Seahawks Training Camp is Time to “Compete”
The NFL season is upon us, finally. Teams have added impact free agents as well as rookies from the draft, yet only speculative conjecture can be made from prior years’ samples. Not until training camp can we finally get a sense of how 53-man rosters and depth charts will shake out. What that means for fantasy football depends on situation and team. Here, I’ll be discussing the Seattle Seahawks training camp, along with a number of things to watch for. Seattle is holding 11 practices running from July 30th to August 16th.
Can Russell Wilson get back to elite, dual-threat production?
Russell Wilson has been one of the most consistent young quarterbacks in the league to start his career, with four straight finishes inside the top-10 at the position. In 2016, however, Wilson severely underperformed his late-fourth, early-fifth round QB3 ADP (FFCalculator). Prior to 2016, Wilson had averaged nearly 103 carries for 607.5 yards and three rushing touchdowns over his first four years in the league. Those numbers accounted for a whopping 26 percent of his fantasy production. That dipped to a disappointing 72/259/1 rushing stat line (11.9%) in 2016, largely attributed to a knee injury sustained in Week 3. Assuming Wilson is able to return to his mobile self in 2017, along with a seemingly fingers-crossed hope of improved offensive line play, he should be able to rebound to production similar to what he amassed between 2012-2015.
Can the Seahawks re-establish the running game?
After ranking inside the top three in rushing attempts per game every year from 2012-2015, the Seahawks dropped off to 15th in the league at 25.7 per contest in 2016. Pete Carroll summed up the struggles perfectly earlier this offseason —
“We lost a hundred some runs last year, you know? That was basically the story. That was basically the tale why everything came about as it did. Defense had to do more stuff, we had to throw the ball more, we had to pass protect more, and all of that because the running game got knocked up … I think we’re gonna come roaring right back.” – Pete Carroll (710 ESPN) – May ’17
It’s clear that without “Beast Mode”, the Seahawks have lacked a consistent grinder to lean on. UDFA Thomas Rawls filled in nicely at the end of 2015, but suffered a serious leg injury that he seemingly rushed back from at the start of the 2016 season. Rawls fractured his fibula in Week 2 and didn’t return until Week 11. Fantasy punching bag Christine Michael shouldered some of the load in the wake of Rawls’ injury, until being cut after C.J. Prosise’s breakout performance against New England in Week 10. Little did they know that Prosise would suffer a scapula injury the following week, leaving the Seahawks backfield a complete mess.
It’s obvious that the inability of Seattle’s primary backs to remain unscathed prompted Pete Carroll and John Schneider to plunge into free agency and sign Eddie Lacy. It leaves a number of questions from a fantasy perspective that Seahawks training camp can hopefully answer in the coming weeks. What should you look for? There’s an obvious theme among the top three options in the Seahawks backfield.
— Eddie Lacy’s weight/health after offseason ankle rehab?
— Thomas Rawls’ involvement with a full offseason of health?
— Can C.J. Prosise build and ability to remain healthy?
It’s completely clear that Prosise has a firm grasp on third-down duties, as he should. A former wide receiver at Notre Dame, Prosise has the ability to create some major mismatches —
Unfortunately for Prosise, it will likely take an injury, maybe even two, to see significant work on early downs. Early indications are that Lacy has met his weight thresholds. Rawls has gotten to work through a healthy offseason. This is the competition to watch. Pete Carroll has shown in numerous situations that he will go with the more impressive player in the competition, regardless of pay. A true hot-hand approach could be taken if both enter the 2017 season healthy. With an impressive 51.5% (17/33) career touchdown rate on carries inside the five yard-line, Lacy should see the bulk of work near the goal line.
As for the bottom of the running back depth chart, the Seahawks should end up carrying four running backs on the final 53-man roster after cuts. Who could sneak in, and why does this have any significance?
This really only applies in looking at deep dynasty leagues. Some notable information for 2018. Eddie Lacy only signed a one-year contract. Thomas Rawls is a restricted free agent going into 2018. Although the cap has been increasing, tenders are getting pretty rich. There’s a real possibility Seattle could move on from both Lacy and Rawls after this year. That brings us to who could quietly be waiting in the wings for some potential opportunity come next season.
Three players stand out as potential suitors for the fourth spot — 2016 fifth-round pick Alex Collins, 2017 seventh-round pick Chris Carson from Oklahoma St. and 49ers cast-off Mike Davis. Not much can be said at this point, but keep an eye on who emerges.
Who will emerge as the No. 2 wide receiver behind Doug Baldwin?
Doug Baldwin has become a complete stud in fantasy football. I discussed Baldwin in further detail in a one-on-one discussion versus Brandin Cooks earlier this offseason. He’s the clear number one wide receiver on the team. Who then can be counted on as the WR2 in Seattle?
After a productive and efficient 2015 rookie campaign, a pair of major injuries completely derailed Tyler Lockett’s sophomore season. Lockett played through an early-season PCL injury and disastrously broke his leg near the end of the season. We were robbed of finding out whether Lockett would make the jump to more than just a best-ball-target receiver.
From there, it will be interesting to see who gets the most reps with the first-team offense in two-receiver sets between Paul Richardson and Lockett. Jermain Kearse was abysmal in 2016 and should have a pretty insignificant role, if any, in 2017. Richardson has been working with the first-team offense alongside Baldwin through the first few days of camp. Deservedly so, after showing sparks of his second-round draft pedigree down the stretch in 2016. While this play wasn’t from 2016, it shows the athleticism and ball skills that Richardson possesses.
I would give the edge to Lockett in 2WR sets, but both should see significant snaps. Seattle ran three-plus-wide receiver sets on 68.8 percent of plays in 2016. Unfortunately, Seattle’s low-volume passing offense, though having increased in attempts every season since 2012, just doesn’t have enough room to support three fantasy viable wide receivers. This especially rings true in season-long redraft leagues. Best ball formats should prove to be a different story, as Paul Richardson could be a super sneaky late-round target with solid upside.
Depth Chart watch —
Third-round pick Amara Darboh and former seventh-round pick Kenny Lawler are names to watch down the depth chart. Kearse likely won’t be cut in 2017, but come 2018, it’s highly probable he’s a cap casualty. With Richardson a free agent in 2018 as well, the door for WR3 duties in Seattle could quickly open.
Can the Seahawks get Jimmy Graham more involved near the end zone?
This is a question that people everywhere want answered. After averaging 77/950/10 over five years in New Orleans, it was fully expected Graham would jump right into a massive role in a size-less Seahawks pass-catching group. In his two years in Seattle, Graham has only been targeted a measly five times inside the 10 yard-line. Oof. During that same span, Jermaine Kearse has seen 10. Flat-out inexcusable and laughable if we’re being honest. That should change drastically heading into 2017.
Year one, Graham had to adjust to a new environment. Year two, he had to fight back from major knee surgery after sustaining a ruptured patellar tendon. His TE4 finish in both STD and PPR leagues in 2016 was actually quite impressive.
Graham and Wilson have been working extensively this offseason together. It remains to be seen whether they’ve truly developed that extrasensory perception that we’ve become accustomed to watching over the years between duos like Brady/Gronk, Rivers/Gates, Romo/Witten and Brees/Graham. With an early-sixth round ADP in both standard and PPR formats (TE5), Graham is properly priced, but holds a ceiling worthy of potential TE1 status. Time to get those touchdowns.
Will the young offensive line make strides in 2017?
After letting Russell Okung, Breno Giacomini, James Capenter and J.R. Sweezy walk, along with trading Max Unger to the Saints, the Seahawks line has been an outmatched group of young and inexperienced players. It is rare in today’s NFL for teams to commit long-term to nearly every single impact player on one side of the ball. Consequently, it has required the Seahawks to take away from a different area of the team. Obviously, it has been the offensive line. While Seattle ranks last in positional spending on the offensive line yet again ($15.96M), it is a group that Seattle has actually invested some decent draft capital on. ProFootballFocus’ 32nd-ranked line from a year ago will look to build some cohesion and build upon experience gained from 2016.
Left tackle George Fant was an absolute disaster in 2016. Who would have thought? The guy hadn’t played football since the eighth grade. Seattle added Jaguars bust Luke Joeckel to play left guard as well as to bring versatility of having experience at tackle if need be. After two position changes, Justin Britt finally settled in with a solid season as a first-year center. The right side of Seattle’s line is the biggest question mark at this point and will be determined by competition in Seahawks training camp and the preseason. Right guard will likely fill out with either free agent signee Oday Aboushi, or Mark Glowinski. 2016’s first-round pick Germaine Ifedi will duke it out with versatile rookie Ethan Pocic for right tackle. That’s the big battle to watch.
The outlook for Russell Wilson and the running game will depend highly on improvements along the line. Wilson’s fantasy upside hinges on harnessing his rushing ability. Getting sacked 41 times again isn’t an option. Having a sixth-worst time to throw (2.32s) isn’t an option. It’s time to “compete” and hope the line makes strides in 2017.