Justin Forsett a Breakout Candidate: Seattle Seahawks Fantasy Preview
After an uninspired 2009 campaign, Seattle let Jim Mora go after only one season as the Seahawks head coach, and USC head coach Pete Carroll and rookie general manager John Schneider were hired. The team’s new management duo has spent the offseason putting their stamp on the team’s roster with a flurry of personnel moves that have touched almost all aspects of the team’s roster.
Carroll takes over a Seahawks team that has been in serious decline over the past few seasons and is coming off a 5-11 season that many in the league consider overly flattering given their poor performances and lack of talent. Of the team’s five wins, two came against St. Louis and one against Detroit, the worst and second-worst teams in the league.
The Seahawks’ struggles on offense have been compounded by the team’s declining performance along the offensive line. Perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones retired in the offseason, and the team used their first-round pick on his replacement, Russell Okung. Seattle doesn’t lack talent across the line, but they haven’t jelled as a unit, partly due to injuries.
Matt Hasselbeck’s last two seasons have been marked by injuries and ineffective play. Charlie Whitehurst was acquired from the Chargers to challenge him and be the team’s future at the position. If Hasselbeck falters or the team drops out of playoff contention, Whitehurst will likely take over as the starter.
Ever since Shaun Alexander became ineffective at the end of his career, the Seahawks have struggled to run the ball. Julius Jones and Justin Forsett return and will battle former Jet Leon Washington, acquired in a trade, for playing time. They all have similar qualities, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if a bigger back is added to the roster before opening day.
The depth chart at wide receiver is littered with aging veterans and unproven youngsters. T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch are on the downside of their careers and coming off disappointing seasons in 2009. Rookie second-round pick Golden Tate and 2009 third-round pick Deon Butler will challenge them. The team also signed former USC product and Lion first-round pick Mike Williams, a reclamation project if there ever was one.
At USC, Carroll’s offenses were noted for their dynamic playmakers and outstanding offensive production. However, the Seahawks lack a true difference-maker on offense, and none of the team’s skill position players are talents that opposing defensive coordinators need to game plan for. Barring a breakout performance by a young player or a career renaissance by one of the team’s veterans, Seattle’s lack of playmakers is likely to cause them to finish amongst the league’s worst offenses in 2010.
Hasselbeck is coming off a horrendous two-year run of injuries and poor play. He has missed 11 games due to injury and has been largely ineffective when in the lineup, especially against solid defenses.
In his last 21 games, he has averaged a little over 200 yards passing per game while throwing 21 touchdowns against 27 interceptions. At thirty-four years of age (thirty-five in September), there are legitimate questions regarding how much Hasselbeck has left.
With the Seahawks in rebuilding mode, the running game full of question marks, the team’s wide receivers a mixed bag of aging veterans and unproven young players, and the new management regime trading to get Charlie Whitehurst as the team’s quarterback of the future, Hasselbeck can hardly be considered a quality fantasy option. He’s likely keeping the position warm for Whitehurst and could be on the bench by mid-season.
Whitehurst was acquired to be the Seahawks quarterback of the future, picked up from the Chargers for a swap of 2010 second-round picks plus the Seahawks third-round selection in the 2011 draft. The Seahawks apparently love his size, arm strength, and athleticism, but some offseason reports indicated that retread J.P. Losman was pushing him to be the team’s backup.
Given his lack of playing time during his four NFL seasons (no pass attempts), there’s no way of knowing how Whitehurst would perform even if he were to replace Matt Hasselbeck at some point during the season. Given that, it’s hard to even recommend him for dynasty leagues.
With a new coach in Seattle and Jones coming off two largely disappointing seasons, there was a strong possibility entering the offseason that Jones would be looking for a new team in 2010. When Pete Carroll traded for veteran running backs LenDale White and Leon Washington, Jones’ situation became even more precarious.
He got a reprieve when White was released, but Seattle’s new management is clearly looking for better options at the position. It doesn’t help that Justin Forsett is a similar player with a much lower salary.
Rumors abound that Marshawn Lynch will be in a Seattle uniform before long, and if that happens, Jones and his $2.5 million base salary will likely be on the street. Jones’ fantasy prospects for 2010 should be classified in the long-shot category.
Forsett is coming off a quality season in 2009 where he established himself as a solid change-of-pace back due to his speed and ability to make tacklers miss in the open field.
Starting in Week 10, Forsett received extensive playing time and had surprisingly solid production with 496 yards rushing, 210 receiving yards, and five touchdowns in eight games. He averaged 12.5 fantasy points per game during that stretch, which, over a full season, would translate into RB2 status.
However, given his size, Forsett’s durability is a bit of a question mark and could impact his ability to play a full season. In addition, his touches are likely to decrease once Leon Washington returns to full health. Both of those uncertainties increase Forsett’s risk factor. He should be drafted as a fantasy backup or low-end RB2.
Washington’s trade to Seattle revives his fantasy value after last season’s horrific knee injury, the emergence of Shonn Greene, and the Jets signing of LaDainian Tomlinson to replace Thomas Jones left him off the fantasy landscape in New York.
While it’s hard to count on a pass-catching running back coming off a knee injury playing in what figures to be a bad offense, the Seahawks new management team invested a fifth-round draft pick to acquire Washington, and they figure to give their acquisition an opportunity to strut his stuff once he is fully healthy.
However, he may not be ready on opening day, and if that happens, he will need to supplant Justin Forsett or Julius Jones once he returns. Monitor Washington’s injury status—if healthy, he’s worth a low-round draft pick in standard leagues and worth taking a flier on in dynasty leagues, especially in PPR formats.
Last year’s most overhyped wide receiver free agent signing was a bust in his first year with Seattle, failing to top 1,000 yards for the second year in a row and complaining about his lack of touches. He claimed during last offseason that his lack of production was partially due to a rib injury, which apparently hampered him for the first six weeks of 2009.
With an unproven offensive line, issues at quarterback, and Nate Burleson now in Detroit, Houshmandzadeh has much to overcome to get back to the solid production that he posted between 2005 and 2007. However, the Seahawks lack talent at wide receiver, he is clearly their top player at the position, and he figures to put up plenty of garbage-time fantasy points in 2010 on a team that will almost certainly struggle.
Look for a slight increase on his 2009 production, which should translate into mid-tier WR2 status.
Tate goes to a great situation in Seattle, where the second-round pick will battle veteran retread Deion Branch, 2009 third-round pick Deon Butler, and reclamation project Mike Williams for the starting spot opposite T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Seattle is clearly in rebuilding mode, and given Branch’s injury history and salary, Tate could be starting on opening day.
His offseason wasn’t without incident due to his doughnut caper, and that lack of maturity makes him more of a question mark than previously thought. However, he figures to get extensive playing time as a rookie, and his ability to make tacklers miss and gain yards after the catch are traits that were sorely lacking in Seattle in 2009.
The quarterback situation isn’t optimal, which makes Tate a better target in dynasty leagues than in redraft formats.
Branch has been a bust for the Seahawks since they traded their 2006 first-round pick to acquire him. During his four years in Seattle, Branch has averaged 558 yards receiving and three and a half touchdowns, hardly justifying his acquisition.
With the team in a rebuilding mode and having acquired T.J. Houshmandzadeh in free agency last offseason, and also wanting to find playing time for 2010 second-round pick Golden Tate and 2009 third-round pick Deon Butler, Branch will need to have a strong preseason to make the roster.
It doesn’t help matters that he is scheduled to make $5.5 million and that the team is also trying to resurrect the career of former first-round bust Mike Williams. The Seahawks are going to be behind plenty and somebody has to catch some balls, but Branch might not be around on opening day to make the most of that opportunity.
Carlson is coming off a mildly disappointing sophomore season in which he failed to improve upon a promising rookie campaign. He has a new head coach in Pete Carroll, who figures to be more imaginative on offense.
However, the offensive line remains a question mark, and if he has to pass protect as much as he did last season, his production will be impacted. Look for Carlson to post better numbers in 2010, but he will likely be a borderline fantasy starter. There is some breakout potential, though, given the team’s lack of proven talent at wide receiver.
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