Strongly consider Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson as a top pick for fantasy football 2017.
Seattle’s backfield is more crowded than the Pike Place Fish Market on Good Friday. The offseason addition of Eddie Lacy has made for cramped quarters. And no, that’s not intended as a dig at Lacy’s girth, though his weight issues nevertheless have to be considered when assessing the Seahawks’ RB situation.
|Eddie Lacy||RB27||RB24||Kick the tires|
|Thomas Rawls||RB44||RB55||Shop elsewhere|
We all had a good chuckle at the internet meme from a few years ago that showed an overweight Lacy in training camp alongside Bigfoot in a similar pose. If Lacy is thought of as the NFL’s version of Sasquatch, it’s only fitting that he wound up in the Pacific Northwest. Lacy’s Twitter account reveals a fondness for what he calls “China food,” but while Lacy’s bulk has occasionally helped him flatten defenders like moo shu pancakes, it also might be at least partly responsible for the ankle and soft-tissue injuries that have plagued the burly back in recent years. He played only five games last season due to an ankle injury that required surgery. Lacy missed just two games in his first three seasons with the Packers, though he often played at a diminished capacity because he was hurt. Lacy’s weight is a moving target, but if he continues to play at upwards of 240 pounds, he has to be considered a significant injury risk due to the extra stress on his joints.
A healthy Lacy is a hell of a player, though. He ran for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, punched in 24 touchdowns over that span and demonstrated surprising competency as a pass catcher. If his body cooperates, Lacy could spearhead the Seahawks’ power-running game in much the same way Marshawn Lynch once did. But we haven’t seen Lacy at his best since 2014, and his Fantasy Football Calculator ADP of RB27 reflects the market’s uncertainty about him. I don’t consider him a steal, but at that price, I’m at least interested.
Hand and shoulder injuries limited C.J. Prosise to six games as a rookie, but what we saw of him was tantalizing. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry on 30 attempts and caught 17 of 19 targets for 208 yards, including 80-yard and 87-yard receiving games. A former receiver at Notre Dame, Prosise has the potential to be an electric passing-down contributor. But as with rookie RB Christian McCaffrey of the Panthers, it seems a stretch to project big receiving totals for a running back playing with a quarterback who traditionally hasn’t thrown to his RBs much. In his five NFL seasons, Russell Wilson has averaged 59.6 completions to backs, and none of his RBs have had more than 37 receptions in a season. On the bright side, Wilson’s 72 completions to running backs last year beat his previous career high by 13, and Prosise might be the sort of weapon who can force a permanent change in the way Wilson conducts business. Prosise is intriguing at his ADP of RB49, though I think his 2017 ceiling might be lower than his most ardent supporters suggest.
With Lacy and Prosise aboard, Thomas Rawls appears to be a third wheel. His ADP of RB44 is an indication that drafters haven’t forgotten Rawls’ 2015 season, when he averaged a league-high 5.6 yards per carry in place of the injured Lynch. But Rawls averaged just 3.2 yards per carry last year, and Pat Thorman of Pro Football Focus (@Pat_Thorman) recently noted that Rawls got 32% of the Seahawks’ backfield touches in 2016 but scored only 24% of the backfield’s fantasy points. It’s hard to imagine the former undrafted free agent from Central Michigan pushing past Lacy or Prosise on the depth chart.
|Russell Wilson||QB8||QB5||Strongly consider|
An offseason article by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham (@sethwickersham) revealed that Russell Wilson is viewed as something of a teacher’s pet by members of the Seattle defense, and especially by loquacious cornerback Richard Sherman. Perhaps Sherman should have a word with A.J. Bouye and Joe Haden, top CBs who’ve spent the entirety of their careers harnessed to atrocious quarterbacks.
Granted, Wilson had the worst fantasy showing of his five-year career last season, finishing QB11 despite throwing for a career-high 4,219 yards. He threw only 21 touchdown passes and had a career-low TD percentage of 3.8%. But Wilson should get at least a slight bounce in those categories, and while it’s probably unrealistic to think he’ll match the 34 touchdown passes he threw in 2015, something more in line with the 26.5 touchdown passes he averaged over his first four seasons is entirely reasonable. Wilson is also due for a bump in rushing yardage. He’s averaged 537.8 rushing yards per season but plummeted to 259 last year, due largely to lower-body ailments.
Wilson has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in each of the past two years, and 4,000 seems like a reasonable expectation for 2017. The Seahawks have made noise about wanting to run more, but they were close to league-average in run/pass frequency in 2016 and were the fourth run-heaviest team in the league in 2015. It’s not as if pass-happiness was the reason Wilson topped 4,000 yards in those two seasons.
Wilson’s ADP is QB8 Over his career, he’s finished QB10, QB8, QB3, QB3 and QB11. I have him ranked QB4, paired with Andrew Luck on a tier just below the Rodgers-Brady-Brees tier. I generally don’t draft quarterbacks early, but Wilson is awfully tempting at his current price.
|Doug Baldwin||WR11||WR10||Pay respects|
It’s sort of amusing that last year, coming off a 14-touchdown season, Doug Baldwin’s ADP was WR26, but after a season in which his TD total was cut in half, his ADP is now WR11. I get it, though. Baldwin’s 94 catches and 1,128 yards last season were career highs, and after consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, he’s built trust with the fantasy community. Baldwin has catch rates of 75.7% and 75.2% over the last two years, which will be hard to top, but his 2016 target total (125) should hold steady. Baldwin is typically coming off the board at the top of the third round in 12-team drafts, which is more than a fair price.
Tyler Lockett broke his fibula and tibia on Dec. 25 (merry freakin’ Christmas, eh?), but the Seahawks are optimistic that he’ll be ready for Week 1. Lockett can be electrifying with the ball in his hands, particularly as a kick returner, but he’s averaged just 4.4 targets a game over his career and has finished each of his first two seasons with fewer than 70 targets. It’s hard to imagine a significant uptick in Lockett’s passing-game usage this year. The Seahawks probably won’t want to put more on his plate since he’s coming off a major injury, and they’re unlikely to relieve him of his return duties since he’s so special in that capacity. Lockett’s ADP of WR64 isn’t exorbitant, but I’m struggling to see the potential benefit of spending a late-round pick on him.
Pro Football Focus graded Jermaine Kearse 110th out of 115 qualifying wide receivers last season and recently speculated that he isn’t assured a roster spot. The oft-injured Paul Richardson, a second-round draft pick in 2014, hasn’t had more than 29 regular-season catches in any of his three years with the team, but he had 15 receptions for 213 yards and two TDs in Seattle’s final four games (playoffs included) last season and could squeeze Kearse out of the starting lineup. The 6-0, 183-pound Richardson offers 4.4 speed, but a starting duo of Baldwin and Richardson would be among the smallest in the league, if not the smallest. Richardson is undraftable in all but the deepest leagues. It’s not inconceivable that he could become fantasy-viable, but that path isn’t a clear one, since it’s hard to see him getting a target share that would make him playable. Kearse is completely untouchable. Rookies Amara Darboh and David Moore are decent bets to earn roster spots but are unlikely to factor.
|Jimmy Graham||TE5||TE3||Enjoy the discount|
Jimmy Graham is nearly 20 months removed from the devastating knee injury he sustained in 2015. Few players have made successful comebacks from torn patellar tendons, but Graham didn’t miss a game last season, had 923 receiving yards and averaged a career-high 14.2 yards per catch. He’s 30 now, and we don’t see displays of his jaw-dropping athleticism as frequently as we did during his heyday with the Saints, but Graham is still a stud. The question is whether Seattle can get him more involved. Discounting his learn-the-ropes rookie season, Graham averaged 8.8 targets a game during his stay in New Orleans. He’s averaged 6.2 targets a game in two years with Seattle. Still, Graham arguably has less target competition than Washington’s Jordan Reed, Graham has the more illustrious track record by far, and Graham is arguably less of an injury risk than Reed, whose extensive injury history includes multiple concussions. Yet Reed has an ADP of TE3, while Graham is TE5 and is going a round and a half later, on average. Graham might not be the fantasy goliath he was earlier this decade, but he’s a nice value at his sixth-round ADP.