Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

29 Nov 2008

Failure To Launch

This week's MNF column is on Fred Taylor and the possible reasons for his dramatic downturn this year.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 29 Nov 2008

18 comments, Last at 01 Dec 2008, 6:02pm by Mike D


by sam :: Sat, 11/29/2008 - 8:19pm

I'm a Jags homer and a huge fan of Fred Taylor. He very well may be "done."

But I hold out hope because of the huge losses on the line. Watching him play, he is having tremendous runs that show up poorly in the stat sheet. He is often getting hit 3-4 yards deep in the backfield - just after the handoff - and fighting to get to the LOS. When he comes in, teams know that the Jags are either handing it to him or else throwing it to somebody else. With the passing game taking a step back this year and the poor line play, I'm not convinced that Fred is done just because Maurice Jones-Drew has come in during different game situations and done better.

sam! or the original sam from the old FO

by glengarry (not verified) :: Mon, 12/01/2008 - 11:33am

good article, Bill! The thing about the patchwork Jags' line is, they are still blocking pretty well on many downs. Greg Jones was playing very well at the start of the season, though he's slipped off my radar a bit in the last few weeks.

I think Taylor's maybe just feeling the hits a lot more than he used to. Doesn't seem sharp in the second half, unless the line really blows one open for him. I think he's got the mental toughness to re-tool himself into a really good backup for a season or two, a five- to eight-carry-a-game type guy, and excel... I'm just not sure it's going to happen with the Jags. At least, with Del Rio.

by sam :: Sat, 11/29/2008 - 8:21pm

P.S. Fred Taylor clarified his "chemistry" comments this week - saying that he felt the on-field mix was bad...not the lockerroom relationships.

sam! or the original sam from the old FO

by MC2 :: Sat, 11/29/2008 - 8:39pm

I drafted him in the 5th round and ended up cutting him after about 6 weeks.

From what I've seen, he looks done. Then again, I thought that about Dunn last year and he's bounced back to some extent, so maybe Taylor just needs a change of scenery.

by thestar5 :: Sun, 11/30/2008 - 3:47am

I had the exact same situation, except unfortanetely, he's still on my team! It was a combination of a deep league, stupidity on my part, terrible luck, below replacement-level RB's, and a lot of grumbling. The 5 RB's I drafted were Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, Mendenhall, Sammy Morris, and Tatum Bell. Needless to say, I died a painful death and am now 4-8. Although it was a PPR league and I am 5th in the league in scoring, so I actually did have a chance, because the rest of my team was very good.

Sad fact: None of my starting RB's scored a TD until week 7!! That was when Sammy Morris (my #1 back, seriously) went off against Denver. Of course, he got hurt that game and missed the next few games. As a first time FF'er, I'll be drafting RB's earlier next year.

by MC2 :: Sun, 11/30/2008 - 12:50pm

Yeah, I also gambled by waiting on RBs, so I could take Brady in the first round (Doh!), which left me with McGahee, Taylor, Chris Perry and Justin Fargas. Fortunately, thanks to a couple of good trades and some unexpectedly great years by a couple of my WRs, I've managed to scratch and claw my way to 7-5 (after starting 0-5!), so I've still got a shot at the playoffs. But like you, I plan to load up on RBs next year.

by MurphyZero :: Sun, 11/30/2008 - 2:08pm

I got AP with the #3 pick, and delayed some of my other RB picks due to there being no clear picks for #2. I ended up getting Michael Turner in round 5. I am #2 in points for, but 5-7 as I am #1 in points against. Includes a loss by 1 point that was a tie when I went to bed and updated results caused me to lose. Plus a game where I was up by 10 going into Monday night and my opponent had Phil Dawson, CLE K. He ended up with 20+ points that night. Having said all that, it's a 10 team league and with 3 games (including mine) going the right way today, I am in the playoffs, against the currently 12-0 team, that I only lost to by a few points. It's a strange league.

by resident jenius :: Mon, 12/01/2008 - 10:09am

Hey look you guys! Cheap wide receivers next year!

by sam :: Sun, 11/30/2008 - 10:09pm

Who in their right mind would ever even draft Fred Taylor in fantasy? Even I know not to do that.

sam! or the original sam from the old FO

by thestar5 :: Mon, 12/01/2008 - 3:30am

*Raises hand slowly.

by Kibbles :: Mon, 12/01/2008 - 3:41am

Who would draft Fred Taylor? How about someone who likes RBs who score fantasy points?

In the seven seasons where he has played at least 13 games, Taylor has finished 4th, 6th, 11th, 8th, 20th, 18th, and 18th. Consider that most leagues are at least 10 teams, and start at least 2 RBs each, and each of the top 20 RBs is a starter-caliber fantasy back. Meaning prior to this year, Fred Taylor had never stayed healthy and NOT been a fantasy starter. Seeing as Taylor was being taken as the 30th fantasy RB off the board, I think it's perfectly reasonable for someone to take a flier on him as a cheap RB with starter-caliber upside. Especially if that person drafted before the huge rash of injuries to the Jags O-line.

by Anonymous & Unverified (not verified) :: Mon, 12/01/2008 - 4:26am

Let's review:

1. 'In the seven seasons in which he's played at least 13 games...' That indicates that a) he has an injury history, and b) he has more than seven pro seasons. I'll grant you, for the past 2-3 years he's been relatively injury-free.

But the corollary of that is, for the past 2-3 years, you've had a 30-something year-old, professional RB taking a full season's worth of tackling goodness. The guy's got a lot of mileage, and an injury history, at what is typically the shortest-lifespan position in the NFL.

I've avoided drafting Fred for about 5 years now. And I've been 'keeping' MJD for 2 or 3 years, knowing that, eventually, Fred will retire or fall apart and 'Pocket Hercules' will get almost all of the carries.

The 'anonymous & unverified' Tundrapat

by MC2 :: Mon, 12/01/2008 - 11:15am

Congratulations! I think I've got one of those little star-shaped stickers with your name on it!

Seriously, it's stupid to "avoid" drafting someone. Almost anybody becomes a good value pick if they fall far enough.

Let me guess. You probably drafted Ryan Torain instead and stashed him on your bench for half the year. How did that work out for you?

by lobolafcadio :: Mon, 12/01/2008 - 5:28am

Vince Manuwai was a starter at the start of the season.
Indeed, the whole line was : Barnes, Mo Williams, Meester, Manuwai and Pashos. Collier, who was battling for the LT spot was shot, and Naeole placed on injured reserve after he injured his arm during the warm-up of his first game... No more black cats, just jags...

by pouringlizards (not verified) :: Mon, 12/01/2008 - 8:21am

I find myself wondering if there's any correllation between projected longevity of a RB and the health of his line- maybe O-line injuries would have a cascade effect to their RBs with them taking more hits from defenders. One might imagine being able to adjust the Curse of 360 downwards for runners on gimped-up lines, and runners being ruined in the same way as, say, a David Carr was often said to be.

Just a thought.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/01/2008 - 11:18am

I could see that going either way. On one hand, a weak or injured O-line would logically seem to lead to more injuries to the offensive backfield. On the other hand, I look at guys like Larry Johnson and Shaun Alexander, and I see teams that were able to run at will because of their dominant line, and therefore felt no need to protect their running back. A team with a weak O-line is probably going to be less likely to send their RB slamming into the defense over and over and over. And that's really what the curse of 370 is about -- it's the total number of hits, regardless of whether they occur 1 yard or 7 yards past the line of scrimmage.

by mrh :: Mon, 12/01/2008 - 11:44am

Great running backs can lose it seemingly without warning. Curtis Martin led the league in rushing in 2004 and was finished before the end of the 2005 season. Terrell Davis ran for 2,008 yards in 1998 and had only 1,194 yards over his final three, injury-filled seasons. Shaun Alexander was the NFL MVP in 2005 and was released two years later.

But we know there WAS warning:
Davis 1998 - 392
Martin 2004 - 371
Alexander 2005 - 370

What was the site that wrote about the Curse of 370? Oh yeah, this one. I know ESPN gets the dumbed - and slimmed - down content. But I think the Curse of 370 is one of the seminal pieces of work by FO and shouldn't be ignored even in the ESPN MNF content.

The difference between Taylor and these three RBs is that he did NOT have a 370+ carry season before falling off a cliff - and he wasn't as good in 2007 as those guys in the seasons listed.

player yr - dyar/dvoa/true yds
Davis 98 - 542/22.7%/2370
Alexander 05 - 449/19.3%/2115
Martin 04 - 415/18.6%/1990
Taylor 07 - 171/11.1%/1026

by Mike D (not verified) :: Mon, 12/01/2008 - 6:02pm

I posted this over on ESPN.com where I found the article, but was so upset by the lack of full knowledge I felt the need to post on the main source

It's nice that you ignore key factors in writing this article. Like the fact Fred has only had more than 10 carries in 4 games this season. He's the type of back that gets better in a game the more he carries it, the more he wears down a defense and for him to get a feel of the type of defense he's playing. When he's only getting 6 or 9 carries in a game it's impossible to do that.

Add that to the glossing over the fact that the offensive line was destroyed by injuries before the first week of the season is pretty much obvious why production has slipped. Refering to Naeole and Manuwai as key reserves shows exactly how much of the Jags you've watched the last few years.

As for Maurice Jones Drew you claim his production has remained the same but his YPC has gone from 5.7 to 4.6 to 4.3 so are you claiming this 23 year old running back is also on his way out?

While you made some alright points the fact you left SOOOOO much out in this article is ridiculous. How many of those other running backs you mentioned have gone through similar situations to what Fred has experienced this year? To me you have taken this entire thing out of context to try and make a better story for yourself and that is pretty sad.

And just to add to my point, in those 4 games that Fred has had more than 10 carries in a game he's averaging 4.4 yards per carry and just under 80 yards a game. Given those numbers over a full season he'd be around the 1300 yard mark, not much of a drop off is it? It's the fact Del Rio has really misused him this season that's led to a slip in his production.