|By Shawn Childs, Thursday, December 3, 2015|
The Seahawks have had the best defense in the league over the last two years. They have allowed the fewest points in each of the past three seasons, and the fewest yards in the past two. This success left them less than 1 yard away from a second straight Super Bowl title. Over the last three years, Seattle has allowed only 15.2 points per game and has won 36 of 48 regular-season games. They've made the playoffs nine times in the last 12 years with three Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl victory. Pete Carroll returns for his sixth season as the head coach (50-30). In his nine-year career as an NFL head coach, Pete has a 83-61 record with six playoff appearances and one Super Bowl title. Kris Richard was promoted from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator during the offseason. Richard has worked under Carroll since 2008. Darrell Bevell returns for his fifth year as the offensive coordinator. Bevell held the same job title from 2006-10 with the Minnesota Vikings. In 2014, Seattle's offense gained its most yards since 2007 (375.8 per game, ninth-most in the league). They scored 394 points (10th-most), which was a slight step down from the last two years (417 in 2013, 412 in 2012).
Seattle's big move in the offseason was acquiring tight end Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints for center Max Unger and a first-round pick. Graham's dominant receiving and scoring ability should provide a big upgrade to this offense. Unger is a top player at his position when healthy and is best in run blocking.
Guard James Carpenter signed with the New York Jets. James was drafted in 2011 in the first round. The 2011 first-rounder's game never developed as a run blocker. He allowed minimal damage in pass blocking last season (one sack, six QB hits and 14 QB hurries).
Cornerback Byron Maxwell has moved onto the Philadelphia Eagles. He played at a high level in pass coverage in 2013 (29 catches on 58 attempts for 356 yards and three touchdowns with four interceptions). In 2014, his first season as a full-time starter, Maxwell's game faded as he allowed a 64.7 completion rate. However, he gave up just one TD. Cary Williams will replace Maxwell in the starting lineup. Williams was only a league-average player in coverage last year after grading out just below league average in his previous three seasons. Cornerback Will Blackmon was added for depth in the secondary. He offers no real upside after seeing minimal playing time in five of his eight seasons in the league. He missed most of last season with a broken finger.
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams left to play with the Saints. Williams is at the end of his career at age 35. He didn't offer any upside in the pass rush in 2014 and provided losing value in run defense. DT Ahtyba Rubin was added to fill the void. Rubin struggled badly against the run last year and had only one sack. In 2012 and 2013, he was at least an asset against the run. Defensive end O'Brien Schofield signed with the Atlanta Falcons. He had three sacks, nine QB hits and 16 QB hurries in 2014 as a backup player. Linebacker Malcolm Smith will fight for playing time with the Oakland Raiders. The former Super Bowl MVP started last season off slowly after undergoing ankle surgery in late July. He later battled a groin injury. In 2013, he played well in run support and had some success in coverage.
Because of the Graham trade, Seahawks didn't have a first-round pick in 2015. They selected defensive end Frank Clark in the second round. Clark is a power rusher with good quickness. His pass-rushing technique needs refinement, and he needs to add some upper-body strength to help as a run defender. Frank entered the draft with some concerns about his character which were expected to lower his value. Seattle paid full price.
Wide receiver Tyler Lockett was drafted in the third round. He has elite 4.40 40 speed and ran a 4.07 20-yard shuttle. Tyler comes from a football background and is already a solid route runner. He lacks size (5 feet 10, 182 pounds), which hurts his ability to win battles in press coverage and when working the middle of the field. Lockett needs to add more strength. He could do a lot of good as a returner. His style will give Russell Wilson another deep threat with some game-breaking ability from out of the slot.
With its two picks in the fourth round, Seattle tried to beef up the offensive line with guards Terry Poole and Mark Glowinski. Poole has the strength and talent to help as a run blocker. Terry is an athletic player with a short resume. Glowinski will offer more power in run blocking. He'll become better in pass protection as he gains experience.
In the fifth, Seattle invested in CB Tye Smith. His only edge is his quickness (3.96 20-yard shuttle). But Smith has trouble staying with receivers deep down the field and can get overwhelmed by WRs with size. His tackling is well below NFL standards.
DE Obum Gwacham and center Kristjan Sokoli were both drafted in the sixth round. Gwacham is an intriguing prospect who has limited experience on the defensive side of the ball. Prior to 2014, Obum built his career as a WR. His quickness and foot speed translates well as an attacking pass rusher, but he is only 246 pounds. Gwacham needs to add more upper-body strength as well as improve his pass-rushing technique. Sokoli played nose tackle in college, but the Seahawks are moving him to the other side of the trenches. Kristjan plays with above-average strength but will obviously need some time to learn his new position.
Seventh-round safety Ryan Murphy will bring more size (6 feet 3, 214 pounds) and playmaking ability to the secondary.
Seattle Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett
The Seahawks led the NFL in rushing yards (2,762) and rushing TDs (20). They averaged 5.3 yards per carry. Seattle allowed 42 sacks. They finished 27th in passing yards (3,250) with 20 TDs and only seven INTs.
Left tackle Russell Okung had a tough year in 2014 as run blocker, which is surprising considering how well Seattle ran the ball. He allowed only two sacks, three QB hits and 21 QB hurries. In 2013, he played at an elite level with an edge in run blocking.
Left guard Alvin Bailey made starts last year at both tackle positions and left guard. He allowed two sacks, two QB hits and 13 QB hurries with slightly below-average value as a run blocker.
Despite trading away Unger, the Seahawks didn't do much to address their center position. Lemuel Jeanpierre looks like the best of the misfits completing for the starting job. However, he has made just eight starts in five seasons and is not an above-average player in run or pass blocking. He'll compete with Patrick Lewis and Kristjan Sokoli for the gig.
Right guard J.R. Sweezy struggled in pass protection in 2014 (four sacks, seven QB hits and 26 QB hurries). Yet Sweezy did improve as a run blocker.
Right tackle Justin Britt had a rough rookie season. He allowed five sacks, six QB hits and 41 QB hurries. Britt was a neutral run blocker.
This line has a ton of downside risk, but great quarterback play and a stud power running back cover up a lot of weaknesses. The center position could be a huge problem if nothing else is done to upgrade it.
The above chart shows the Seahawks' 2015 offensive strength of schedule in terms of rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA) and passing touchdowns (TDS).
This information is based on 2014 stats, which we will work with as our starting point for 2015. We'll look at all the changes on offense for each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades each team has made on the defensive side. We'll update this table when we finish researching all 32 teams.
2014 Average: The league average of each stat from all 32 teams in 2014.
2014 Results: The results for each specific team in the NFL.
2015 Adjustment: The difference between a team's result and the league average in a certain statistic. This number will show if a team is above or below the league average in each stat and will serve as the basis for the strength of schedule.
Seattle really has only one tough run defense to face: the Baltimore Ravens. The Detroit Lions' run defense won't be as good without Ndamukong Suh. The Seahawks also have only one opponent that is truly weak in run defense: the Cleveland Browns. They will have four games against poor pass defenses: the Ravens, the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals (twice). Their pass attack's toughest matchups will come against the Browns, Vikings and 49ers (twice).
The Seahawks led the NFL with 53.6 percent of their plays dedicated to the run game. Their RBs gained 1,905 yards on 405 carries (4.7 yards per carry) with 14 rushing TDs. The backs caught 19.9 percent of the team's completions. Seattle's tight ends caught 16.7 percent of the action. The wide receivers combined for 183 receptions, 2,120 yards and only seven touchdowns.
QB Russell Wilson - Stud (low risk)
Week 14 DFS Update (12/12): Over the last three games Wilson has 12 combined TDs, which is more than double his output for the first nine games of the year (10 TDs). During his hot run he has 879 yards passing and 96 rushing yards. His success has somewhat paralleled the improvement of the Seahawks' run game (528 yards) with Rawls in the starting lineup. The Ravens struggled early defending QBs (three 30+ Fantasy points games over the first five games). Over the last four games, QBs have 63.45 Fantasy points (15.9 per game). QBs have 22 passing TDs and five 300+ passing games. Hot player, but I can't see his ticket coming in for a 4th week in a row.
Week 13 DFS Update (12/3): Wilson is making his late season push up the QB rankings after two straight plus games (649 combined yards and eight TDs). He now ranks 8th in the league with 2,723 passing yards, 18 TDs, and 399 rushing yards. He still doesn't have a rushing TD on the year, which is a surprise. The Vikings rank 5th in the NFL in QB Fantasy defense, with no QB scoring over 23.5 Fantasy points. Minnesota allows 6.9 yards per pass attempt, with no team throwing more than two passing TDs in a game. Both teams will run the ball a high percentage of the time so it's tough to believe Wilson will deliver a third straight impact game. The loss of Jimmy Graham will hurt some as defenses won't commit as much attention to defending him. Based on price, he looks like a value, but he's not in play for me.
UPDATE (11/17): Wilson has fallen well short of expectations this season, as have the Seahawks. Now past the halfway point in the season, he is not even in the upper half of Fantasy quarterbacks. He's currently the QB17. Many Fantasy experts predicted he'd be a top-three QB this season. Wilson has already matched his interception total from 2014 and has only accounted for 10 total TDs. His passing numbers aside from the interceptions are actually a bit better than last season. However, his rushing numbers are way down. He's on pace to rush for less than 700 yards and no TDs this season. Last year he rushed for 849 yards and six touchdowns. Hopefully he plays better down the stretch. With that said, he has a terrible offensive line and subpar weapons on the outside. It's far from a lock that he gets this turned around.
(Note: The Seattle Seahawks & New England Patriots team projections were offered for free as part of a promotion for our premium stat projections content. The other 30 teams are only available to premium members.)
After three years in the NFL, Wilson has a 36-12 record with one Super Bowl win and one memorable Super Bowl-losing mistake. His completion rate has been no worse than 63.1 percent in any season despite his subpar receiving talent. Last season, Russell set career highs in completions (285), passing attempts (452), passing yards (3,475), rushing attempts (72) and rushing yards (724). His only area of weakness was his decline in passing TDs, from 26 to 20 over the past two years. It was amazing to see how many times Wilson was able to get easy yards as a runner (10.1 yards per carry). He finished with three 100-yard rushing efforts and six rushing TDs. Russell passed for at least 300 yards twice and finished with fewer than 200 yards seven times. His value in the run game led to him finishing as the No. 6 QB in Fantasy Football World Championships scoring. Jimmy Graham will undoubtedly help, but the WR corps is still well below league average. Wilson's pass attempts per game (28.3) ranked 19.2 percent below the league average of 34.9. The Seahawks' offense is built around its power run game. This limits Russell's opportunity in the passing game, but he could set a career high in touchdowns thanks to Graham. I'm predicting 3,700 passing yards yards and 28 passing scores. Wilson can't help but run for at least 600 yards with another handful of TDs. I expect him to be a top-five Fantasy QB this season.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson
RB Marshawn Lynch - Stud (low risk)
UPDATE (11/17): Beast Mode has been battling through injuries all season. After nine games he's currently ranked outside of the top 30 Fantasy running backs. Only once on the season has he rushed for 100 yards and has only punched in three TDs. He has only appeared in seven of nine games, but still only has 417 yards on the ground. Injuries and an awful offensive line has played a major role in his shortcomings, nevertheless, that offers little solace to Fantasy owners. If the Seahawks are going to get their season turned around, it's going to be on his shoulders.
Over the last four years, Lynch has averaged 309 touches and has scored 46 TDs in 63 games. Seattle has even leaned on him in the passing game over the past two seasons (73 catches, 683 yards, six receiving TDs). Marshawn has six 1,000-yard campaigns on his resume. Last year, including the playoffs, Lynch was a much better player at home, scoring 13 of his 19 TDs there. He had seven 100-yard rushing games in his 19 starts. Marshawn finished with fifth-most RB snaps (728). In PPR leagues over the past four years, Lynch has finished no worse than sixth in positional scoring. The Seahawks rewarded him with a two-year, $24 million extension in March. Marshawn is a rock in an offense that is built around his skill set. With growth in Seattle's offense, Lynch would have even greater upside. His O-line has plenty of question marks, and Wilson is going to steal some of his rushing TDs. Lynch should gain at least 1,600 total yards with a dozen or so scores. His baseline should be about 270 Fantasy points in PPR leagues.
Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch
RB Christine Michael - Fantasy Handcuff
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WR Doug Baldwin - Bye Week Fill-in
Week 14 DFS Update (12/12): Baldwin has been a stud in his last four games (24 catches, 433 yards and six TDs on 31 targets). Over six games from Week 2 to Week 8, he only had 17 catches for 218 yards and one TD on 23 targets. It just makes you wonder why the Seahawks didn't get him involved in the offense earlier. On the year, he has two 100-yard receiving games and eight TDs with only 5.9 targets per game. His catch rate (77.4) is in elite area. The Ravens moved to 27th in the league in WR Fantasy defense, with two strong games in their last four contests (5/42 and 5/68/1). Baltimore had two bad games defending WRs earlier in the year (20/282/3 and 17/349/3). On the year WRs have 19 TDs vs. them. Priced really low based on his recent success, but his low targets does invite failure.
Week 13 DFS Update (12/5): Baldwin was the top WR in Week 12 thanks to a late 80-yard TD. He caught six of his eight targets for 145 yards and three TDs. Over his last three games he has 19 catches for 339 yards and four TDs on 24 targets. On the year, he has two 100-yard receiving games and six TDs, while averaging only 5.8 targets per game. The Vikings rank 11th in the league WR Fantasy defense, with WRs catching only 56.4 percent of their chances with 10 TDs. CB Caption Munnerlyn has done a nice job defending WRs in the slot. Baldwin's recent success and price point will lead to him looking like a value play, but this isn't an impactful matchup.
With Golden Tate and Percy Harvin having departed over the past year, Baldwin is the Seahawks' No. 1 WR. However, his skill set still projects him to be a No. 3 wideout who works out of the slot. In 2014, Doug set career highs in catches (66), receiving yards (825) and targets (98). Including the playoffs, he finished with three 100-yard outings and recorded at least five catches in seven games. Baldwin ranked 46th in WR targets and 43rd at his position in PPR leagues. He led all of Seattle's receivers with 66 catches, 28 more than the next best option. This year, Doug is expected to be the No. 2 option in the passing game behind Graham. With Seattle ranking near the bottom of the league in pass attempts, Baldwin has no real upside, even though he will see a lot of single coverage in 2015. He's a low-upside WR4 in season-long games. I expect 55 catches for 750 yards and a few TDs.
WR Jermaine Kearse - Low Potential
Week 13 DFS Update (12/5): Kearse only has 15 catches for 277 yards and three TDs on 25 targets in his last eight games. He flashed a pulse in Week 12 (4/47/2), but his TD production isn't repeatable. Some big play ability, but his targets remain well below a winning opportunity.
In his best collegiate season at the University of Washington, Kearse caught 63 passes for 1,005 yards and 12 touchdowns. Kearse started 14 games in 2014 with the Seahawks, but he finished with only 38 catches, 537 yards and one TD on 69 targets. His best game of the year came during the divisional round of the playoffs as he nabbed three passes for 129 yards and a score. Over the last two years, Jermaine has recorded more than three catches in a game only three times. Kearse is a big-play WR, but he doesn't see enough targets to have any starting Fantasy value in season-long leagues.
Seattle Seahawks WR Jermaine Kearse
WR Tyler Lockett - Deep-league Only
Week 14 DFS Update (12/12): Lockett had no problem getting open vs. the Vikings. He caught all seven of his targets for 90 yards, which were career highs in all areas. He has caught 79.5 percent of his targets so he should continue to be more involved in the offense with Jimmy Graham out for the season. CB Shareece Wright will give up big plays, so Lockett may score a long TD. His low targets (3.7) does invite failure risk.
Week 13 DFS Update (12/5): Lockett was left out of the WR touchdown party in Week 12. He had WR3 snaps (48), behind Baldwin (53) and Kearse (53). Lockett finished with three catches for 28 yards on three targets. Over the last five games Lockett has 16 catches for 208 yards and three TDs with 18 targets. Talented player with real short targets (3.4 per game).
UPDATE (9/30): With two return touchdowns in just three games, Tyler Lockett is the real deal on special teams. The former Kansas State Wildcats WR is second-coming of Devin Hester. Translating that success into Fantasy production is mountain he will have to climb. With just six receptions for 51 yards in total after Week 3, there may not be enough offense to around to make Lockett a viable Fantasy receiver. Unless your league values return yards, Lockett is a fringe player in even the deepest of formats.
WR Chris Matthews - Deep-league Only
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PK Steven Hauschka - Stud (low risk)
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Seattle - Stud (low risk)
Seattle will have six games against above-average rushing offenses: the Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, Bengals, Ravens and 49ers (twice). They shouldn't have as much trouble against the Bears' Lions' or Cardinals' ground games, although I expect the Lions and Cardinals to run the ball better in 2015. The Seahawks have a solid pass defense and a favorable pass schedule. They will battle in eight games versus below-par aerial attacks. Their toughest opponents in this area will be the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Seahawks permitted the third-fewest rushing yards (1,304) as rushers gained only 3.4 YPC and eight TDs. Seattle posted 37 sacks and allowed the fewest passing yards (2,970). Opponents tallied just 17 passing touchdowns while Seattle grabbed 13 interceptions.
Defensive end Michael Bennett was Seattle's best defensive lineman in 2014. He was an elite run stopper and although he had just seven sacks, he harassed quarterbacks all year long, including the playoffs (18 QB hits and 63 QB hurries). DE Cliff Avril tends to be a liability against the run with solid value as a pass rusher (seven sacks, 14 QB hits and 55 QB hurries). Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel will work as early-down run defender with no real edge in any area. DT Brandon Mebane played well against the run in 2013 with no sacks. Over the first nine games in 2014, he was just a league-average player. His season was cut short by a torn hamstring that required surgery. The hope is defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin will strengthen the run defense.
Linebacker Bruce Irvin has shown tremendous growth against the run over the last two years while possessing upside as a pass rusher. He recorded 8.5 sacks, 12 QB hits and 23 QB hurries last season, including the playoffs. LB Bobby Wagner has been outstanding against the run in two of his three seasons. He had just two sacks last year with slightly above-average value in pass coverage. LB K.J. Wright helps out against the run and is an occasional pass rusher, but he grades out best in coverage.
Richard Sherman is one of the best cover corners in the league with strength against the run. He allowed 36 catches on 75 attempts for 479 yards and one TD with six INTs last year. CB Cary Williams has been only a league-average player in coverage over the past couple of years. Safety Kam Chancellor wasn't as impressive in 2014 as he was in 2013, when he was a superb run defender with plus value in pass coverage (only 7.6 yards per catch, one TD allowed, five interceptions). He still graded out positively against the run and the pass in 2014. Safety Earl Thomas has played at a high level against the pass over the last two years while being a slight liability in run support. He is recovering quickly from his offseason shoulder surgery.
Seattle Seahawks S Earl Thomas
This defense has high upside in pass coverage thanks to two good edge rushers and six quality players at the second and third levels. They do have some risk against runs up the middle. Rookie wide receiver Tyler Lockett will add value in the return game. The key to this group's Fantasy value in 2015 will be surpassing last's season total of 37 sacks. I expect them to turn in another top-five Fantasy season, but owners are expecting this defense to be the game's absolute best.