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Lorenzo Taliaferro is the Next Shanahan-system Superstar

lorenzotaliaferro

Gary Kubiak was Mike Shannahan’s offensive coordinator in Denver from 1995-2005. Kubiak then went off to be the head coach of the Houston Texans from 2006-2013 before being hired as the OC of the Baltimore Ravens. Kubiak and Shannahan both run the same offense built on the outside-zone play known for being able to turn otherwise unremarkable backs into yardage machines. For hours on end of former Bronco’s offensive line coach Alex Gibbs explaining the system, check out these videos. Here’s how that’s fantasy relevant right now.

Historical Precedent

The table below shows backs who have, as rookies, produced a 1000+ yard rushing season playing for either Kubiak or Shanahan.

Player Weight 40 time Round Picked Rookie Rushing Yards
Terrell Davis 206 4.71 6 1117
Olandis Gary 216 4.71 4 1159
Mike Anderson 235 4.7 6 1487
Clinton Portis 204 4.35 2 1508
Steve Slaton 197 4.45 3 1282
Alfred Morris 219 4.63 6 1613

This list does not include Arian Foster, who as an undrafted free agent who weighed 225 pounds and ran a 4.68 second, 40-yard dash and rushed for 1,616 yards in his second year.

Alright, now let’s look at Ravens rookie and therefore current Kubiak-coached rookie RB Lorenzo Taliaferro.

Name Weight 40 Time Agility Score Round Picked
Lorenzo Taliaferro 229 4.58 11.1 4

Taliaferro is an oversized agility score star a la Le’veon Bell.

Further, it’s pretty obvious Taliaferro comps really well on every level compared to Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Alfred Morris, and Arian Foster, who other than Davis, are all large backs who aren’t particularly fast, like LT .

Competition

I’m not going to talk about Ray Rice, partially because he’s coming of a 3.1 yards per carry season and partially because he’s facing a four-to-six-game suspension. I will however, briefly compare Taliaferro to Bernard Pierce.

Name Weight 40 time Speed Score Agility Score Final Season College Attempts Final Season College Receptions Round Drafted
Lorenzo Taliaferro 225 4.58 102 11.1 276 23 4
Bernard Pierce 218 4.45 111 11.35 273 3 3

(Lower is better for Agility Score)

Obviously Pierce is a Profile 1 back and Taliaferro is an oversized profile 2 guy. Both players showed they could handle a lot of carries in college, which is important for their long-term prospects. Taliaferro clearly has some ability to catch the ball where Pierce is more limited. It is true that Pierce caught 20 balls last year, but he averaged a paltry 5.2 yards per catch, so you could just as easily interpret that to mean the Ravens want to throw to their backs and take it as a positive for Taliaferro. It is also the case that Pierce was drafted a round earlier than Taliaferro, but Taliaferro has the advantage of being a Kubiak pick.

Conclusion

Between Shanahan and Kubiak, we have 25 individual coaching seasons between 1995 and today. In those 25 seasons, we have five years where players who were inferior prospects to Taliaferro posted 1,000-yard rushing seasons. This is really impressive when you consider the fact that some years the team would return a star rusher or not have a rookie on the team, etc. Taliaferro isn’t currently being taken in fantasy drafts, while Pierce is an eighth round pick on Fantasy Football Calculator. Given the evidence we have, I think it’s hard to argue that there’s any reason to believe Pierce is any more likely to succeed this season than Taliaferro is. While there is also the possibility Rice returns to form, historical evidence seems to indicate that there is at least a 20 percent chance Taliaferro takes over the starting job while Rice is suspended and has an Alfred Morris-type season, which easily makes him a ridiculous value in any of the double digit rounds of drafts.

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