Will this past year’s Super Bowl heroes be next year’s fantasy football heroes?
While the Seattle Seahawks are basking in the glory of winning the big one, fantasy football owners are already wondering which of the Super Bowl stars will be worthy to have on their rosters in 2014.
And while many of the Seahawks should be in line for solid to monster seasons when the 2014 campaign kicks off, some of the guys who helped Seattle win its first Super Bowl might not be as helpful to fantasy owners this upcoming year.
So here are some of the Seahawks and what their fantasy forecasts are for 2014.
Marshawn Lynch (RB)
Now might be the perfect time to sell high on Lynch while his fantasy value is at its highest point.
Lynch finished the 2013 campaign with 1,257 rushing yards, a career-high 316 receiving yards, 14 total touchdowns and plenty of Skittles. This means he has now rushed for at least 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdowns in each of the past three seasons.
But Lynch’s running style is not suited for the long-term. He never avoids or sidesteps tackles. In fact, he likes to initiate contact with defenders in a way that makes you wonder if he is a masochist. And while that style of running is highly entertaining and can be highly productive, it breaks a running back’s body down over time.
Many running backs start hitting the wall at age 28, with Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew being one of the latest examples. Jones-Drew has been a workhorse just like Lynch, but last season when MJD was 28 years old he had the fewest yards per carry of his career at 3.4. He was not the speedy bowling ball he was earlier in his career.
Tennessee’s Chris Johnson was another 28-year-old whose numbers dropped off last season. He only averaged 3.9 yards per carry, a career low, and his 1,077 rushing yards were the second-lowest total in six seasons. Always known as one of the fastest running backs and best breakaway threats in the NFL, Johnson’s longest run last year was for 30 yards.
While not all 28-year-old running backs start going into a downward spiral, the lifespan is much shorter than it is for quarterbacks, linemen, kickers and probably every other position due to the punishment they take. And guess what? Lynch will turn 28 before the season starts.
Another reason Lynch’s numbers should go down in 2014 is his talented backup, Christine Michael. The 5’10” speedster should fly by Robert Turbin on the depth chart and could take 10 touches per game away from Lynch.
Seattle would be wise to limit Lynch’s touch total to preserve his health, plus Michael is a totally different back who could be the lightning to Lynch’s thunder and give defenses another weapon to worry about stopping.
Do not misunderstand. Lynch should still get 1,000 yards and eight to 10 touchdowns in 2014. But his numbers will begin trending downward, while his chances of getting injured will begin trending upward. Trading him now in dynasty and keeper leagues would be the wise play.
Russell Wilson (QB)
Maybe fantasy owners in keeper leagues should trade Wilson while he is a Super Bowl winner and there is a .00001 percent chance that he leaves the city of Starbucks to become a baseball player for the Texas Rangers.
Wilson is not a fantasy godsend. He is a dependable quarterback who can be inserted into the No. 2 QB slot on a fantasy team. But Wilson ranked ninth in touchdown tosses and 16th in passing yards last year, so even though he is one of the most effective running quarterbacks (539 rushing yards), he still is not Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers in terms of fantasy value.
A full season with Percy Harvin could work wonders for Wilson’s fantasy worth. That would give Wilson a supreme speedster who can take five-yard passes and turn them into 50-yard touchdowns. It is a credit to Wilson’s underrated passing skills that he ranked so high in TD tosses without a true No. 1 WR last year.
Wilson’s receiving corps will likely look as different as CBS’ pregame show next season. The soon-to-be-mentioned Golden Tate could leave via free agency, and injury-prone bust Sidney Rice was already released.
Depending on how healthy Harvin is and what Seattle does during the offseason, Wilson’s average-at-best receiving crew could blossom into something better or could duck down to a Jacksonville-like level.
Can Wilson throw for 3,700 yards and 30 touchdowns and add another 600 yards on the ground? Sure he can! But Seattle is a run-first offense that will probably lose more weapons on the outside than it gains, which will not help Wilson. He will have more 150-yard passing days than 350-yard days the way the offense and roster is constructed now. Wilson is a borderline top-10 quarterback entering the 2014 season.
Golden Tate (WR)
Tate had a golden (like what I did there?) opportunity to establish himself as a No. 1 receiver this season when Harvin was out with his neck injury, and he did. Sort of.
Tate finished with 64 receptions for 898 yards (both career highs) and five touchdown catches. He played more than ever before and was targeted more than ever before, and this translated into the best fantasy campaign of his four-year career.
But there were too many times when Tate did very little, especially down the stretch, when fantasy owners needed him most. During a five-game span toward the end (games 11-15 for Seattle), Tate scored zero touchdowns and did not have one game with more than 65 receiving yards.
Tate is a free agent, so his fantasy value will be directly tied to whatever team he signs with and which quarterback ends up throwing to him. If he signs with the Detroit Lions or New England Patriots, he could become a 900-1,100-yard receiver.
If Tate takes millions to join the New York Jets and has Geno Smith throwing over his head, he could be the new Stephen Hill. And if he stays in Seattle he is looking at 800 yards and six scores.
The Seattle Seahawks defense
Seattle had the top defense in fantasy football this past season, and nobody with any sense was shocked.
The Seahawks defense led the NFL in total defense, points allowed, interceptions and turnovers. They also finished a respectable eighth in sacks and would have racked up more if they felt the need to blitz more often.
The staunch unit will probably not be the same heading into the 2014 campaign, however. The deadly tag team of pending free agents and the salary cap will cost the Super Bowl champs a defensive playmaker or two. Defensive end Michael Bennett (8.5 sacks) will command a multi-year, multimillion-dollar contract, so there is a chance he will not return.
Run-stopping lineman Red Bryant has already been pink-slipped, which saves cap room Seattle can use on Bennett but hurts the team’s run defense since Bryant was an unsung hero on early downs.
Seattle will remain a top-five fantasy defense, though. The Seahawks will still have the best secondary in the NFL. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are not going anywhere until 2015 at the earliest. And even if Seattle loses Bennett, the front seven will have playmakers along the line and at linebacker.
Seattle’s depth, speed, coaching and home-field advantage will make it a lock to be one of the best fantasy defenses entering 2014. Will the Seahawks D be as awesome fantasy-wise as they were in 2013, though? It will be difficult to repeat the performance, especially without Bennett and Brant.