|By Shawn Childs, Wednesday, September 30, 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)
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)
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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RB Thomas Rawls - Bye Week Fill-in
UPDATE (9/30): You never know when a player might step up and Thomas Rawls' time unexpectedly in Week 3. The 22-year-old from Central Michigan racked up 104 yards on 16 carries in place of an injured Marshawn Lynch. The presumed backup, Fred Jackson, did absolutely nothing. Rawls is the new handcuff in Seattle for Lynch owners.
WR Doug Baldwin - Bye Week Fill-in
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
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Seattle Seahawks WR Jermaine Kearse
WR Tyler Lockett - Deep-league Only
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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TE Jimmy Graham - Stud (low risk)
Graham had a great start to his career with the Saints. In his last 63 games, he's accumulated 355 catches on 551 targets for 4,396 yards and 46 TDs. That translates to 5.6 catches for 70 yards and 0.73 TDs per game, or 16.98 Fantasy points per game in the FFWC's scoring system. His success has made him a first-round Fantasy pick at times over the past three years. Last season, Seattle attempted only 454 passes in the regular season (28.4 per game), which led to 287 completions (17.9 per game) and 1.2 passing scores per game. Based on this data, Graham would have to account for 31.2 percent of Wilson's total completions in order to post a stat line comparable to the ones that are already on his resume. By comparison, Drew Brees has averaged 28 completions and 2.5 TDs per game over the past four years. Jimmy's value is going to be one of the toughest calls for Fantasy owners this draft season. I expect a wide range of opinions on him. His early ADP is 26, making him the second tight end selected. I respect Graham, and Wilson has to be excited to have a legit receiving option available to him for the first time in his career. I say Graham will catch 65 percent of his 120 or so targets. Eighty receptions for 900-plus yards and a chance at double-digit TDs should be expected. He's still a top-24 Fantasy player in my mind, but he could turn in some poor numbers in games where Seattle's defense dominates and allows the offense to just run out the clock.
Seattle Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham
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.