the breaking opportunity – Rishard Matthews has been quite hobbled/not right since training camp started, and he was officially placed on the practice PUP list this week. It’s only speculation, but there is some sudden concern in Tennessee that Matthews’ injury might be worse than initially feared. Stories, rumors are flying around about the severity. Matthews has been dealing with an issue for possibly two months now…and it was hush-hush then, and still is now. The Titans have listed him on the PUP with ‘an undisclosed injury’.
If Matthews is down/out into the regular season or gone for the season – Taywan Taylor steps up as the clear #2 option/weapon at wide receiver for Tennessee.
Again, all the Rishard injury stuff is pure guessing and speculation. By the time this goes to post, Matthews could be back at practice. Doubtful, but possible.
The possible Matthews injury issue makes us all look at Taywan Taylor again. And I get to re-remember scouting him for the 2017 NFL Draft. I walked away from my 2017 scouting film study and looking at our computer scouting models and believing it was possible Taylor was in the debate for the ‘best’ WR prospect in the class.
At Western Kentucky, in back-to-back seasons (2015-2016), Taylor amassed 1,400+ receiving yards and exactly 17 TDs each season. His senior year was a gem – 93 catches for 1,730 yards and 17 TDs. He finished second and then third in receiving TDs in the NCAAs in 2015 and 2016. He’s 10th all-time in the NCAA for career receiving TDs (41 TDs). He was no slouch for performance in college, albeit working on a very high-flying offense/passing game.
Taylor hit the NFL Combine in 2017 and posted a solid 4.50 40-time for his 5’11/203 size, but then gained big attention posting a scintillating 6.57 three-cone agility time. One of the best times of the entire Combine.
Good size. High-end nimble, shifty feet. Big college production. What’s not to love? Similar, but better profile than Bears 2018 rookie WR Anthony Miller, only Taylor testing better as an athlete in most areas, and yet Miller is super-hyped today and now Taylor is a yawn. How we love rookies…
For me, it’s not just about the scouting data and college performance on Taylor. Obviously, he has an NFL skillset as measured at the NFL Combine. He has to be a plausible receiver prospect for the pros to put up the college numbers he did. I get all that, but why I take Taywan Taylor more seriously – his tape gives clues to something pretty terrific if you look at it closely and compare to other prospects and their styles of play. Actually, there was one game that stands out in mind as a great clue as to Taylor’s potential.
In 2016, Western Kentucky played eventual National Champion Alabama early in the season. Taylor was an already established star WR that the Crimson Tide would need to contain. Yet, Taylor posted nine catches for 121 yards, facing eventual first-round pick cornerback Marlon Humphrey. A great stat line, but it’s not just taking the stats and leaping to a conclusion. No. I remember this tape well because I marveled at how quick Taylor was off the snap, and how stellar his ability to get open was – abusing Marlon Humphrey often, whether he got the target or not. Taylor’s pop off the snap and ease of getting open reminded me of Odell Beckham Jr.‘s ability to pop off the snap and get past DBs or cut inside them. I’m not saying Taywan is the next OBJ, but they are not that dissimilar in size.
Taylor played sporadically for the Titans depressed passing game last season. He would enter the game on some passing downs and attempt to provide an offensive spark. He caught 16 passes for 231 yards with a TD (53-yard TD). The thing that caught my attention on Taylor’s performance last year – he also had eight carries (for 43 yards) in his sporadic play. He was used as a ‘weapon’, running and receiving…because he has ‘weapon’ type abilities.
I think the Titans only scratched the surface with Taylor last year. He had some nice moments in the preseason last year but immediately took a backseat to Corey Davis when the season began. This season the Titans have a new head coach, and a much more radical, innovative offensive coordinator (Matt LaFleur, from the Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan tree). Taylor may be of much more value to the 2018 passing game under new, better management.
Corey Davis is the #1. Rishard Matthews is a reliable grinder over the middle #2. Taywan Taylor can come into games and be a deep threat or a bubble screen guy, take jet sweeps…a minor Tyreek Hill (nowhere near as fast) option. As a #3 WR for the Titans, Taylor might get to a WR3 status if he’s lucky/hits some big plays. However, if Rishard Matthews is out for an extended time…Taylor as a #2 WR with assuredly more targets – he could be an easy WR3 for fantasy, one with WR2 upside and a penchant for longer plays.
Taylor needs help getting up in the pecking order for targets, but the target debate and projections should not totally cloud the talent and upside Taywan has as a wide receiver prospect. If Taylor gets more snaps/targets with Rishard Matthews out – this could get very interesting with Taylor.
I would challenge you to watch this YouTube tape of Taylor’s game against Alabama in 2016. Just watch/focus on the first half (starting QB gets knocked out eventually with injury second half) and only watch Taylor. No matter where the ball is going, just watch Taylor working off the snap and how easily he breezes open against the top defense in the NCAA and a top-ranked cornerback for his time (Humphrey). It’s eye-opening to watch and will hopefully put Taylor on the radar a little more for your 2018 or down the road as his career progresses.
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