No doubt about it, Jason Taumalolo had a year to forget in 2021. With the NRL deciding to speed up the game, players who overcome their opponents with what I would describe as “consistent power” really struggled to win. As the NRL has decided to try and backtrack some of the rule changes, it is worth having a look at JT to find out if there is some value, particularly given the consistent pedigree he has shown in the past.
Taumalolo suffered an injury in round 1 of 2021 (after being called out by coach Todd Payten for his effort) which put him out until week 8, but he never truly recovered. He spent a game on the edge and a game at prop, but there is no doubt his future at the club is as a “middle forward”. Many expect Reuben Cotter to take up the “lock” role, simplifying what the Cowboys will ask Jason to do – which is carting the ball up the field.
As a starting middle forward in 2021, Taumalolo managed to crank out 58 minutes per game, which is actually his lowest since 2016. His middle stats are as follows since 2015:
If Todd Payten is to be believed, the days of Jason playing 70 minutes per game are behind him. In fact, outside of one game against the Broncos, Taumalolo did not play a game in the middle over 65 minutes. If we have another look at our sample size, but only include the games of 50-65 minutes (which seems to be his role), then it looks like this:
So which Jason Taumalolo are we going to get in 2022? Well, looking at the above pattern, he does have a down year every now and then, the difference is that – in 2018 – his big minutes covered up for his reduced PPM and he returned a season average of 54.8 despite averaging 48.4 in the sub 65 minute games. It would be reasonable in my opinion to expect that Taumalolo’s PPM should bounce back to between 0.95 and 1.
I do find it interesting that the reason for the low scoring in 2018 wasn’t a significant reduction in attack, but an additional 3 demerits per game. His missed tackles (+1.3), errors (+0.15) and penalties (+0.15) per game all were elevated in 2018, despite the 2019 and 2020 Cowboys teams also being bottom 4 sides. In 2021 however it was a significant reduction in his attack, down 2 tackle busts and 30 metres per game on average. I don’t really have a good explanation for this considering all 4 years were bottom 4 sides, and welcome any theories as to this specific reduction in attack.
Now, in the 3 out of 4 years where Jason was in this PPM range, his stats and how they would be impacted by the new scoring changes are:
Average of 58.3 in 58.3 minutes for exactly 1PPM
-4 in tackle busts, +1 in offloads, +2 in turnover tackles
This makes a new total of say 57 in 58 minutes or 0.98PPM, so negligible impact.
Based on this, we can project as a potential high/low:
Now obviously this isn’t what I would call the “true” low end, as we have seen he could have another dumpster fire year, but what we have seen from Jason in the past following a bad year for Fantasy is a big bounce back to his “standard performance”. If you think this just a coincidence and he is cooked then by all means skip him – I won’t talk you into it.
Lets say you believe that he is due for a bounce back, his starting price is $620K with an even 50 break even. Based on the above, we can expect at minimum 2-3 points of value here for a non-origin playing keeper middle, and best case 10 points value and an elite fantasy option. Personally, I would split the difference between the two, and be expecting somewhere in the 55-57 point range, which would have made him the #7 ranked middle in 2021, which you would be happy with for an initial investment of $620k.
Could he bust again this year? Absolutely.
Do I think he will? No.
Will I start with him? Maybe.
Ultimately, we will need to make up our own minds about the truth of Jason Taumalolo.