As a firm believer in the idea that talent usually wins out in the NFL — and in fantasy football, by extension — I often use it to find hidden gems with a path to playing time. When a situation is murky, a deeper examination of reserve players to look for a chance of ascension tends to be fruitful.
But what happens when there is too much talent at a given position? This very well might be the case in the Seattle Seahawks backfield.
That talent you speak of …
The presumed starter, Thomas Rawls, is returning from a serious ankle fracture. He should be close to 100% entering the season, but his track record is a short, albeit productive one. The Central Michigan product is versatile and can contribute on all three downs, if needed.
The biggest concern with Rawls is whether he can handle a large load over the course of a season. If last year’s injury is anything more than a fluke, we should lean toward it being unlikely.
Insert rookies C.J. Prosise (third round) and Alex Collins (fifth round). The former is a converted wide receiver with little collegiate experience at running back. He’s a sure-handed pass catcher who can serve as an immediate third-down weapon.
Collins is a more traditional power runner and aptly earned the nickname “Beast Mode Jr.” It seems to go against conventional wisdom that a team would entrust a large workload in two rookies if Rawls falters, but that ideology must be abandoned with a Pete Carroll-coached team.
Veteran Christine Michael also warrants a mention. He has an outside chance of starting, but he hasn’t been able to put it together for more than a handful of games throughout his career.
There’s one other ball carrier to factor into the fantasy forecast: quarterback Russell Wilson. As his maturation as a passer continues, count on fewer rushing attempts. Either way, he’s still a candidate to vulture touchdowns in the red zone.
The protection of Wilson will be a major influence in determining how the third-down duties are divvied up. Collins’ inexperience as a pass protector and suspect hands should remove him from the equation. Prosise’s technique needs work, although he is an effort guy whose size (6-foot, 220 pounds) masks it.
Finally, seventh-round rookie Zac Brooks warrants a mention, even if he is a long shot to contribute.
Fantasy football outlook
Fear the hot-hand situation. This backfield is quite talented but has major question marks before things shake out.
Rawls should have the first crack at starting and seeing the most work. He’s a so-so No. 2 fantasy running back, with slightly more worth in point-per-reception leagues. Be aware there is a considerable bust factor to accept when drafting him, and a committee is expected no matter how well he plays.
Prosise is intriguing and will have a role, according to Carroll, presumed to be in the pass-catching variety, which naturally elevates his PPR value at the expense of Rawls. Draft him as an RB4 in deeper leagues and a fifth in more casual circles. Count on him being slightly overvalued, however.
Michael has no value unless he wins the starting job. Should that happen, consider his ceiling to be capped as a second fantasy runner, with far more appeal in standard scoring than reception-rewarding formats. His floor is that of a player cast to the wire during the season.
Collins would likely see the first- and second-down work should something go awry with Rawls and/or Michael. While Collins is arguably a more gifted runner, he is unlikely to see enough work to matter in 2016 single-year leagues. Treat him exclusively as a keeper sleeper in full-retention setups.
In what could amount to little more than an ironic twist, a backfield with so much raw talent may struggle to produce anyone fantasy owners can rely on with marked confidence.