The power of fantasy football lies in its ability to allow us access to a make-believe land where we are in control. Getting to draft a team and then play General Manager over it with waiver wire pickups and trades is the joy that sparks the enthusiasm for the game.
Affording fantasy managers more choices in their pursuit of roster building and lineup construction is therefore essential to maximizing enjoyment. Fantasy is just more fun when you add more startable players, whether its a second quarterback slot, more flex positions; whatever the mind can conjure. The decisions we make dictate whether we win or lose on a week-to-week or season-long basis. The more choices there are in weekly roster building, the more our fate is in our own hands.
With that being said, there are times the fantasy community asks for too much. We can make requests for options that are simply a step too far. Choices that, if they were available for us to make, would only ultimately invite previously unknown disaster.
One such option would be the ability to play Saints quarterback Taysom Hill in the FLEX position.
You fantasy football players should be prevented from deploying Hill at any position other than quarterback to save you from yourself.
Who is Taysom Hill?
Everyone the world over knows that despite inhabiting a spot on the Saints quarterback depth chart, Taysom Hill played in one of the most unique roles in the NFL when on the field. He’s thrown just 15 passes in the regular season and playoffs combined the last two seasons. Meanwhile, he’s run the ball 71 times and caught 25 passes. On those 96 touches, he’s scored 11 touchdowns.
In the 2019 regular- and post-season, Pro Football Focus tells us he took 41 of his 572 snaps as a quarterback, 85 from an inline tight end spot, 72 from the slot, 22 as a running back and 44 lined up as an outside wide receiver. The rest he spent on special teams.
In short, he’s far from a traditional quarterback.
I sat down with Taysom Hill last month to discuss his place in the NFL universe. The man himself is well aware of his existence outside the traditionally understood football roles. He told me, “I've had so much fun the last three years. I feel like I really landed in the perfect spot for me, with a coach like Coach Payton, to where he's not afraid to try new things and experiment. And man, he created really unique opportunities for me.”
He also knows that’s made him something of a pariah in the fantasy football community. Beyond those who desire FLEX eligibility for Hill, there is a subset of managers who curse the name, if not straight-up despise the existence of Hill.
“I'm not too sure how all that world works,” Hill said when asked about fantasy football, “but I know that there were some upset fans.” He’s aware that a fragment of the population can’t stand him because he takes targets away from Michael Thomas, rushes away from Alvin Kamara, and more. “I feel like I was one of the most hated players this year because of fantasy. When asked if that negative sentiment ever crept into his purview, Hill said he’d often hear it from fantasy players directly: “You know, ‘Hey, stop taking touches away from so-and-so. He was on my fantasy team.’”
No one knows it better than Hill himself; many fantasy players view him as a problem, with the only solution being for his reps to simply be removed from the New Orleans rotation.
It’s bizarre that Hill has drawn so much ire for his role in not just the Saints offense but as an entity in pro football. In a league that’s far too often formulaic and archaic in the way they deploy players or personnel packages, this is something wildly unique. In many ways, he personifies football. It doesn’t matter what he’s asked to do: Run, pass, cover kicks, whatever. Regardless of the task, he’s out there doing it and kicking ass, no questions asked.
Yes, some of Hill’s work comes at the expense of other more name-brand players in the Saints offense. Who cares? All fantasy football managers should have accepted the role of unpredictability in this game long ago. This is no different.
Hill is just another layer of unpredictability, but at least he’s one of the few truly beautiful and weird incarnations of it in the NFL. Given the context, to hate that simply because it interferes with your fake teams is ridiculous.
Should Hill be FLEXed?
The other solution despondent fantasy managers have in solving the Taysom Hill “problem” is to make him eligible in the FLEX position. Unfortunately, that is just as misguided a position.
As awesome a force as Taysom Hill is in the game of football he just isn’t a usable fantasy player in his current role. Sure, if you look at overall points, you can try to feign a case. His 92.7 points in 2019 would have slotted him as WR65, just behind Corey Davis (yikes). He’d slot in as RB46 and a not terrible TE16, just ahead of Noah Fant. However, we all know fantasy leagues are won in week-to-week matchups, not by accumulating points over the season. That’s where the FLEX-Taysom movement really falls apart.
Those who would wish to use Hill in the FLEX are suffering from a condition that runs rampant throughout the football community: Highlight bias. That segment of fantasy players who cannot shake the memory of the huge plays he’s made in island games (primetime contests where it’s the only game on, such as Sunday, Monday, Thursday Night Football and playoff games).
We remember his 50-yard deep throw in the Wild Card loss this year, his red-zone touchdown reception on the 2019 Monday Night Football season opener, his rushing and receiving scores on Thanksgiving against the Falcons, as well as his 28-yard touchdown catch on Drew Brees’ record-setting Monday night performance against the Colts.
Taysom Hill’s highlight moments in island games are a treat to watch and they help the Saints win football games. It’s impossible to not have them burned into our minds. Naturally, fantasy managers want those points in their lineup. You can bet that whenever Hill makes one of those big plays in an island game, the @YahooFantasy Twitter mentions get lit up with requests to make Hill FLEX eligible:
Brace yourself. Taysom Hill flex eligibility tweets are coming. pic.twitter.com/5MWbz22Hg3
— Yahoo Fantasy Sports (@YahooFantasy) January 5, 2020
Yet, those moments do not reflect the reality of Hill as a fantasy asset. They don’t just stick in our mind because of highlight bias, they cause us to not even consider the rest of his gamelog. Hill checked in with three or fewer fantasy points in nine games last season and he cleared 12 points just twice.
Essentially, if you play Taysom Hill in fantasy, you’re looking at a slim hope for a solid outing, at best, with a greater than 50 percent chance of a disastrous black hole in your lineup. Hill should not be FLEX eligible simply to save you from yourself. Honestly, having him as just a quarterback is enough to keep the self-destruct button out of your slippery fingers.
What does Hill think about it?
When asked what position he thinks he should be in fantasy football, Hill was clear in telling me: “It would be hard to argue with all the comments last year. I feel like I probably could have been a flex in the 2019 season. But I think I better stay at quarterback for the future.” Hardly a better source as to where he should be played than the player himself if you ask me.
Hill’s comments are also illuminating. While he's effectively operated in an ultra-unique everyman role for the Saints the last few years, Hill has not taken his eyes off his true goal. “I think ever since I was a little kid,” he said, looking resolved, “and started playing the quarterback position, the ultimate goal was to be a quarterback in the NFL. And that hasn't changed for me. The end goal is still to be a starter in the NFL.”
Even as he’s been deployed in these different fashions, he’s been sure to soak up all the knowledge possible from the future Hall of Fame quarterback at the front of the room. “I had the opportunity to learn from Drew [Brees], and really be mentored by one of the best guys to ever do it, which, man, this has really been a perfect situation for me,” Hill said.
We all know that the Saints quarterback depth chart is headed towards some degree of transition this year. All three of their 2019 signal-callers, Brees, Hill and primary backup Teddy Bridgewater, are without contracts as 2020 approaches. Brees has openly contemplated retirement, while Bridgewater may look to cash-in on his strong relief effort last year and emerge as a starter elsewhere.
The player that will be the easiest for the Saints to retain, if they so choose, would be Hill.
Hill is just a restricted free agent. New Orleans could simply slap a first- or second-round tender on him. Either option would likely dissuade an enemy team from poaching him and wouldn’t cost the Saints any more than $4.5 Million.
No matter what, Taysom Hill believes he’s a franchise quarterback. He wants to find a place where that isn’t a dream lost in the past, but a day-to-day reality. Hill opened up about that mindset heading into March: “As I approach free agency, and as I look at what that might look like, I think it's finding that balance of the right opportunity. You know, finding a team that has the same vision for me as I do myself.” The wish could come true with the Saints. Head coach Sean Payton has gone on record saying that Hill will be an NFL starting quarterback “sooner than later” and has compared him to Hall of Famer Steve Young, another athletic quarterback who got his chance later than most and replaced a legend for the 49ers.
Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported that the Saints not only want Drew Brees back as long as he doesn’t retire, they also believe Taysom Hill is his successor. It almost fits too well.
As for Hill, he can see his goal of being a starting quarterback fulfilled with the Saints. Speaking on what type of team he wants to land with: “Quite frankly, I think that New Orleans is one of those places. And I've absolutely loved it there. Best fan base; they're amazing. The organization and coach, I've thoroughly enjoyed my experience. But as I look at the situation as a whole, it's really trying to find the best opportunity for me and my family.”
We should hope Hill becomes a starting QB
In fantasy football, we know the value of a mobile quarterback. If you forgot, let’s hope Lamar Jackson reminded you this season. Should Taysom Hill ever find his way behind center as a team’s franchise guy, he could be an absurdly superior asset in fantasy than he ever would have been as an unpredictable FLEX. Based on our conversation, don’t rule out it happening before too long in New Orleans.
When I painted a picture for Taysom of him as a dual-threat starting quarterback piling up points just as our time together was set to end, he figured that may be the way to finally make it up to all the fantasy football players who previously hated him.
“I'll have to have a little payback for the fantasy guys out there.”
Fine print: The opinions stated in this article are mine alone and only represent Matt Harmon, not necessarily those of Yahoo Fantasy. If at any point Taysom Hill’s position is changed in fantasy football, well, then I guess the people who employ me think I’m just as much of a jackass as you do.