The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking of NFL teams for fantasy purposes. Repeat: FOR FANTASY PURPOSES. We're interested in yards and points here. We began at No. 32, the NFL's least useful franchise (Oakland), and we're working our way toward the elite teams. These ranks are astonishingly accurate and highly collectible. Please enjoy them responsibly.
21. Seattle Seahawks
If you like comeback stories, then this is your team. Everyone in Seattle is coming back from something.
For many, it's injury: LT Walter Jones(notes) (microfracture surgery), WR Nate Burleson(notes) (ACL), WR Deion Branch(notes) (ACL), DE Patrick Kerney(notes) (elbow), QB Matt Hasselbeck(notes) (back), DT Cory Redding(notes) (knee). For others -- like the entire defense, for example -- it's disappointing performance in '08. Even head coach Jim Mora can be considered a man on the comeback trail, following the odd departure from Atlanta.
This team is basically loaded with ifs and short on certainty. They're also short on elite fantasy talent. The first Seahawk selected in your draft will almost certainly be the new arrival, TJ Houshmandzadeh(notes) (Y! ADP 42.3). He'll be followed closely by...well, by no other Seattle skill position player. Tight end John Carlson(notes) is taken at pick 97.9 in an average Yahoo! public league draft. He and Housh are the only Seahawks selected in the top 100.
Those two make for an interesting pairing, since they figure to compete for red zone targets in '09. Carlson actually led the team in receptions (55), yardage (627) and receiving TDs (5) as a rookie, during a season in which insurers stopped issuing policies to Seattle WRs. Houshmandzadeh has reportedly adjusted well to the new offense, and he's predicted massive, unprecedented success in the upcoming season. This via Pro Football Talk:
"I just want to let everyone know that Matt Hasselbeck and I will be leading the Seahawks to the playoffs this season," Houshmandzadeh proclaims. "And we'll be going to the Pro Bowl as a tandem. We're both going to have top five seasons: He'll have a top five quarterback season, and I'll have a top five receiving season. I'll put up stats I've never had before yardswise because they're allowing me to be a complete receiver."
Housh was overshadowed by Chad Ochocinco(notes) for so long that perhaps we failed to appreciate his ability to self-hype. Fantasy drafters are not projecting a top-five season for any Seahawk, but it's nice to see that someone's doing it. Deion Branch is the next member of the Seattle receiving corps taken in a standard draft (120.4), but rehabbing Nate Burleson has grabbed much of the early attention from camp observers. From the Tacoma News Tribune:
And during the first couple of practices, Burleson has looked even better. He’s getting open at will, confidently going up to make leaping catches in the middle of the defense, and showing off the extra burst of speed that allowed him to get deep before the knee surgery.
“It feels good,” Burleson said about his knee.
Still, he injured the knee just 11 months ago. Propaganda aside, it's tough to project big things for Burleson in '09. Rookie third-rounder Deon Butler(notes) is an explosive receiver with plenty of speed (4.38 at the combine), though he doesn't project as an impact fantasy talent in his first year.
Matt Hasselbeck is basically a zero-risk value pick at his current ADP (116.2, No. 16 QB). We don't know whether the 33-year-old can endure a full season, of course, after dealing with back/disk issues last year. As with practically every player in NFL history, the offseason reports have been glowing.
Expect the Seahawks to be less pass-oriented in '09 under new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. (Nice offensive overview here from 12th Man Rising). The West Coast stylings should remain, but with much greater attention to running the football. Knapp consistently delivers successful rushing attacks. He's installing a one-cut, zone-blocking scheme, and he's formed a committee:
"I’m a believer in you’ve got to platoon the backs," Knapp said. "You can’t just have one guy be the main ballcarrier to last the whole season."
Here's a critical piece of fantasy advice: If Julius Jones(notes) is involved in a job-share, then you always want the other guy(s). Someone in your league is going to draft Jones enthusiastically, but TJ Duckett(notes) should lead Seattle in rushing touchdowns and Justin Forsett(notes) will see action on passing downs. I'd prefer Duckett in the final round to Jones in the seventh, though neither player will cost much on draft day.
Other 'Hawks notes: Whenever a team transitions to a zone-blocking scheme, fantasy analysis tends to focus on the backs. But if the linemen don't fit the gameplan -- or if they don't really fit any NFL gameplan -- then the backs are in trouble, no matter who they are. Walter Jones' recovery is essential, and the 35-year-old is expected to be a part-timer in practices. Elsewhere on the O-line, many pieces are in motion. Check the Team Report: "Mora said Rob Sims will move over to left guard to fill the void left by [Mike] Wahle. Mansfield Wrotto worked with the first unit at right guard, but rookie Max Unger is expected to challenge for the position as well. Mora also said to not be surprised to see Sean Locklear, the team’s starting right tackle, at right guard." When the music stops, find a position on the line. ... LBs Aaron Curry(notes) and Lofa Tatupu(notes) are the strongest IDP options on the Seattle defense; SS Deon Grant(notes) is a situational play. ... Bold prediction time: I like Olindo Mare(notes) to win the battle at kicker, and I really think he could finish among the top 20 fantasy Ks. Yup, you heard right: Top 20. There's your fearless forecast.
Photos via US Presswire