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Fantasy Football Preview: Marshawn Lynch residing with family's elite, Percy Harvin ready to soar
When the calendar flips to mid-July, the minds of many NFL followers officially begin churning with anticipation for the new season. For Seahawks fans, a new campaign means looking forward to seeing their team defend its first-ever Super Bowl championship. Many ‘Hawk aficionados and NFL enthusiasts everywhere will also be readying to defend their Fantasy Football championships in 2014, and those of you seeking that very first title have come to the right place at the right time of year.
The Fantasy player who truly wants to gain an edge on the opposition starts preparing for their upcoming drafts in the summer, just around the time most NFL teams report to training camp. The Seahawks are just about a week away from reporting to Renton’s Virginia Mason Athletic Center, but your Fantasy training camp begins now.
We’ll open our 2014 Fantasy Football season preview series with scouting reports on the Seahawks’ offensive skill position players, and address the “Fantasy state” of their respective positions, highlighting some other key choices to target from around the league.
This year, there is a “Big Four” at running back that most Fantasy analysts and experts agree should be the very first selections off the board. In 2014 NFL.com drafts so far, the quartet of Adrian Peterson (NFL.com Standard Format Average Draft Position of 1.39), LeSean McCoy (ADP of 2.39), Jamaal Charles (3.29) and Matt Forte (4.96) have been the primary players targeted in the first four slots of the first round. In most drafts this season, you’ll see those running backs go off the board, but the order in which they are selected in any league will often be unpredictable, as they are all very closely ranked by most Fantasy experts.
In NFL.com standard leagues, though, the “Big Four” seems to expand to a “Big Five”, as the ADP of Seahawks superstar Marshawn Lynch sits at 5.69. Lynch has certainly earned such lofty status at the position with his incredible reliability and durability over the past three seasons. At running back, where many can players stress Fantasy owners out with injuries, shared carries, and unmet expectations, Lynch has offered rare peace of mind since 2011. In the past three years, Lynch has rushed for 1,200-plus yards in every season with a total of 35 touchdown runs. He has missed only one game during that span.
I termed Lynch as a Fantasy “superstar,” but he is even more than that to those who have relied on him the past three years in a virtual game where statistical reassurance is uncommon. As the Seahawks set to mobilize for 2014, there’s no doubt that he will remain a major focal point of the offense, and he has shown no apparent signs of wearing down despite his physical style and significant workload over the past three years. Lynch is the somewhat unusual standout RB who provides a real and annual sense of security to those who roster him. So many players around him at his position always seem to be changing in value and appeal, yet he remains a steady force.
Sure, the Seahawks may use Michael and Turbin more this year as they look to keep Lynch as fresh as possible and evaluate those two players for the future. But Lynch is projected to score 241.30 Fantasy points on NFL.com this year, putting him ahead of Forte in the “Big Five.” He remains a very dependable higher-level RB1 this year. If others choose to pass on him, their potential mistake can be your gain. In PPR formats, Lynch is certainly a Top 10 RB.
Michael is generating a lot of interest in Fantasy circles this year because of the incredible potential he has flashed in previous preseason outings. You could see him go as early as the ninth round in some drafts, because if the Seahawks need him to play an expanded role at any time, he could deliver some very impressive numbers. Michael has the greatest appeal, though, in keeper and dynasty leagues, as he could be a Fantasy star in the future. Turbin could easily start on many other NFL teams and would not disappoint if pressed into more service at any time.
Once the “Big Five” are off the board in NFL.com drafts, or in any league, I am strongly recommending Denver RB Montee Ball (NFL.com ADP of 19.75) as a mid-to-late first-rounder. He’s right on-par with Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy (7.19) as a young player on the rise in a powerful offense. Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell (12.07) is versatile and worth a late first-rounder, and the very exciting Giovani Bernard of the Bengals (21.41) is a top RB2 choice. Arizona’s Andre Ellington (32.11) and C.J. Spiller (Buffalo, ADP of 42.59)) offer a lot of upside, and top value picks include Jacksonville’s Toby Gerhart (60.57) and Atlanta rookie Davonta Freeman (150.32).
The Seahawks proved last season that you don’t need a statistical dominator at QB to win a championship. While statistics are the heartbeat of Fantasy Football, the same axiom rings true in the Fantasy game as it does in real football. Passing yards and TDs don’t always win titles.
Quarterback is a very deep position in Fantasy Football, and when you consider you have to start one in most leagues, you can wait until later in the draft to grab your starter. You can’t miss out on top running backs and wide receivers when they are flying off the board in the first few rounds. When you wait until the middle to later rounds, you can still grab a winner. Like Super Bowl champion QB Russell Wilson.
Wilson currently has an NFL.com ADP of 93.98, putting him in the 10th round on average and 12th overall off the board. Yet he finished eighth at the position last year with 270.18 points, and he rarely hurts those who roster him in Fantasy leagues. Wilson only threw more than one interception in a game once last year and threw for two or more TD passes in half of his games. He added 539 rushing yards as a bonus. He’s the ideal solid, and sometimes above-average Fantasy QB.
Wilson was the perfect complement to early-round superstars on many Fantasy championship squads last season, because he properly supported the elite and high-level statistical producers at other positions and did not threaten to put Fantasy teams into dangerous territory with highly adverse or negative outings. His outlook does not figure to change much this year, and can even improve with a healthy Percy Harvin giving him chances to make more big plays downfield than ever before. You should be very satisfied to grab Wilson in double figure rounds. Seasoned Seahawk watchers know he makes the timely and clutch throws and is a superb decision-maker. That translates into respectable Fantasy production overall.
If you dare to go for the big gunners early, Peyton Manning (NFL.com ADP of 11.60), Drew Brees (18.84) and Aaron Rodgers (21.13) will give you definite advantages at the position, but Matthew Stafford (52.40) could challenge them among the very best, as he will be playing in the most balanced offense of his career this year. Robert Griffin III (54.89) is a candidate for a major resurgence, and Jay Cutler (123.10) is a superb value, as he could be set for a career season under head coach Marc Trestman. The ADPs of Matt Ryan (79.55) and Tony Romo (101.18) further illustrate that you can wait on a quality QB on draft day.
Seahawk fans and Fantasy players saw glimpses of what Percy Harvin can add to the Seattle offense during the NFL playoffs last year. His potential as a playmaker with the Seahawks is very promising and rather unique when compared to his production in past years with Minnesota. Healthy and ready for training camp, Harvin will now play in the most balanced offensive attack of his career. With an opportunity for a complete camp and preseason with Seattle, and a chance to play with Wilson for a full year, Harvin could come through with some of the most exciting statistical performances we have ever seen from him.
Wilson throws a terrific deep ball, and Harvin gives him a pure deep threat like never before. Harvin can score from anywhere on the field, making big plays on short and screen passes, and we’ve already seen his additional gears as a runner. Harvin will no longer be the pure primary focus of defenses like he was with the Vikings. That means more potential for big plays than ever. Harvin could conceivably boost your Fantasy team to a victory by himself in any given week. Harvin’s current NFL.com ADP of 58.32 puts him in the sixth round. His ceiling with the Seahawks in what could be his first full season with them is very high, and may override any past concerns about his health if you select him as a WR2 and draft well for depth at the position in the later rounds.
With Golden Tate now in Detroit, Doug Baldwin’s Fantasy stock has been rising among Fantasy analysts and experts, and you’ll likely see his NFL.com ADP climb from 149.19 in the coming weeks. His strong performances in the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl stamped him as a Fantasy player to watch for 2014. He’s going to be a very popular pick as a Fantasy WR4, especially in PPR leagues, as he figures to be an even more consistent target for Wilson this season.
Sidney Rice has returned, and always makes for an optimum bye-week replacement because of his knowledge of the offense and TD potential in any given week. Rookie Paul Richardson is electric playmaker with a lot of dynasty league promise, yet I’ve saved a real Fantasy WR gem for last here.
Jermaine Kearse displayed a heck of a lot of playmaking ability when given the opportunities last year. He has a knack for making the timely play and he is tough and smart. With the Tate departure, the door has opened for another Seahawks wideout to step forward and become a bigger part of the offense. I strongly believe it will be Kearse. He has a great mix of football flair, poise and intangibles that will make him one of the top Fantasy sleepers at WR in 2014. Grab him in the final rounds and have fun watching him emerge as a guy who will threaten to crack your starting lineup pretty often this year.
Dez Bryant of Dallas has an NFL.com ADP of 13.71, and could have the highest ceiling of any player in Fantasy Football this year. He’s a surefire first-rounder who could outperform all other WRs this year. Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown (25.35) and Chicago’s Alshon Jeffery (28.07) have to be considered among the best now, and San Diego’s Keenan Allen (48.03) will cement his status as a WR1 this year. Arizona’s Michael Floyd (79.98) is a quick riser, and you will see his ADP start to shoot up soon. Denver’s Emmanuel Sanders (91.89) and Dallas’ Terrance Williams (119.44) are excellent value picks in the middle to later rounds.
Zach Miller’s value lies heavily in his blocking and as a veteran presence on a young ballclub. Yet when the matchup is right, you can still plug him in as a bye week replacement. Luke Willson certainly bears watching in dynasty leagues, as he shapes up as a future starter with his good hands and fluid style after the catch.
Jimmy Graham’s NFL.com ADP is 11.69, yet I would take the Saints megastar as early as mid first-round, since he gives you such a major advantage at a thin position. Denver’s Julius Thomas (38.37) has clearly and quickly arrived as a Fantasy standout. You can wait until the middle to later rounds for most tight ends, though. Baltimore’s Dennis Pitta (64.11) should be quite dependable this year. Minnesota’s Kyle Rudolph (97.92) should be ready to make a move into the Fantasy forefront, and San Diego’s Ladarius Green (149.56) is a later-round favorite who should see his ADP rise as the summer progresses.
Scott Engel is an 18-year veteran of the Fantasy industry and was an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association’s Hall of Fame. For more in-depth Fantasy Football analysis from Scott and his team at RotoExperts.com, register now for the Xclusive Edge Fantasy Football package. Enter promocode “rotoexpert” at checkout for a special discount.