Taylor Gabriel: Player Spotlight

Throughout the offseason, I will be looking at specific players that I think you should be targeting going into your Fantasy Football Draft and breaking down specific parts of their game

Kenny Golladay was my first article, in interview format, and you can find that here.

The second player that I want to take an in-depth look at is Wide Receiver for the Atlanta Falcons, Taylor Gabriel. Taylor burst onto the scene (literally) last year in a great role in the Falcons' high-powered offense. He quickly became known for his speed and shiftiness, allowing him to take a small screen pass and take it to the house. 

Last year, I added Gabriel onto my team and was worried about his production and how that would affect my team if I put him in my starting lineup. But I rolled him out there and each week came away extremely happy. 

Gabriel wasn't fully involved in the offense until Week 6 of the regular season. It took Shanahan up until then to figure out exactly to use him. So, for the sake of this argument, that's the sample size that I'll be working from. 

The argument against Gabriel this year, and the reason why I believe his ADP is so low right now, is because he's not going to be high volume and the fear is that Shanahan was the only person that knew how to use him. After all, he was in Cleveland two years before and couldn't crack the starting lineup there, right?

Steve Sarkisian steps in as the OC in Shanahan's absence. The concern is that the scheme is going to alter and Gabriel won't get the kind of passes that he did last year, which allowed him to be so effective. Taylor Gabriel thrives on RAC yards. (Run After Catch). He's not a Julio Jones type of player that's going to be able to go up and grab the ball at the highpoint and snag it away from a defender. He's quick and shifty, like I said before. The best plays for these type of receivers is quick throws and then allow the receivers to pick up yards. 

Here's a look at the Falcons Top plays, which I don't expect to change a whole lot if Sarkisian is coming in and isn't bringing in his own scheme. This information is from an awesome article by ESPN's Matt Bowen. You can find it here

  • Play Action Boot. (Rollout and then quick pass to your slot receiver if he's open or waiting for the Z receiver to release on the comeback route.) 
  • Levels (5 yards and then inside quickly. Allows the receiver to make a quick catch and pick up yards.)
  • Follow Route. (Stacked formation on one side, with Julio and Gabriel on the other. Jones pulls defenders away from Gabriel, allowing for a quick pass underneath.)
  • Yankee Route. (Gabriel on a reverse, play action play that opens things up for Julio deep. Gabriel is respected by defenses on a reverse, so this play could work even more if they give it to Gabriel sometimes.)
  • Four Verticals. (5-wide set that has four players stretching the field, while the W receiver. Gabriel, cuts inside and takes the underneath pass.)
  • Hi-Lo Mesh. (Spread formation. W receiver quick underneath route.)
  • WR Screen. (Ball is snapped and immediately thrown parallel across the field to the W receiver. Dependent on RAC yards.)

These are just some of the plays that Atlanta ran last year a lot. The concepts are going to stay the same, which means that Gabriel is going to be looking at a lot of underneath passes and give him the opportunity to work in space, where he thrives. But, with his speed also, he has the potential to take the top off the defense and go for the big plays. 

I thought it would be good to go back through and look at each touchdown that Gabriel had last year (6 receiving) and analyze what kind of play calls they were. What were the plays exactly that he worked so well with? The results were more pleasing than I originally thought they would be...

Touchdown #1: Week 6 @ Green Bay 

The first TD of Taylor Gabriel's Falcons tenure was a deep ball between two defenders. An absolute dime from Matt Ryan. Gabriel runs a Post Route and makes an incredible catch to secure the touchdown. Even with the defender draped all over him, he hangs on to the ball. 

Touchdown #2: Week 8 @ Philadelphia

A deep pass again, Taylor Gabriel got Leodis McKelvin to bite on a double move and Gabriel is gone. His combination of speed and route running on display in this touchdown. 

Touchdown #3 & #4: Week 9 vs. Arizona

Gabriel had 2 TD's in this game. The first one is a quick screen in which he takes it to the house, while making defenders left and right. His speed on display and quickness evident as he makes a beeline for the end zone. The second touchdown is another screen! He takes the same play and makes the Cardinals pay again. Capped off with a dive for the end zone.

Touchdown #5: Week 11 @ LAR

A play-action pass freezes the defense long enough for Taylor Gabriel to get wide open and take it to the house for 64 yards. You can't keep up with him once he gets his jets on and he shows it in this play with the deep touchdown.

Touchdown #6: Week 12 vs SF

Gabriel does a great job of getting open on this route. Almost looking like a Corner Strike play in Madden, Gabriel brings the defender in man coverage with him to the inside and then cuts back to the sideline and makes a great catch on a bullet from Ryan. 

Yes, Gabriel thrives on the short passes. Those screen plays in Week 9 against Arizona are incredible. But he also has an intermediate and deep part to his game which comes up for those big plays. He could turn into something special this year in that Atlanta offense with another year of rapport with Matty Ice. 

Taylor Gabriel had 27 catches from Weeks 6-13. Extrapolate that over 16 games and you're looking at 54 receptions. That's a pretty nice number of receptions for what he can do with the ball in his hands and the threat to score every single time. I have him finishing right around that number this year as well in my projections. 

Right now, he's going in the 11th round of Mock Drafts. That's ridiculous. For someone who I have statted out to finish near a WR3, that's incredible value. He'll be in the same make and mold of DeSean Jackson where he'll give you some weeks of nothing, but for the 11th round, there's no risk involved. Always a threat to score and the big play ability, I'll have Taylor Gabriel on my teams this upcoming season.

Buy into Turbo. 

 

Kyle Yates