As the Seahawks look to wrap up the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs this week, the Fantasy Football season has ended for most participants. Sure, there are those stragglers who may still be playing in Week 17 Super Bowls, but the tradition is to finish in Week 16 for most players, in order to avoid situations where players are rested or held out. If you’ve been reading our coverage here all year long, you are hopefully still celebrating a 2013 Fantasy championship.
Many Fantasy Football players are already looking ahead to the 2014 season, no matter whether they play in yearly, keeper or dynasty formats. In all of those types of leagues, Marshawn Lynch will remain a top running back. Through 16 weeks this year, Lynch was the fifth-highest scoring Fantasy running back on NFL.com with 223.20 standard points, and he remains an ultimate model of consistency, durability and reliability for Fantasy owners.
Annually, Fantasy pessimists have pointed to Lynch’s physical style of play as a reason for a possible decline in production. Yet such theories often prove to be nothing but unfounded conjecture, and concerns about him not contributing enough in PPR formats often fall by the wayside as well. Lynch has missed only one game in the last four seasons and has registered over 1,100 rushing yards with double figure touchdown totals in each of the last three campaigns. The TD totals make him a prime No. 1 Fantasy RB in any format (even PPR), as his incredibly consistent production in that department boosts him among the Fantasy leaders in any type of league.
Lynch will be 28 when the 2014 season starts, below the age 30 cutoff that many Fantasy historians cite as the number where statistical slippage starts to become apparent for many RBs. While other first round running backs sometimes seem to be more “sexy” picks than Lynch, the savvy Fantasy owner relishes Lynch’s rare reliability in a Fantasy game where it’s difficult to find safe choices. There is absolutely no solid reason to expect a Lynch decline in 2014. So yearly owners should lock him in as a first-round pick next year, and those who want to continue to win in keeper and dynasty formats will ride with him again on their ’14 rosters.
The same Fantasy pessimists who whispered about Lynch pointed to a possible sophomore jinx for Russell Wilson this year after he boosted many teams to Fantasy championships with his great late-season play in 2013. Of course, Wilson has silenced all the doubts by now, as his 259.40 NFL.com points ranked ninth among quarterbacks through 16 weeks. His 25 TD passes were right on par with his 2013 production, and his 540 rushing yards through 16 weeks bested his full 2013 totals by 51. Wilson remained a steady performer all year long, despite injuries at wide receiver and on the offensive line. He threw for more than one TD pass in eight games in the 16 Fantasy weeks this year, and his nine interceptions assured his owners that he would not hurt them often with negative point totals.
Wilson has certainly cemented himself as a solid, and sometimes outstanding Fantasy quarterback who is clearly among the No. 1 Fantasy QBs right now. Many smart Fantasy owners build up their yearly rosters with top running backs and wide receivers first, and then add the likes of a Wilson to bolster their overall outlook. Wilson will likely be a fifth to sixth rounder in most yearly leagues in ’14, and may offer even more upside than he did this year. The receiving corps has a very promising outlook for next year after Wilson certainly made the most of what he had in 2013. In keeper leagues where you can retain more than one player, Wilson certainly should merit strong “hold” consideration for the future.
What should excite Wilson’s owners and Fantasy players looking for a value pick next year is the possibility of seeing Percy Harvin back in the mix. Such a distinctive deep threat could boost Wilson’s yardage totals like never before. Reactionary Fantasy owners will likely want to avoid Harvin after he missed most of the 2013 regular season, but the experienced and confident Fantasy player will see a fine value performer. Harvin has very strong Fantasy WR2 potential for 2014, as working with Wilson could help him produce more big plays downfield than ever before.
The presence of Harvin will likely mean less defensive attention for Golden Tate, and he could he headed for his best Fantasy season yet in 2014. Tate showed a lot of promise in 2012 with his seven TD receptions, and could very well approach or pass that mark next year. As he continues to progress, he has become a much more trusted target for Wilson on key downs and you will see his PPR totals increase. Tate has significant appeal as a WR3 for next season.
Doug Baldwin reasserted himself as a notable Fantasy performer this year, and will be drafted as a WR4 candidate in the later rounds next year. He is a great depth pick in PPR leagues, and his four TDs in the past two months illustrate he is a fine pick to fill out a Fantasy WR corps. How Sidney Rice figures in the 2014 mix remains to be seen, but he is always a regular Fantasy TD threat when healthy.
Those who play in dynasty and keeper formats need to stay on top of the progress of two developing wideouts, Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette. Kearse showed a knack for the timely and important catch in his second NFL season, and his four TDs made veteran Fantasy players take notice of him. Kearse should become an even bigger part of the passing game in the next two years, and he is the type of upside performer that attracts significant attention in the longer-term Fantasy formats. Lockette is a unique big-play threat who could bust out at any time.
Dynasty leaguers will continue to stash RBs Robert Turbin and Christine Michael, as both have tremendous promise for when their opportunities to play more often come down the line. Seahawk fans already well know that Turbin is fluid and versatile, and Michael offers a very intriguing mix of power and quickness. Dynasty and keeper players should also put Luke Willson on their watch list, as the rookie tight end showed real flashes of what he can bring to the offense as a receiver in the future. Wilson is very fundamentally strong as a pass-catcher, and could be a Fantasy sleeper for 2013. Working with Zach Miller, an outstanding Fantasy TE in the past, can only help accelerate Wilson’s progress as a pro.
Of course, the Seahawks defense, which ranked second on NFL.com through 16 weeks, is expected to return mostly intact and will be the first unit off the board in most 2014 drafts. Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor will again be top choices in individual defensive player leagues, where they receive points for tackles and sacks in addition to any turnovers they scoop up. Steven Hauchka’s 140 points in 16 weeks also signaled his arrival as an elite Fantasy player at his position this year, and he’ll be a good value for anyone who nabs him next season. Some less experienced Fantasy players may overlook Hauschka, and that will be a mistake.
Listen to these exclusive audio clips as I talk some Seahawk trends and Fantasy insights with Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, and Red Bryant. Clips are courtesy of RotoExperts.com and Sirius/XM Fantasy Sports Radio.