Fantasy football draft season is fast approaching. Prep to win your league with SI.com's ongoing preview, including team-by-team breakdowns that examine each club's key fantasy storyline and much more.
Key fantasy storyline
It will likely be many years before we see another group of rookie quarterbacks like we saw in 2012. All eyes were on Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III right from the start, and with good reason, but by the end of the year, many around the league were heaping the most praise on Russell Wilson. All three rookie signal callers helped their teams to the playoffs, but only Wilson's Seahawks won a game in the postseason, beating Griffin's Redskins in the Wild Card Round and nearly knocking off the Falcons in the Divisional Round. All three are considered fantasy starters this year, but Wilson just might be the one with the most upside.
First, let's talk about last year. Wilson threw for 3,118 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His 7.93 yards per attempt were the fourth highest in the league, behind Griffin, Peyton Manning and Cam Newton. He completed 64.1 percent of his passes, which ranked eighth. The Seahawks didn't really take the training wheels off Wilson until midseason. Through the first eight games of the year, he had more than 25 pass attempts just three times. In the second half of the season, he took off. He topped 8.0 YPA in all but two of Seattle's final eight games.
Wilson may have entered the league without the fanfare of Luck or Griffin, but he's in the best position of the three to succeed this season. One of a quarterback's best friends is a dominant running back who is excellent in pass protection. You know, exactly like Marshawn Lynch. Thanks to that and a dominant defense, there's about as little pressure on Wilson as there can be on a quarterback of a team with legitimate Super Bowl hopes. However, the offense is built around him and Lynch, and they'll employ the read-option as frequently as the Redskins and 49ers (with Colin Kaepernick). Unfortunately, the team's big offseason acquisition, Percy Harvin, will be out until at least mid-November after undergoing hip surgery. It's a blow, to be sure, but Wilson will still be working with the same contingent of receivers he had when he took the league by storm last year, led by Sidney Rice and Golden Tate.
All the pieces are in place for Wilson to build on his rookie season and take another step forward in 2013, both in real life and fantasy. He's the 10th quarterback on my board, a solid starter in any fantasy league, and one of the prime reasons why you can still afford to wait on a quarterback.
|Seattle Seahawks 2013 Schedule|
|Including a look at how the Seahawks' foes fared defensively in fantasy last season|
Stats via FFToday.com
There's no more turbulent league from year to year than the NFL, but the Seahawks have to feel awfully good about this schedule. The 49ers will of course provide a huge test in both games, and the Cardinals feature an above-average defense, but this looks like a friendly schedule from a fantasy standpoint. Just look at those games against the Jaguars, Colts, Titans, Buccaneers and Saints. Those are five of the juiciest out-of-division matchups a team could get.
QB: Russell Wilson, Brady Quinn, Tarvaris Jackson
RB: Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, Christine Michael
WR: Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Brett Swain, Chris Harper
TE: Zach Miller, Luke Willson, Sean McGrath
|Seattle Seahawks 2012 defensive rankings|
The Seahawks had one of the best defenses in the NFL a year ago, and return essentially the exact same unit in 2013. That's why they're my top-rated fantasy defense this season. They were already strong along the line with Chris Clemons (11.5 sacks last year) and Brandon Mebane, but they still went out and added defensive end Cliff Avril, who had 9.5 sacks with the Lions last season. They did lose Alan Branch, but they have more than enough to make up for his departure.
While the line is a strong part of the defense, everything starts at the back with one of the league's best secondaries. Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are two big, physical corners, and a huge part of the reason why the Seahawks were so strong against the pass last year. They also get outstanding safety play from Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. If that weren't enough, they added Antoine Winfield this offseason, and he'll likely see most of his time in the nickel. Between the secondary and the line, it's going to be very hard to throw against the Seahawks again.
Longtime Seahawk Leroy Hill is gone, with Malcom Smith taking his place at weak-side linebacker. Bobby Wagner had a huge rookie year in the middle, racking up 140 tackles and three interceptions. All the way around, this is an elite defense. While I strongly suggest waiting until the final stages of a draft to grab a defense, if you think the opposite way make the Seahawks your first target.