QB Matt Flynn
While I was philosophizing recently on the perceived fantasy football value of a number of quarterbacks, it dawned on me that similar to Robert Griffin III having his fantasy value increased due to the performance last season of Cam Newton, Flynn’s fantasy value is taking a hit due to the poor performance of Kevin Kolb. Is that fair? What does it mean? And what does it say about us fantasy football enthusiasts in civilization? These waters don’t run very deep my friends, and I got scared so I grabbed some beers and read up on Flynn. What’s not to like about his performance in Green Bay last year (480 yards and six touchdowns in his lone start)? It also says a lot when your former team considers placing the franchise tag on you since they felt they could reap a bountiful of picks and players in a trade. The critics have called him a game manager who lacks a big arm and may not be athletic enough to be a solid starter. A 480-yard performance and you are a game manager? As Key would say, C’mon man! While Flynn isn’t going to be mentioned alongside the most athletic quarterbacks, he has enough talent to succeed. The biggest impediments to his fantasy success in 2012 are the Seahawks group of receivers and the team’s preference to pound the ball in the running game. Their top wide receiver is the injury-prone Sidney Rice and although they have several other talented receivers, none is a proven second starter. The situation is a little rosier at tight end but Flynn has nowhere near the talent that existed in Green Bay. Flynn is worth adding as low-end QB2 provided he holds off Tarvaris Jackson and Russell Wilson to open the season under center.
QB Tarvaris Jackson
In his first extensive stint as a starter since the 2007 season Jackson played as well as the Seahawks could have expected, particularly given his injury issues. He played through a partially torn pectoral muscle that hindered his throwing ability, finishing the year with a 7-7 record in the games he started. While Jackson gets points for showing his toughness and resolve, he remains a below average passer, lacking consistency and failing to show an ability to lead the team to comeback wins. Although he set career-highs in yards (3,091) and touchdowns (14) while completing a respectable 60.2% of his passes, he topped 300 passing yards just twice in 15 games, failed to top 200 yards eight times, threw 13 interceptions and fumbled nine times. Injury issues at wide receiver to expected starters Sidney Rice and Mike Williams didn’t help matters but the team ran the ball effectively and Jackson did little to exploit opposing defenses that were stacked to stop the run. Jackson will compete with former Packer Matt Flynn and rookie 3rd round pick Russell Wilson for the starting position but in the unlikely event that he wins the job, he would still be nothing more than a low-end QB2.
QB Russell Wilson
The Seahawks took Wilson in the 3rd round of this year’s draft and the expectation was that the Wisconsin product would open the season as a developmental third string quarterback. However, his performance in OTA’s, and presumably he lackluster performances of Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson, vaulted Wilson into contention for the team’s starting quarterback position in 2012. Frankly speaking, I’m not buying that. Given the huge amount of money paid to Flynn, he figures to open the season under center but given Jackson’s limitations as a starter during his time in the league, Wilson could end up starting at some point this season if Flynn falters. Wilson isn’t worth drafting but he is worth keeping a tab on in deeper leagues and two-quarterback leagues.
RB Marshawn Lynch
Considered a mid-tier to low-end RB3 heading into the season, Lynch turned in his best season as a pro in 2011, finishing the year with career-highs in rushing yards (1,204) and rushing touchdowns (12). He also recorded his best season as a receiver since the 2008 season, catching 28 passes for 212 yards and one touchdown. A talented player whose maturity and dedication were questioned in the past, Lynch emerged as the Seahawks best player and a team leader who earned his “Beast Mode” moniker with several thundering runs over the past two seasons. He was arguably the biggest fantasy surprise at running back, finishing the year ranked fifth overall on the back of a outstanding finish to the season. He was the second ranked running back from Week 9 until the end of the season, gaining 941 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground over his final nine games. Surprisingly given the state of the team’s offense, Lynch was one of the most consistent fantasy producers at running back, finding the end zone in ten of his 15 games and registering double digit fantasy points ten times. A big payday this off-season and an arrest for DUI in July (that may result in a suspension) are red flags that could impact his fantasy value in 2012. Consider him a lower tier RB1 or upper tier RB2 but lower those expectations if his DUI results in a suspension.
RB Robert Turbin
The Seahawks have been getting by with a pair of smurfs in Justin Forsett and Leon Washington as their backup running backs over the past two seasons but with the success of Marshawn Lynch, they decided this off-season to add a bigger back to the team’s roster. That player turned out to be Turbin, the team’s 4th round pick in this year’s draft. The Utah State product had a productive 2011 campaign and has solid size and enough speed to break long runs. With Lynch’s availability for all of 2012 in question due to a summer DUI arrest, Turbin may end up starting some games in his rookie season. Monitor his performance in the preseason but consider Turbin a must-have handcuff if you select Lynch in your fantasy draft. Given Lynch’s numerous off the field issues, Turbin shapes up as a solid prospect in dynasty formats.
RB Leon Washington
In the two off-seasons since acquiring Washington from the Jets prior to the 2010 season, the Seahawks have said they wanted to carve out an expanded role for him in the team’s offense. And for two straight years, it hasn’t happened even though he was signed to a four-year, $12-5-million contract during the 2011 off-season. While his recovery from a gruesome leg injury could explain his lack of use in 2010, there were no convenient explanations for his lack of touches this past season other than his performance didn’t warrant a bigger role. With Marshawn Lynch coming off a career year and rookie 4th round pick Robert Turbin likely to assume the backup position, there is little reason to suggest that will change in 2012. Washington is best left on the waiver wire unless Lynch goes down with an injury.
WR Sidney Rice
The Seahawks took a huge gamble during the 2011 off-season by signing Rice, who had missed ten games in 2010 due to microfracture hip surgery, to a five-year, $41 million deal that included $18.5 million in guarantees. After an injury-plagued 2011 in which he caught 32 passes for 484 yards and two touchdowns in nine games, Seahawks management is probably wishing they could have a do-over. Rice suffered a labrum tear in his shoulder in the preseason and then dealt with several other injuries, including a pair of concussions over three games that forced the team to shut him down for the season. Rice needed a pair of surgeries this off-season to fix his shoulder issues and with just one 16-game season in five years, the odds are long that he will play a full season in 2012. While Rice’s injuries are a big issue, his standing on the Seahawks depth chart is not. He is clearly the team’s best wide receiver and remains capable of producing another blockbuster season like he did in 2009 when he caught 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl. Matt Flynn should represent an upgrade at quarterback and help Rice’s production in 2012 but that only matters if he can stay on the field and the bottom line is that he hasn’t been able to. Consider Rice a low-end WR and not worth reaching for on draft day.
WR Golden Tate
With the release of former 1st round pick Mike Williams prior to training camp, the Seahawks opened up a spot in their starting lineup and it seems clear that Seattle would love for Tate to fill that position. Unfortunately, this seems more the case of a team handing over a starting position than a player earning it. In fact, Williams’ release is a curious and risky move given lead receiver Sidney Rice’s injury history and leaves the team open to the possibility of starting Tate and 2nd year former undrafted free agent Doug Baldwin at some point in 2012… ouch. Tate, the team’s 2nd round choice in the 2010 draft, improved upon his poor rookie season with 33 receptions for 375 yards and a pair of touchdowns but there seems little evidence that he is ready to be a consistent performer. In 27 career games, he has topped 50 receiving yards just twice, a pretty low number for a player considered to be a game-breaker coming out of Notre Dame. Tate isn’t worth owning in redraft leagues and is a marginal dynasty prospect.
WR Doug Baldwin
As an undrafted free agent out of Stanford, Baldwin wasn’t on anybody’s fantasy roster entering 2011. There probably weren’t many people that even expected him to be on Seattle’s roster on opening day. However, he ended up being the team’s main receiving weapon out of the slot early in the season and by season’s end, he was their main receiving weapon – period. Baldwin caught 51 of his 85 targets, a solid 60% completion to target percentage considering the team’s quarterback play, for 788 yards and four touchdowns. Baldwin contributed several big plays, finishing the year averaging 15.5 yards per catch. While Baldwin was a solid contributor last season, there is a reasonable case that his production was mainly due to opportunity and not his talent level. Baldwin isn’t very big and although he is reasonably shifty, he isn’t anywhere near a burner. The Seahawks would much rather have Golden Tate, Deon Butler or Kris Durham in the starting lineup and may even prefer having Tate out operate out of the sot. Monitor Baldwin’s usage in the preseason and draft accordingly. Keep in mind that his production from last season may be his upper limit, leaving little room for upside.
WR Ben Obomanu
After playing well when given an opportunity to start in 2010, Obamanu regressed last season and struggled badly when he was used in the starting lineup. With injuries keeping Sidney Rice and Mike Williams out for long stretches, Obamanu started eight games but caught five or more passes just once in those games and eclipsed 51 receiving yards also one time. If he can’t produce when the Seahawks start him, he’s not worth owning, folks. After six years in the league, Obamanu has reached his potential and isn’t worth owning in any format.
WR Ricardo Lockette
With the Seahawks decimated by injuries at wide receiver, they signed little known rookie free agent Ricardo Lockette to the active roster and dressed him for their final two games of the year. The 6’3”, 210-pound Fort Valley State product (Division II) was targeted twice in each game, hauling in a 44-yard reception against the 49ers and a 61-yard touchdown against the Cardinals. Lockette will compete for playing time against a host of other options for playing time opposite Sidney Rice in 2012 and if the team is looking for somebody to stretch the field, Lockette has a chance to earn a significant role. He is worth taking a flier on in deeper leagues.
WR Kris Durham
The Seahawks like big receivers and that is why they chose Durham in the 4th round of the 2010 draft. Unfortunately for Durham and the Seahawks, he was barely noticeable before suffering a torn labrum in November that ended his season. Durham will get a chance to crack Seattle’s receiver rotation in 2012 but will need to unseat Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Ben Obamanu, Ricardo Lockette and Deon Butler to earn some reps. Good luck with that, Kris.
WR Deon Butler
A 3rd round pick out of Penn State in 2009, Butler flashed some promise in 2010 by catching 36 passes for 385 yards and four touchdowns in limited playing time, including eight starts. However, a broken leg ended his season in Week 14 and forced the Seahawks to place him on the PUP list for the first nine games of last season. He wasn’t ready to play until Week 13 and ended up finishing 2011 with six receptions for 51 yards in five games. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has a preference for bigger receivers and that likely means Butler faces an uphill battle to make the team’s roster in 2012. Of course, it’s not like the depth chart is loaded with proven talent so there is a chance that Butler could surprise this season… just don’t bank on it.
TE Kellen Winslow
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Well, in this case, maybe not treasure but let’s just say that Winslow landed in Seattle at a bargain basement discount for the Seahawks who surrendered just a 7th round pick in order to acquire a player who has had at least 66 receptions and 730 receiving yards in five of the last six seasons. Jettisoned by new Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano because of his inability to practice on a daily basis due to knee problems, Winslow will split time in Seattle with Zach Miller and that all but ensures he will remain a backup fantasy tight end at best in 2012. While the exact pecking order has yet to be determined, it is hard to imagine that Winslow will relegate the younger, equally athletic and more adept blocker in Miller to a pure backup role. Barring an injury to Miller, Winslow is not worth owning.
TE Zach Miller
Signed by the Seahawks to a lucrative free agent contract prior to last season, Miller was basically a complete bust, having the worst year of his five-year career. After averaging over 60 receptions per season over his final three years in Oakland, he caught just 25 passes for 233 yards in 2011 and failed to find the end zone. While part of his drop in production could be blamed on the Seahawks frequently using him as a blocker on passing downs and their reliance on the ground game, Miller failed to display the big play ability he had shown in Oakland where he averaged 12.5 yards per reception from 2008 to 2010. He is waiver wire material in 2012.