In the eight years that we've produced produced the Juggernaut Index here at Yahoo, I don't think we've ever once led a team preview by talking about a defense. We're here to have a fantasy conversation, after all. Defenses are generally an afterthought in our game. It's a roster spot that many savvy fantasy owners tend to stream.
However, the Seahawks D is an outlier in many ways. It feels wrong to begin any consideration of this franchise without first acknowledging that Seattle's 2013 defense may have been the best in NFL history — and if it isn't at the top of your ranks, it needs to at least make the short list.
Obviously we can never definitively settle the greatest-of-all-time debate, and I'll make no attempt to do so here. If we could somehow put the '85 Bears and the '02 Bucs and the '00 Ravens and the present-day Seahawks in a giant cage-match, we could ... well, we would really have some carnage. And probably the highest-rated program in NFL Network history.
Let's simply agree that Seattle's defense is a badass group. When you consider the era, this team's defensive accomplishments are astonishing. The Seahawks allowed only 14.4 points and 273.6 total yards per game last season, ranking first in each category by significant margins. Seattle also ranked first against the pass (172.0 YPG), first in interceptions (28), eighth in sacks (44.0) and eighth against the run (101.6). This D allowed only four rushing touchdowns all season, which is absolutely ludicrous. And of course the Seahawks eviscerated Peyton Manning's record-breaking offense in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Personally, I'm not the type to take the first defense off the board in any fantasy draft, so I never actually land Seattle. But I'm not going to judge anyone too harshly for selecting this unit before the end-game picks. Again, it's a badass D, an obscene collection of talent. Richard Sherman is a corner so dominant he can erase any receiver from the game-plan — Sherman has a few questionable views on the relationship between fantasy and reality football, but he's awesome. Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are all high-end IDPs.
The only real worry with the Seahawks defense from a fantasy perspective is the September schedule. It's not a friendly slate, and turnovers won't come easy. Seattle opens with Green Bay, San Diego and Denver, then gets an early bye. So there's a decent chance the consensus top-ranked defense won't be a top-10 unit when October arrives. Still, mid-season match-ups with Washington, Oakland and the Giants can return this team to the upper-tier, assuming good health.
As we said of New Orleans, if Seattle manages to claim home-field advantage throughout the postseason (again), it's tough to imagine this team not returning to the Super Bowl. It's not as if the offense lacks potency. Let's review, bullet-style.
• QB Russell Wilson (ADP 99.7) – Wilson is the fourteenth QB selected in average Yahoo drafts, so there's no complaining about his price. He's a highly efficient quarterback who's thrown 26 touchdown passes in back-to-back seasons, despite averaging only 400 attempts per year. Volume is really the only flaw in Wilson's fantasy game. He's an effective runner who's accounted for 1028 rushing yards and five additional scores over two seasons, but this is not a Cam Newton situation — that is to say, Wilson isn't his team's goal-line back. He's a tremendous real-life quarterback, no question, but standard league fantasy players should think of him as a platoon QB. One of his top receivers landed in Detroit during the offseason (Golden Tate), and another retired (Sidney Rice). But Wilson still has a few weapons at his disposal, beginning with this guy...
• WR Percy Harvin (43.8) – Percy is one of the NFL's most explosive and versatile skill players, and, for once, we're not talking about his health status:
Harvin: "This is probably the best I've felt since before college." #OTAs
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) May 27, 2014
Harvin is unrivaled as Wilson's No. 1 receiver, but let's not go crazy with his target projection. Even if he were to see 30 percent of all pass targets — a huge share, probably not realistic — that would only mean 120-or-so chances. Elite wideouts typically finish in the 140-180 range. Thus, you need to think of Percy as a WR2/3-type in fantasy.
• WRs Doug Baldwin (127.5), Jermaine Kearse (n/a) and Paul Richardson (n/a) – Meet Harvin's supporting cast. Baldwin is well-known to fantasy owners, a player capable of giving us a 55-775-5 campaign. Kearse is slightly more interesting to me, at least in standard leagues, because he has a 2-4 inch height advantage over Harvin and Baldwin. He can do work in the red-zone, and he's coming off an excellent preseason outing against Chicago (4-63-1). Kearse had an end-zone spike in the Super Bowl, too. Richardson is a second-round burner who had a nice camp according to all reports, but he's a depth chart receiver in a run-first offense. You can't get too interested in him, except in dynasty formats.
• TE Zach Miller (119.6) – You might use Zach to cover a bye-week at some point, but he's clearly not an ideal fantasy starter. He only had two games with over five targets last season, and two with over 50 receiving yards. When you start him, you're just hoping for a rogue touchdown.
• RB Marshawn Lynch (10.1) – Lynch is an absolute terror, a nightmarish runner to bring down. He's produced three straight seasons with 1200-plus yards and 12 or more TDs, so he's one of the most reliable elite scorers in the game. Despite the fact that he's been a high-volume back in a run-heavy attack, he's shown no obvious signs of decline. He ran for 288 yards and four scores in Seattle's three postseason games last season, gaining 4.4 yards per carry. The man is still only 28 years old; don't bet on a collapse. His brief camp holdout ended with the team making at least a small gesture, so that crisis ended before it could seriously distract the fantasy community.
Beyond this season, however, I'll make no promises about Lynch's value. The Seahawks have talent on the depth chart in the backfield, so it's hardly crazy to expect a small decrease in Beast Mode's touches. He remains a late-first rounder in non-PPR leagues, but these dudes aren't too shabby...
• RBs Robert Turbin (n/a) and Christine Michael (124.8) – Turbin has looked more like the No. 2 back in the hierarchy during the preseason, but both he and Michael were involved early in the team's third preseason contest. The presence of two quality reserves complicates the handcuff decision for Lynch owners. Realistically, we should expect a job-share situation to develop if anything were to happen to the seemingly indestructible Marshawn. This would make Turbin and Michael both flex-worthy fantasy assets, but not clear every-week RBs. If you're drafting for dynasty purposes, I'd give an edge to Michael, a 2013 second-rounder.
So can Seattle repeat? Oh, yeah. Hell yes. The Seahawks are all-phases great, gifted with depth at key spots. Clearly the division schedule is a minefield, but this team navigated it successfully last season. No one should be surprised if Seattle claims another ring ... which would basically make Brandon Funston insufferable. (Sigh.) But that's more my problem than yours.
2013 team stats: 26.1 PPG (NFL rank 8), 219.3 pass YPG (26), 27 pass TDs (10), 136.8 rush YPG (4), 31.8 rush attempts per game (2), 26.3 pass attempts per game (31)
Previous Juggernaut Index entries: 32. Oakland, 31. Miami, 30. Jacksonville, 29. NY Jets, 28. Tennessee, 27. Cleveland, 26. Baltimore, 25. Carolina, 24. Buffalo, 23. Tampa Bay, 22. St. Louis, 21. NY Giants, 20. Kansas City, 19. Houston, 18. Arizona, 17. Minnesota, 16. Pittsburgh, 15. San Diego, 14. San Francisco, 13. Atlanta, 12. Cincinnati, 11. Washington, 10. New England, 9. Indianapolis, 8. New Orleans