The Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2013, and the nucleus is in place to make another run at the title this season. Could Seattle be the first team to repeat as champions since New England in 2003-04? It wouldn't be a shock.
The Seahawks have the best defense in the NFL, a winning quarterback on the rise in Russell Wilson and a dominating home-field advantage. But can they count on their best offensive player this season in Marshawn Lynch? It's something Fantasy owners want to know as well.
Lynch quieted retirement talks when he showed up for mandatory minicamp in June. He might not be happy with his contract, but at least he's with the team. For now.
The reason we're worried about Lynch is that his workload from 2013 could catch up with him. He had 403 total touches last year through the Super Bowl, and running backs with 400-plus touches tend to struggle the following year (read this for a more detailed breakdown on that subject).
We're concerned Lynch, who was the No. 4 Fantasy running back in standard leagues last season, won't be the same this year. Seattle has quality replacement options if Lynch misses any time in Christine Michael and Robert Turbin, but they are unproven, leaving a level of uncertainty. I've been touting Michael as a sleeper since the Super Bowl, but we just don't know if he would be as good as Lynch.
A downturn for Lynch could mean more passing for Wilson, who has a revamped receiving corps. Golden Tate is gone as a free agent to Detroit and Sidney Rice is coming off a torn ACL. But Percy Harvin is healthy, Doug Baldwin is in line for a bigger role and rookie Paul Richardson brings even more speed to the field.
It will be interesting to see how it all plays out and Lynch could be the difference-maker in another Super Bowl run for the Seahawks. For Fantasy owners, drafting Lynch in the first round could also determine your playoff fate.
Bounce-back candidate ... Percy Harvin
The Seahawks won the Super Bowl with basically no contribution from their big offseason acquisition prior to last season. Harvin appeared in one game in the regular season because of hip surgery and had one catch for 17 yards in Week 11. He made some plays in the postseason, including an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl, but now he's ready to shine.
He's 100 percent healthy this offseason and Fantasy owners should count on him as a No. 2 receiver. He's worth drafting in Round 5 in the majority of leagues. Just look at his resume.
Harvin's best season in the NFL was 2011 with the Vikings when he had 87 catches for 967 yards and six touchdowns and 52 carries for 345 yards and two touchdowns. He's capable of 1,200 total yards and eight touchdowns with the Seahawks -- and he can do it all from the backfield, lining up in the slot or split out wide.
There's obvious risk of injury since he's played only 10 games the past two years in the regular season, but Seattle is confident he's ready to go. As long as he doesn't get hurt prior to Draft Day, you can expect a bounce-back year in a big way.
Just a No. 2 quarterback ... Russell Wilson
There's a lot to like about Wilson, but I don't consider him a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback. He's just a No. 2 quarterback in standard leagues with the chance to start on occasion.
Wilson's production has been identical the first two seasons of his career, having finished No. 9 in Fantasy points both years. But last year, for example, he was better than Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers. Are you drafting Wilson ahead of any of those guys? I doubt it.
The Seahawks have already said they don't expect Wilson to throw 500 times. He had 407 passes last year for an average of 192.8 yards per game. Keep in mind 28 teams attempted at least 500 passes last year, including nine with at least 600 attempts.
Wilson could throw more if the running game falters, but not dramatically enough to affect his output. He's just too inconsistent, as last year proved with seven games with 20 or more Fantasy points and eight games with 16 points or less -- including four in a row to close the regular season.
Where he thrives is his lack of turnovers (19 career interceptions) and rushing prowess (an average of 514 yards per year with five total touchdowns). He's also been great at home or indoors. Wilson had at least 18 Fantasy points in eight of 12 games at home or indoors last season and seven of 11 as a rookie in 2012. This year, Wilson has two games indoors along with his eight home games, so plan accordingly.
I have no problem if someone wants to draft Wilson as a starter, but I like him as a top backup. I plan to target Wilson if I draft a questionable No. 1 option like Robert Griffin III, Jay Cutler or Nick Foles. He's a great value pick in the later rounds.
Sleeper receiver ... Doug Baldwin
|Marshawn Lynch||337 (301 car., 36 rec.)||43.4%|
|Robert Turbin||85 (77 car., 8 rec.)||11.0%|
|Golden Tate||67 (3 car., 64 rec.)||8.6%|
|Doug Baldwin||52 (2 car., 50 rec.)||6.7%|
|Zach Miller||33 rec.||4.3%|
Baldwin isn't someone who is going to start for you week in and week out. He might even be someone you draft or add via waivers and then drop in a week. But at some point in the season Baldwin will be a quality Fantasy option.
He played well in 2013 with 50 catches for 778 yards and five touchdowns. That makes two of three years with at least 50 catches, 775 yards and four touchdowns in his career. He also was a standout during the NFL playoffs with 13 catches for 202 yards and one touchdown in three games.
Baldwin is expected to replace Tate in the starting lineup, and Tate led the Seahawks with 64 catches for 898 yards and five touchdowns. So it's not like Baldwin will make a dramatic leap, but he can still post useful stats.
I like Baldwin with a late-round flier in deep standard leagues and as a No. 5 receiver in PPR formats. He's someone to keep your eye on during the season.
The Seahawks open the season with three consecutive games against playoff teams from last year in Green Bay, San Diego and Denver, although the Packers and Broncos are at home. You're going to love the Seahawks in Week 6 against Dallas at home and Seattle avoids facing the tough defenses in Arizona and San Francisco until Week 12. The downside to that is the Seahawks close the season against the Cardinals, 49ers and Rams in five of their final six games, with the Eagles in Week 14 the lone non-NFC West matchup.
Training camp battles
Who's the No. 2 running back? Turbin is listed ahead of Michael on the depth chart behind Lynch, but ignore that on Draft Day for Fantasy purposes. If Lynch is out for any reason, Michael will have the higher ceiling. Turbin will likely play on passing downs, but Michael would get the call for rushing plays. He's a great sleeper to target with a late-round pick and the handcuff for Lynch.
What's the pecking order at receiver? The Seahawks added two rookies this season in Richardson and Kevin Norwood and it will be interesting to see how they work into the mix. Harvin is locked into the No. 1 role and we expect Baldwin to be No. 2 ahead of Rice, who could be limited with his knee. Jermaine Kearse is someone to monitor, but Harvin and Baldwin are the only receivers to consider on Draft Day in the majority of leagues. Richardson is worth a late-round pick in dynasty and rookie-only formats because his speed will be fun to watch.
Who's the No. 2 quarterback? We hope Wilson never leaves the field, but in case he does the Seahawks could turn to Tarvaris Jackson or Terrelle Pryor, who was added this offseason via trade from Oakland. Pryor will push Jackson for the No. 2 job, but we expect the Seahawks to lean toward Jackson based on his experience. Either way, this is a scenario we never want to see, so hopefully Wilson starts all 16 games.
Since I'm expecting Lynch to struggle, I'm counting on Michael to shine. He will pick up the slack if Lynch suffers from the Curse of 400. Michael is the No. 1 sleeper in Fantasy Football this season.
It's blind faith with Michael since we didn't see him do much last year (18 carries for 79 yards in just three games) and was a healthy scratch for 13 games. But he showed plenty of promise in the preseason with 16 carries for 89 yards in one outing and 11 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown in another.
Coach Pete Carroll has already called Michael a breakout candidate, and we agree. He's someone to target with a late-round pick in all leagues, and he could pay huge dividends if Lynch is forced to miss any time.