One of the most basic tenets of any fantasy football draft is that you have to lock in high, reliable floors in the early rounds. You’re not going to win your league with your first- or second-round picks, but you could certainly lose it. Just ask the guy who was really pumped after landing Doug Martin and Trent Richardson with his first two picks last year (not me, for the record). Floors are important early, ceilings are important late. That’s what makes the current value of Marshawn Lynch so interesting.
Lynch has been one of the most productive running backs in the last three years. Check out these rock-solid, consistent numbers:
In 2011, Lynch ranked fifth among running backs in fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues. In 2012, he was fourth. Last year, he was again fourth. In other words, Lynch is the poster boy for a high floor. And yet, you’ll be hard pressed to find him ranked higher than sixth among running backs and eighth overall, no matter where you get your fantasy rankings. In many circles, he’s even lower, just barely sneaking into the top 10. Given his high floor, how is this possible? And does it make sense?
There are a few justifiable reasons why Lynch has slid down draft boards just a bit as the summer has progressed. First, he is, of course, not the only player with a safe floor. Fantasy owners are justifiably comfortable with the floors for elite running backs such as Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson, top-tier receivers like Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Marshall and Dez Bryant (and don’t forget about Julio Jones and Jordy Nelson) and the inimitable Jimmy Graham. Not only do many of those players carry floors equal to or nearly equal Lynch’s, most, if not all, of them have higher ceilings.
Secondly, Lynch has racked up quite a few miles on the odometer during his time in Seattle. Including the playoffs, he has a total of 1,093 touches in the last three seasons, an average of just more than 364 per year. That’s a toll for any back, even one as stoutly built as Lynch. He’s now north of 2,000 touches for his career, and could cede more playing time to Christine Michael and/or Robert Turbin this year. The Seahawks no doubt have designs on defending their Super Bowl title, and they’ll likely need Lynch healthy in January to do so.
One thing that shouldn’t be a huge concern, at least for now, is Lynch’s recent holdout, which has since been resolved with an agreement made between Lynch and the Seahawks. At 28 years old, Lynch hardly needs the training camp reps to be ready for the season. If it had continued on through August, however, there would have been some legitimate questions about his physical condition heading into the year. However, the two factors above are enough to warrant pushing Lynch to the backend of the first round. He’s the No. 10 player on my board, slipping behind my top three receivers and Graham.
Most overrated player
Percy Harvin, WR -- There’s little doubt as to what Harvin can do when he’s healthy. There is a lot of doubt, however, as to his ability to stay healthy. Harvin has played 10 games combined in the last two seasons, and is coming off a particularly damaging hip injury. Part of what makes Harvin so dangerous on the field is his speed, and that could theoretically be jeopardized by the hip. There is admittedly a lot to like here, too. Harvin will undoubtedly be Russell Wilson’s top target, and the Seahawks will figure out other ways to get him involved in the offense as well. The problem isn’t with liking Harvin’s situation, or even in believing he will remain healthy. It’s in accepting all those red flags, and still having to pay a pretty high price to get him. Harvin’s current average draft position has him going in the low 50s overall, which makes him an early-to-mid-fifth-round pick. He’s in the same neighborhood as guys like Michael Floyd, DeSean Jackson, Shane Vereen, Torrey Smith and Ben Tate. I’d rather focus on receivers early and get a back like Vereen or Tate in this spot, and if I am dead set on a receiver at this price, I’d have a hard time rolling the dice on Harvin rather than selecting a Floyd or Jackson.
Most underrated player
Doug Baldwin, WR -- Baldwin had a decent 2013 season, catching 50 of his 73 targets for 778 yards and five touchdowns. With Golden Tate in Detroit, Baldwin will start opposite Harvin and should, at the very least, match the number of targets he had last year. Russell Wilson’s ability to extend plays is a good thing for everyone in the Seattle passing game (Harvin included), so we can expect Baldwin to pick up some added value from that facet of the offense. Like Harvin, though, this is driven largely by ADP. Baldwin is coming off the board in the 11th or 12th round in an average 12-team draft. That’s a pittance for a player who has a key role on what should be one of the best teams in the league. There’s reason to believe the Seahawks will throw more this year, especially now that they’re entering year three of the Russell Wilson era. Don’t forget about Baldwin when you’re throwing darts at receivers in the late rounds of your draft.
QB: Russell Wilson, Tarvaris Jackson, Terrelle Pryor
RB: Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, Christine Michael, Demitrius Bronson
WR: Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Ricardo Lockette, Kevin Norwood, Paul Richardson
TE: Zach Miller, Luke Willson
If you have a friend who was exiled in Siberia during the 2013 football season, and they ask you how Seattle was able to win the Super Bowl, just show them the above stats. In a league where your ability to throw the ball is paramount on offense, no team was better at stopping opponents from throwing successfully than the Seahawks. Pro Football Focus rated the Seahawks as the best defense in the league, but that alone doesn’t communicate how dominant this unit was. There was a wider gap in Pro Football Focus’ rankings between the Seahawks and the second-ranked Chiefs than there was between the Chiefs and the ninth-ranked Ravens. Seattle ranked fourth in run defense, first in pass rush and first in pass coverage. Yeah, they were that good.
Most of that dominant group that racked up 45 sacks and 39 takeaways is back this season. That includes defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, who combined for 16.5 sacks last year; defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel, the heart of the run defense; middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who led the team with 120 tackles, also had five sacks, and is a top 10 defensive player in IDP leagues; and quite possibly the league’s best secondary. While the Seahawks lost Brandon Browner to the Patriots, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are back. That’s the heart of a unit that was the driving force behind the Seahawks allowing just 172 passing yards per game last year.
In addition to Wagner, Thomas, Avril, Bennett, Chancellor and Sherman are worthy of IDP consideration. As a team, this should be the first defense off the board, regardless of scoring system. Seattle should once again be a dominant defensive unit in 2014.