The Burning Question: Michael Turner's Fantasy Value

Jason BraineContributor IJune 28, 2009

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 28:  Running back Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons looks for room to run while taking on the St. Louis Rams at Georgia Dome on December 28, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Falcons defeated the Rams 31-27.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Michael “the Burner” Turner's fantasy stock has taken a big increase this year.  Last year he came out of nowhere and burned many defenders. Turner had 376 carries for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns. 

He is projected as high as the No. 2 overall based on last years performance. The question is can he do it again?

Last season the Falcons had one of the easiest run schedules in the League. 

Turner racked up 1,397 of his yards against nine teams in 12 games.  Out of those nine teams the highest ranked defense against the run was the Saints at 17th. 

Last season Turner only faced four teams with a defense ranked in the top 15.

In those four games in those he had only one touchdown, which was against Minnesota (ranked first). In those same four games, Turner also only had one game of over 100 yards, which came against his old team the San Diego Chargers (ranked 11th).

The other two teams on that list, Turner faces again. The Chicago Bears will play in Atlanta in week six. The Philadelphia Eagles will also play in Atlanta week 13.

Last Year the Bears were ranked fifth against the run and Turner only had 54 yards against them. The Eagles were ranked fourth and against the run; Turner had just less than 60 yards (58).

This season the Falcons have one of the toughest run schedules in the league.

Turner will only face four teams this season with defenses that are ranked worse than 15th in the league.

He will face the Saints (ranked 17th), the Buccaneers (ranked 19th), the Panthers (ranked 20th), and the Bills (ranked 22nd).

This year, in Weeks two and 10, Turner will face the Carolina Panthers.

Last year, the Panthers were ranked 19th against the run. In the first game against Carolina, Turner rushed for a 56 yards and one touchdown. In the second game, he rushed for 117 yards and four touchdowns.

In Weeks Eight and 14, the Falcons will play the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints were ranked 17th against the run last year. In the first game last year, Turner rushed for 96 yards and one touchdown. In the second game, Turner rushed for 61 yards and one touchdown.

In Weeks 12 and 17, the Falcons will play against Tampa Bay.

In the first game, which was at Tampa Bay last year, Turner only rushed for 42 yards. In the second game at Atlanta, Turner rushed for 152 yards and scored a touchdown.

This year, Turner will also face the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, New York Giants, and New York Jets. All of these teams, along with the Eagles and Bears, were ranked in the top 10 against the run.

Turner's run schedule is much tougher than last year. With how he performed against the tough run defenses the outlook for ’09 is not as bright. 

However, the Falcons did make a key addition to their offense with TE Anthony Gonzales. 

Also with this being Matt Ryan’s second year some of the pressure will be taken off Turner. He will not face as many eight men boxes in the ’09 season. 

Many argue that as Matt Ryan got better last year that Turner got better. I want to take a look at the five worst performances Turner had in ’08. And, compare them to Ryan’s stats. 

Week Two at Tampa Bay (ranked 19th against the run)
Turner had 14 carries for 42 yards. A rushing average of 3.0.
Ryan completed 13 of 33 passes yards for 158 yards and 2 interceptions.

Week Four at Carolina (ranked 20th)
Turner had 18 carries for 56 yards. A rushing average of 3.1.
Ryan completed 21 of 41 passes for 158 yards.

Week Six Chicago (ranked fifth)
Turner had 25 carries for 54 yards. A terrible 2.2 average.
Ryan completed 22 of 30 passes for 301 yards, and 1 touchdown.

Week Eight at Philadelphia (ranked 4th)
Turner had 17 carries for 58 yards.  A rushing average of 3.4.
Ryan completed 23 of 44 passes for 277 yards with 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.

Week 14 at New Orleans (ranked 17th)
Turner had 18 carries for 61 yards and 1 touchdown. A rushing average of 3.4.
Ryan completed 24 of 33 passes for 315 yards with 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. 

Here are Turner’s five best performances.

Week One Detroit (ranked 32nd)
Turner had 22 carries for 220 yards, and 2 touchdowns. A rushing average of 10.0.
Ryan competed 9 of 13 passes for 161 yards and 1 touchdown.

Week Five at Green Bay (ranked 26th)
Turner had 26 carries for 121 yards, and 1 touchdown. A rushing average of 4.7.
Ryan completed 16 of 26 passes for 194 yards, and 2 touchdowns.

Week Nine at Oakland (ranked 31st)
Turner had 32 carries for 139 yards, and 0 touchdowns. A rushing average of 4.5.
Ryan completed 17 of 22 passes for 220 yards, and 2 touchdowns.

Week 15 Tampa Bay (ranked 19th)
Turner had 32 carries for 152 yards, and 1 touchdown. A rushing average of 4.7.
Ryan completed 15 of 23 passes for 206 yards, and 2 interceptions.

Week 17 St Louis
(ranked 29th)
Turner had 25 carries for 208 yards, and 1 touchdown. A rushing average of 8.3.
Ryan completed 10 of 21 passes for 160 yards with 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions.

While in weeks two and four if Ryan was better we would have seen an increase in Turner's numbers. 

While the games against Tampa Bay made both his best and worst performances. Ryan only had around 50 more yards, and still had two interceptions.

The big difference maker in week two vs. 15 is the location of the game.

Weeks six, eight, and 14 were some of Turner's worst. They were also Ryan’s best as far as passing yards. 

All of Turners best games were against some of the worst Run defenses in the league.

Tampa Bay is the only one he will face again.

Even though they are in the same division Turner will only play them once during the fantasy season since the second game is played in week 17.  The good news is Week 17 will be the away game. 

If you draft Turner No. 2 overall after Adrian Peterson.  With the expectation that Turner will repeat his ’08 performance. Be prepared to be disappointed.

With the addition of Tony Gonzales, and Matt Ryan getting better look for Turner to still carry the ball over 300 times. More around 325-350 carries verses the 376 carries last season.

Also, with the tough run schedule look for his rushing average to drop from 4.5 yards to around 3.5-3.9 yards a carry.

He should have around 1,300-1,400 yards.

Michael Turner's fantasy playoff schedule is:

Week 14 New Orleans (ranked 17th) at home.

Week 15 at New York Jets (ranked 7th).

Week 16 Buffalo (ranked 22nd) at home.

Look for his touchdown number to drop now that they have another red zone threat in Tony Gonzales.  I project Turner to have around 11—14 touchdowns this season.

Turner is not a big part of the passing offense either. Last season he had 6 receptions for 41 yards. 

Turner should still be a top five running back this season. However Matt Forte, and MJD are better options to consider before drafting Turner.