As the mercury rises and we inch closer to the open of training camps, our resident fantasy football sickos, Brad Evans and Liz Loza, will profile their favorite booms/busts of every NFL team. Today’s topic: The Epilepsy Triggering Neon Green Birds.
TRUE or FALSE: Highly publicized rookie Rashaad Penny takes the NFC by storm and finishes inside the RB top-20?
Brad – TRUE. This time each year coaches and players spin exaggerated tales of impeccable BMIs, inevitable breakout seasons and extraordinary physical feats. Every piece of hyperbole should be taken with an accepting sarcastic nod, but occasionally there’s truth embedded in such declarations. For example, take Pete Carroll’s double-downed admission Penny is slated to be Seattle’s three-down back. Seahawks brass shelled out a coveted first-round pick on the kid after all.
Penny is a budding fantasy star. Though many draft pundits pegged the rusher to tumble into the second or possibly third rounds, GM John Schneider’s bold investment will likely lead to instant dividends. The former Aztec isn’t Marshall Faulk or far worse, Ronnie Hillman/Donnel Pumphrey, revisited, but he does possess some supernatural talents. He’s a devastating multi-dimensional producer who last year tallied an unreal 4.47 YAC per attempt, No. 1 among all FBS backs according to Pro Football Focus. Penny also ranked No. 1 in elusive rating, No. 1 in percentage of runs not tackled on first contact, No. 7 in breakaway percentage and forced a defender whiff on 29.7 percent of his rush attempts. His power/speed combo, fast-churning wheels (4.46 40-yard) and ideal frame (5-foot-11, 220 pounds) signal an immediate hefty workload. Though glowing in several areas, he isn’t without faults. His upright running style exposes lower extremities and his struggles in pass pro must be remedied.
Seattle’s permeable offensive line, which ranked No. 31 last season in run blocking according to Football Outsiders, and projected leaky defense raise concern. Still, with the club committed to a conservative approach under OC Brian Schottenheimer, Penny should net 270 touches, at a minimum. I’m not buying the buzz surrounding Chris Carson. You don’t spend a top pick on a committee back, period. Roughly 1,250-1,350 total yards with seven touchdowns is on the agenda for Penny Year 1.
Liz – FALSE. The excitement surrounding Penny’s talent is absolutely warranted. A big-bodied bruiser with 4.46 speed and crazy elusiveness deserves extra attention… especially when he’s drafted in the first round… and extra-especially when that team has demonstrated a fondness for a single RB backfield. But as good as Penny is or will be, his most glaring deficiency is pass protection. That’s not ideal for a team whose QB was sacked 43 times last year.
Whether you’re buying into Pete Carroll’s unending platitudes regarding Penny’s remarkable “comfort” as a pass blocker (also, welcome to any Carroll answer ever) or believe in the talents of new o-line coach Mike Solari, there’s still the issue of Chris Carson. Back to health and reportedly donning 10 pounds of added muscle, Carson has impressed throughout the offseason, seeming motivated to recapture the starting gig.
Before going down four games into 2017 (leg), the then-rookie managed 267 scrimmage yards and 1 TD on 56 total touches. According to Seattle Time scribe Bob Condotta, he’s also the favorite to top the depth chart heading into camp. Considering both the number of injuries and lack of consistency that the Seahawks have endured, it makes sense they’d lean towards insuring their newest and shiniest toy with a guy they drafted in the seventh round. I’m not saying that Penny won’t be a standout at the position. I’m just saying it won’t happen immediately.
OVER or UNDER 34.5 total touchdowns for Mr. Ciara, Russell Wilson, this season?
Liz – UNDER. Wilson’s 2017 effort was nothing short of heroic. Scoring a league-high 34 passing TDs while taking over 40 sacks for the fifth consecutive season, the dual-threat QB has certainly unlocked elite fantasy status. Duplicating those numbers in 2018, however, will be nearly impossible.
While the TDs were there for Mr. Unlimited, his completion percentage plummeted to 61.3 (#36) and his YPA hit a career-low. Perhaps offseason o-line tweaks and the presence of a competent backfield will buoy Wilson’s efficiency, but the absence of red zone weapons like Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham (who together accounted for 47 percent of Wilson’s passing scores) certainly poses a challenge. I’d be surprised if he clears 30 total TDs on the season.
Brad – OVER. Unlike his dad-at-your-sister’s-wedding dance moves, Wilson is exceptionally smooth and steady when it comes to fantasy production. Since entering the league in 2012, he’s finished 9, 8, 3, 3, 11, 1 in total points scored at the quarterback position. Though it’s a slight stretch to think he’ll repeat as QB king – Daunte Culpepper and Drew Brees are the only passers to accomplish the feat in consecutive years since 2000 – his odds of eclipsing the proposed TD number are favorable. Most pundits believe the ‘Hawks will regress harshly on defense. Losing Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Sheldon Richardson this offseason left a noticeable mark. Their exits, though, could be Wilson’s statistical gain. Schottenheimer is committed to running the ball, but likely negative game scripts are sure to press the decorated QB into shootouts. He could total 600-plus pass attempts for the first time in his career.
Rushing touchdowns are always unpredictable, but Wilson has crossed the chalk on the ground at least four times each of his past three seasons. Total it up and 35-36 touchdowns are very attainable.
BOOM goes the dynamite! Based on their trending ADPs which Seahawk will drop the biggest bomb on the fantasy competition: Doug Baldwin (27.7 ADP, WR10), Brandon Marshall (236.8, WR91), Tyler Lockett (147.1, WR61) or Chris Carson (147.8, RB55)?
Brad – TYLER LOCKETT. A prototype post-hype sleeper, Lockett is worth lay a small stack of chips on in deeper drafts this August. According to Matt Harmon’s exceptionally detailed Reception Perception, the wideout posted a phenomenal 72.2 percent success rate versus man coverage (WR7) in 2017 along with above average conversions on six routes — nine, out, curl, comeback, screen and flat. He also checked in at WR15 in averages separation yards per target. In other words, Lockett is more than the one-trick go-route pony some describe him as. There are multiple branches on the tree.
To be fair, Lockett has never cracked the WR top-50 in his three-year career. He’s shown flashes, but his limited target share along with Seattle’s string of generally unyielding defenses hindered his statistical growth. However, with the ‘Hawks rebuilding on D and Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham no longer in the mix (175 total targets in ’17), this could be the speedster’s year to finally surpass 18 percent in target share. I’m not worried about washed up Brandon Marshall. No longer handicapped by a leg injury, he’s a terrific bench stash. Baldwin is the undisputed No. 1, but if everything goes Lockett’s way an output around 55-750-6 is fathomable.
Liz – DOUG BALDWIN. Bet you thought I was going to tout Tyler Lockett? He certainly has (long-awaited) break-out appeal, but I’ll let Harmon sing the praises of Seattle’s hopeful No. 2 WR.
Instead, I’m digging in on Baldwin’s potential return to fantasy greatness. His TD total may have dipped since 2015, but last year he was remarkably efficient in the red area of the field. Even with Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson’s copious red zone opportunities, the steadfast Baldwin scored 8 times on just 10 end zone looks. Plus, let’s not forget that 11 of Baldwin’s 14 scores in the aforementioned 2015 season came after Graham tore his patellar tendon.
There are now 170 looks up for grabs in Seattle. Baldwin, who averaged over 7 targets per game in 2017, could easily see 140 targets this coming year. Given his consistent hands and lack of drops (5 in 2017, 4 in 2016), that means he could flirt with a career-high number of receptions. After all, the Seahawks defense has gone from Boom to giving opposing offenses much more room. Plus, Wilson’s options are limited. Brandon Marshall isn’t a lock to make the team, and Lockett remains largely unproven.
Bottom line: Baldwin is the team’s undisputed WR1 and he’s once again in a position to produce top-eight numbers for fantasy footballers.