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Seattle Seahawks: 2016 Fantasy Football Preview

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The second half of the Seattle Seahawks’ 2016 campaign was unlike any other stretch of Seattle Seahawks football that we’ve seen under the Pete Carroll-Russell Wilson Era. With Marshawn Lynch on-and-off the shelf, the Seahawks turned towards Russell Wilson to carry the load of the offense. And he delivered. The biggest question going into 2016 is if the Seahawks will go back to leaning on their ground game, or move forward to airing it out with Russell Wilson. My money is on the latter. Let’s take a look at how this affects their fantasy prospects in 2016.

Russell Wilson may have had one of a ridiculous eight-game splits in NFL history last season. Here are his numbers from the first half and the second half:

First Half Second Half
Comp 161 168
Att 234 249
Comp% 68.80% 67.47%
Yards 1878 2146
Pass TD 9 25
INT 6 2
Rating 95 124.3
Y/A 8.03 8.62
Rushes 58 45
Rush Yds 303 250
Y/A 5.22 5.56
Rush TD 0 1

What jumps out at you? The 9:6 TD: really INT ratio jumping to 25:2 certainly should, but what jumps out at me is that Russell Wilson didn’t throw the ball appreciably more in the second half. The narrative is that the Seahawks threw the load onto Wilson’s shoulder, when in actuality, he went from 29.25 attempts per game to 31.125. The Seahawks certainly leaned on Wilson, to the tune of a couple extra passes a game. What happened instead is that Wilson turned a corner and the lack of Marshawn Lynch meant more passing opportunities in the Red Zone for Wilson.

The biggest boon for Wilson’s fantasy value was not throwing more, but throwing in the Red Zone. He converted three of his nine touchdown passes in the first half of the season from within the 20, but in the second half of the season that number jumped from 33% to 56% (14 of 25). The most alarming statistic for Wilson that will cause his numbers to dip in 2016 is his unsustainable production within the ten yard line in the second half: 14 passes, seven receptions for seven touchdowns.

The question for 2016 is: Where does the Real Russell Wilson lie? With a questionable offensive line and a backfield in flux, closer to the second half than the first half, but you’re crazy if you think he will go 50 touchdowns and four interceptions while throwing for 4300 yards. That would be nice, but it’s more likely he will settle in around 30:10 on the TD: INT area. I expect him to continue to sling it, and while he will contribute with his legs, he won’t get you many rushing TDs. He had an outlier 2014, where his 849 yards and six touchdowns would have made him a decent running back option in deeper leagues some weeks.

Instead, his talent as a slippery pocket passer will develop. He’s the consensus QB3 on FantasyPros both by ADP and consensus ranking. If you don’t believe in the likes of Latavius Murray, Greg Olsen or Randall Cobb, he may be worth a shot. Personally, I would not use a fourth rounder on a quarterback, but if you would, he’s a good bet. Saying his touchdowns will slip isn’t crazy. Still, even if you give him zero touchdowns within the ten, his pro-rated touchdowns from the second half is 36. Give a chunk of those to the running backs and you have those 30 touchdowns.

Running Backs
As Marshawn Lynch rode off into the sunset, the team turned towards Thomas Rawls. Rawls was an undrafted free agent who lit the NFL on fire for a short stretch last season. An ankle injury took him out late last season, an injury that required surgery and from which he was still recovering. Still, when Rawls got the ball he was electric. He was unstoppable when he topped 150 yards twice.

He had 100 yards in four of the six games in which he received more than 15 carries. He did everything in his power to show he was the heir apparent to Marshawn Lynch. If you prorate his six games with more than 15 carries, he gets over 2000 all-purpose yards and thirteen touchdowns on the year. Granted, you can’t take those figures at face value. He got 250 yards against a 49ers team that was aspiring to be hapless. When that is 1/6 of your sample size that certainly skews things.

Rawls is a back to monitor for his preseason workload and expectations. Should he make a full recovery from his ankle injury and show that he is the same back he was last season, his mid-second round price tag would seem like a steal (early third in ten-team leagues is a slam dunk pick).

With the RB talent around him crumbling, Rawls is coming out of his question mark period as other running backs are entering it. He is FantasyPros consensus #13 running back, but with full confidence in his ankle returning to form, I would put him above guys like Eddie Lacy (who is apparently getting close to being back as Fat Eddie) and Mark Ingram.

When Lynch went down last year, the Seahawks scrambled a bit before settling on Rawls. When Rawls went down, it wasn’t pretty. Naturally that means that they went out and now have four rookie running backs on the roster in C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins, Zac Brooks and Tre Madden. While Christine Michael is the current backup to Rawls, should he go down, it is not advisable to turn to Michael. Michael has immense physical talents, but has issues putting it together in real games.

The trendy back to own in Seattle behind Rawls is C.J. Prosise, and with good reason. Prosise was the fourth back off the board to Seattle at #90 overall at the draft, and picking a player like that with such other dire positions of need (offensive line, anyone?) indicates that the Seahawks see something special in Prosise. The Seahawks have all but given him the third down role duties at this point, but a fumbling issue and difficulty pass blocking means that he will have limited opportunities to expand on that role. He’s a worthy flier if you don’t believe in Thomas Rawls.

Alex Collins also has a fumbling issue, and seems to be an option only if a lot of people go down ahead of him. He has a worse fumbling issue than Prosise, and isn’t nearly as good of a runner. He isn’t worth a draft selection outside of deep leagues.

Of course all this running back conjecture operates under the assumption that the offensive line that is equal parts turnstile, beaded curtain and traffic cone is able to adequately get the running backs room to roam. That’s a big if, but Rawls produced with a garbage line last year.

Wide Receivers
There are really only two receivers worth a look in Seattle this season: Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. Both are riding inflated ADPs from Russell Wilson’s insane second half of the year last year, and both benefitted from his ridiculous production in the second half.

Baldwin had twelve second-half touchdowns and was the main beneficiary of Russell Wilson’s ridiculous second half, logging ten touchdowns in a four game span while averaging 90 yards per game in that span. Obviously, like Wilson, we cannot expect Baldwin to carry that same production in 2016. Still, he is the main passing prospect in Seattle, a passing game that is set to open up a little bit this year with the evolution of Russell Wilson’s passing skills. Some regression is already baked into his ADP, but a fourth round pick is appropriate for Baldwin, especially when you consider that the running backs going near his ADP are uninspiring.

Lockett’s one of the trendy preseason buzz candidates and he is a great beat to exceed his seventh-to-eighth round ADP. The problem with being a trendy buzz candidate in late July is that by late August, that seventh-to-eighth round ADP is going to end up around a sixth-round pick. That is just too rich for the #2 receiver in a passing game with nothing but question marks surrounding it.

Paul Richardson and Jermaine Kearse will flare up and have productive games from time-to-time, but are not worth owning.

 Tight End
Don’t go anywhere near Jimmy Graham, just don’t. He’s the twelfth Tight End off the board and recovering from a torn patellar tendon. Patellar tendon surgeries are one of the worst for an NFL player to recover from, which means that even though Graham may be back for week one, he may also go the Victor Cruz route. If Cruz is ready to go week one, it will be 700 days since he took an actual NFL snap. While Cruz was sidelined last season, the article linked above outlines that the injury could have been related to his knee. Compensation injuries are fairly common in professional sports, and that is a fear of Graham and the Seahawks.

Let’s say Graham is ready week one. He wasn’t that great last season in Seattle to begin with, and even when Wilson started his torrid run, Graham barely benefitted. He ended the season with two touchdowns in eleven games, catching 4.4 balls for 55 yards a game. That was Jimmy Graham healthy. There are tight ends with fewer questions and a better upside than Graham. Let the decision to play him be someone else’s problem.

Steven Hauschka tied with Cairo Santos and Justin Tucker for eighth in fantasy points last season with 9.13 fantasy points per game. Unfortunately, that is apparently good enough to be the second kicker off the board by FantasyPros ADP (134 overall). Friends don’t let friends draft kickers that early.

Last season, the Seahawks were seventh in fantasy points among D/STs. They were first in fewest points allowed and their five touchdowns tied them for seventh. What betrayed them were the traditional big plays. They were towards the upper edge of the middle of the pack in interceptions (fourteen), and smack dab in the middle of the NFL with 37 sacks. They’re also looking to run the score up more which means scoring opportunities. They have an ADP of 81. Eighty-one, coming off that production. They didn’t do much to change their prospects in 2016, so why do that? That’s ahead of Donte Moncrief, Danny Woodhead and many other players who are far more likely to contribute to your squad. Don’t draft a D/ST in a single digit round. If you hit round ten and the Seahawks are still sitting there, it might be worth your draft pick to save yourself the headache of playing matchups weekly.

The Seahawks’ reign as the heads of the NFC West may be over, with the Cardinals among the league leaders in both offense and defense. Russell Wilson did his best, becoming infinitely more productive in the second half of the season last year. Ultimately, this is a team with more questions than settled situations. A torrid second half inflated the passing game’s numbers, which drove up ADP. While regression is to be expected, it is baked in to Doug Baldwin’s ADP, but not Russell Wilson’s. Thomas Rawls is coming off an unexpectedly great partial season, as well. Stay far away from Jimmy Graham, he won’t be worth your roster slot.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com