NFL Nation Fantasy Fallout: What is Colts' plan for Taylor? More action for Najee Harris?

ByEric Moody and NFL Nation ESPN logo
Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Another week of the NFL season is in the books, and there is no shortage offantasy footballnews to digest.

Each Tuesday during the season, ESPN fantasy analyst Eric Moody will ask our NFL Nation reporters what to make of the fallout after games are played and the most pressing questions heading into the weekend. Who is primed for a big performance, who is impacted by injuries and what roles might change? Here's what our crew had to say about some of the biggest storylines after Week 4's action as we head into Week 5.

Initially, expectations should be measured. Taylor hasn't played since this past December and didn't go through training camp while on the PUP list. But from all indications, Taylor's workouts have been impressive and he is in good shape. Once he ramps up, he could have a significant impact by providing the splash plays the Colts need more of. Taylor is one of the NFL's most dangerous runners in terms of explosive plays. Though QB Anthony Richardson is starting to find his groove with downfield throws, the Colts' offense in general is a bit too boom-or-bust. Indy ranks 22nd in yards per play (4.8). -- Stephen Holder

Feed Najee Harris. All together now, with feeling: Feed. Najee. Harris. The Steelers' best hope to get their offense going is to ride Harris, who had his best game of the season against the Texans. Harris came out in the second half running like a man possessed, ripping off a 15-yard run on the first play of the third quarter. Harris averaged 5.1 yards per carry, and he had another 32-yard catch-and-run in the second half. Though largely a third-down back and complementary piece to Harris, Jaylen Warren should also be a bigger factor in the offense, too. The Steelers, however, will first face a Ravens team that has a top-10 rushing defense. The group hasn't surrendered a rushing touchdown this season, and running backs are averaging just 3.8 yards per carry against them. -- Brooke Pryor

White's role will change, in terms of more touches, only if Jacobs continues to struggle to find running lanes. But after having a semi-breakout game against the Chargers, catching a game-high eight passes for a career-best 81 yards, Jacobs seems to have gotten his sea legs under him, so to speak. Becoming more of a threat in the passing game opened up rushing lanes in Los Angeles -- he rushed for 58 yards on 17 carries -- so a more productive Jacobs would mean even fewer attempts for White, who would seemingly be a change-of-pace back in any other scenario. -- Paul Gutierrez

Clearly the initial plan of Sanders being the three-down back hasn't worked. It's not all his fault. The offensive line has been a disaster, and quarterback Bryce Young hasn't gotten him the ball in space for receptions (12 catches) enough to make a difference. But Hubbard is having more success with his limited touches. He's averaging 6.5 yard per carry to 3.4 for Sanders, by far a career low for the former Eagles star. Regardless of whether it's the groin injury that limited Sanders in camp and in practice last week, Hubbard appears set to get more carries, as he did with the game on the line in fourth quarter on Sunday. -- David Newton

Chris Godwin most certainly stepped up Sunday (eight catches on 11 targets for 114 receiving yards), and he's the most complete option. But how many leagues is he actually available in? Unless his slow start to the season scared some folks off. But behind him, rookie Trey Palmer is the next best option -- he runs a 4.33 at 6-foot and 192 pounds, and he has two touchdowns in his first four career games. If he's not available, then Deven Thompkins. Thompkins is undersized at 5-8 and 155 pounds, but as quarterback Baker Mayfield put it, "He can jump out of the gym." His catch radius is much bigger than his size, and he caught his first NFL touchdown reception against the Saints in Week 4. -- Jenna Laine

The amount of time Williams misses remains to be seen -- team sources have said he has an injury to his hip flexor and isn't expected to miss much time, but that's still uncertain -- but they don't want to put rookie Jaleel McLaughlin in some difficult pass protection situations on some third downs, so while they will certainly expand his portfolio in the offense, he won't get all of the long-yardage down-and-distance situations in the passing game. McLaughlin and Samaje Perine would split duties in the run game if Williams is out. If Williams is limited at all or they put him on a pitch count when he plays, McLaughlin should resemble an RB2 in that situation. They want to get him the ball more, but they don't want to have him blocking 260-pound outside linebackers in blitz situations if they can help it. -- Jeff Legwold

The question really isn't about Tee Higgins. Right now, the Bengals' passing attack is not good enough for any fantasy manager to feel confident in QB Joe Burrow or any of the wide receivers. Even if the passing volume is there, there isn't enough production. If Higgins does miss a week or two, that could mean more targets for Tyler Boyd or Ja'Marr Chase. Trenton Irwin will likely get the snaps in place of HIggins, but if Burrow is still struggling because of his calf injury, it makes it very difficult to start Irwin or even roster him. -- Ben Baby

Modest expectations to begin. Thornton's speed, in theory, should be a welcomed addition, but there's still a crowd at receiver for him to break through when it comes to playing time. Coach Bill Belichick has been committed to DeVante Parker getting WR1-level snaps when he's healthy, with the thinking being his presence improves the team's success rate getting the ball downfield. Unless that approach changes, it puts Thornton in the mix with the next group of receivers, which includes Kendrick Bourne, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Demario "Pop" Douglas -- and there's only so many snaps to go around. -- Mike Reiss

Not overly concerned. Stafford said Sunday that the injury was a "pain slash function" issue and that as long as he could keep his hip warm on the sideline, he was going to try to stay in the game. Although the quarterback was limping after the game, he quickly said he would play against the Eagles. Stafford has played through many injuries in his career, and even if this is still bothering him Sunday, don't expect that to change. -- Sarah Barshop

Hopkins is fine. The ankle injury he suffered in the season opener is gradually becoming less of an issue as the team manages his work in practice. Hopkins showed he could accelerate during the Bengals game when he pulled away from the defender and hauled in a 38-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill. Burks, on the other hand, is a player to be concerned about. He landed awkwardly on his left knee during training camp, causing him to miss 12 days of practice. Burks was a limited participant in Wednesday's practice last week and then missed Thursday and Friday. He regressed from a wrap on the knee two weeks ago to a sleeve last week. Mike Vrabel said the knee injury isn't a reaggravation of the LCL sprain Burks suffered in August. -- Turron Davenport

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