The Jonathan Taylor trade market: Grading the fantasy football impact for every NFL team

Indianapolis running back Jonathan Taylor’s 2023 story arc is a confusing tale, mired with twists and turns. It might make you laugh, it might make you cry. Regardless of your reaction, we’ve come to expect nothing less from the circus that is Jim Irsay’s Colts. Taylor was hurt until he wasn’t. Taylor was reporting for camp then he wasn’t. Now in the latest development, Indy has given Taylor until Tuesday (Aug. 29) to find a suitable trade according to ESPN’s Stephen Holder. In all likelihood, it’s an exercise in futility, but, for now, let’s have some fun.

We’re taking a templated approach to find the very best destination for the former (2021) rushing yardage king. I ranked each NFL team on a 1-10 scale in terms of offensive environment, bell-cow upside, backfield receiving competition, goal-line opportunities, and offensive line quality. Then I tallied the five categories together to tier the best landing spots for Jonathan Taylor’s services.

Remember people, location, location, location.

Prime locale with a view: Big-time fantasy and real-life impact that could makes sense

1. Kansas City Chiefs — The ideal setting, scenery, scoring environment and pathway to return J.T. to glory. Kansas City is as close to perfect on offense as we’ve seen in some time, and adding a world-class RB could elevate them one step further. Isiah Pacheco drafters are gnashing their teeth at the thought, but Taylor to the Chiefs would be epic. I’m the furthest thing from a capologist, but KC has less than $1M available in cap space and I don’t think the numbers are there (data per

2. Cincinnati Bengals — Joe Mixon’s a fantasy darling based solely on the volume Taylor’s poised to usurp. Outplayed by Samaje Perine down the stretch last year, Mixon would be easily replaced by Taylor for a prolific offense. Cincy’s in desperate need of a dynamic element on the ground after finishing 22nd in EPA/Rush, and being attached to Joe Burrow and the Bengals would skyrocket Taylor’s fantasy value. Cincinnati has over $19M in cap space for 2023 with room going forward. If I were a betting man, I’d make CIN the favorite.

3. Philadelphia Eagles — The Eagles have a crowded backfield and a touchdown hog for a quarterback, but I’d be the first in line for tickets if they acquire Taylor. Seeing Taylor lined up for the high-powered Eagles offense (and that elite offensive line) would be a fantasy football dream. Philly has the cash and surplus RB talent to trade. If this one did happen, be ready for a newly minted early second-round pick.

4. Miami Dolphins — Already rumored to have interest in outsourcing backfield touches during the Dalvin Cook courtship, there isn’t a more explosive pass offense to air-drop Taylor into. Defensive coordinators are shuttering at the thought. The Fins have cap space now but are already over for 2024 and I think it’ll take a longer-term commitment to get it done. Taylor might jump over Saquon Barkley in ADP if he’s healthy and starting for Miami.

5. Minnesota Vikings — Precisely the case Alexander Mattison detractors are making, the Vikings are now devoid of an experienced starting RB. Mattison has excelled in limited backup duties, although versus questionable opponents, and suddenly the Minnesota RB room lacks depth. Taylor would be an upgrade over the departed Cook while keeping a high-quality backup in place. The Vikings have the cash to get it done but that doesn’t mean they will.

6. Baltimore Ravens — Our choice of lots is already starting to deteriorate. While Baltimore has maintained the reputation for sustaining a ferocious run attack, J.K. Dobbins looks healthy. Then, of course, Lamar Jackson is always a threat to take it to the house as well. Taylor’s fantasy stock would certainly jump in Baltimore for the environmental upgrade, but profiting on third-round draft capital takes touchdown equity.

7. Carolina Panthers — Most teams would love to surround their first overall pick and face of the franchise with a backfield talent like Taylor. Miles Sanders is set to take on a formidable role for the Panthers, but who here among us would argue against him being better suited to back up a clear alpha like Taylor? Despite a dearth of talent, the Panthers have their eye on the NFC South title and the deep pockets to seal the deal. It’d be a splash move I haven’t heard anyone speculate on, but at the very least it makes a lot of sense.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars — Taylor would instantly add the pass-catching threat out of the Jacksonville backfield that many disappointed drafters thought they had in Travis Etienne last year. The Jaguars offense expects to take another step forward and Taylor could be a huge catalyst in making that happen. The front office has the money, but they’ve paid their pound of flesh in high draft capital for RBs in two straight drafts. So while it’d be as exciting as anywhere, I don’t think there’s much of a chance he winds up in Jacksonville.

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9. Buffalo Bills — The Damien Harris injury would have to be more severe than the cash-strapped Bills were letting on, but… wow… adding the likes of Jonathan Taylor to a backfield with Josh Allen would be a huge boost in the AFC arms race, even putting the Bills ahead of the Bengals on offense. Money is a major issue — I don’t think it can be resolved.

10. Chicago Bears — We know the importance of touchdowns for fantasy value, and as long as Justin Fields is under center, the goal line carries will be split at best. Taylor’s an instant upgrade to a backfield lacking experience in pass-blocking, but Taylor’s fantasy ceiling takes a hit with the move. The Bears have the money, I just think the recent draft capital spent on RBs is prohibitive.

11. New Orleans Saints — For the short time until Alvin Kamara returns, we could be looking at peak Jonathan Taylor in the gold and black. Once Week 4 hits, it’s too crowded a backfield situation to make sense, even if I thought the Saints could use his style of running between the tackles. Though their styles are clearly different, I think drafting Kendre Miller excludes New Orleans from any realistic conversation.

12. Pittsburgh Steelers — The Steelers offense is getting lots of attention from sharps as a favorite to take a huge step forward in Kenny Pickett’s second year under center. I’m sure Mike Tomlin would love to add Taylor’s services, but Pittsburgh’s over the cap for 2024 and I think it’s too packed to expect any sort of move. Jaylen Warren’s already nipping at Najee Harris’ heels. I’m having a hard time envisioning Pittsburgh adding a third cook in the kitchen.

13. Detroit Lions — The offensive system, blocking and environment couldn’t be a better fit. However, after signing David Montgomery and spending big-time draft capital on Jahmyr Gibbs, there’s almost no chance Taylor’s heading to the Motor City. The money’s there but the Lions have other needs. Our realistic options are dwindling fast.

14. Los Angeles Rams — Essentially the opposite of Detroit, there’s little competition or draft capital hung up on the Rams backfield. That said, the Rams (or any team for that matter) need to be on the cusp of competing to bring in a luxury item like a feature RB. Though the Rams offense could surely use a talent boost, it’s not in the form of a high-priced RB.

15. Denver Broncos — What might have made sense a couple of weeks ago, any chance of Taylor landing with the Broncos is now out the window. Career backup Samaje Perine stood in line to lead the Denver backfield until Javonte Williams’ return, which might have necessitated a player acquisition. However, the successful return and subsequent usage of Williams in preseason action likely portend his Week 1 return. Denver doesn’t have the space for Taylor next year either — the straw to break this camel’s back.

16. Seattle Seahawks — While a strong contextual environment anchors Seattle’s score, Ken Walker’s return to full practice is a wet blanket for any hopes of a move to the Pacific Northwest. Then consider Pete Carroll and company just spent the 41st and 51st overall picks in two straight drafts on RBs. You can all but forget it happening.

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17. Washington Commanders
18. Los Angeles Chargers
19. Dallas Cowboys
20. Arizona Cardinals
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
22. Houston Texans
23. Las Vegas Raiders
24. Green Bay Packers

Each of these teams either already has a superstar running back, or a completely untenable situation to add one. The down-slide in opportunity share as an addition to any of these teams would actually hurt Jonathan Taylor’s current fantasy draft cost.

UPDATE: The Commanders landed right on the bubble and now I’m thinking they’re a potential dark horse long shot with the newfound excitement surrounding Sam Howell. If you really squint you can toss in the Chargers, although after the Austin Ekeler contract situation, I doubt they’ll be inviting any more similar headaches into the fray.

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25. New York Giants
26. San Francisco 49ers
27. New York Jets
28. New England Patriots
29. Atlanta Falcons
30. Cleveland Browns
31. Tennessee Titans

These are the most solidified backfield situations in the NFL. They share little need and/or desire to add a player like Jonathan Taylor. You’ll notice that every one of these teams has hopes of a division crown and the demand I mentioned could instantaneously change with one serious injury.

(Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports)

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