print 2010 Wrap-Up Report (And Early 2011 Preview)

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Published, 1/31/11

In this report, we’ll go division-by-division and offer up a quick wrap of the 2010 season, with a brief preview of what to expect in 2011 and beyond.  

Also See: AFC East I AFC West I AFC North I AFC South I NFC East I NFC North I NFC South  

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals
QB: The most important player in the NFC West may have been the one who decided not to play in 2010. After leading the Cardinals to the Super Bowl in 2008 and another playoff bid in 2009, Kurt Warner retired, leaving the Cardinals with a mess at QB. In his place, a new Matt Leinart era ended before it could begin, as the team cut ties with him and opted to go with the strong-armed Derek Anderson to begin the season. Anderson was exactly who we thought he was, proving capable of making all the throws but prone to making costly mistakes. Anderson is a streaky player who’s had more bad performances than good. He ended up starting nine games and playing in 12, and he sat out the last four games after suffering a concussion in Week Thirteen. He completed just 51.7% – actually his best completion rate since 2007 – for 2065 yards, 7 TDs, and 10 INTs, and in three years since his impressive ’07 campaign, he has a total of 19 TD passes and 28 INTs. Anderson was benched in Week Four for undrafted rookie Max Hall, who would start the next three games before suffering a concussion. He returned in Week Thirteen but saw his season come to an end with a dislocated non-throwing shoulder. Despite starting for the Cardinals in an improbable win over the Saints, Hall was even more brutal than Anderson, as he doesn’t have the arm strength to make the occasional impressive throws that his teammate can make. He completed only 50% of his passes for 370 yards, 1 TD, and 6 INTs and had 5 fumbles, and it’s hard to imagine his being more than the #3 going forward, as he has some short-range accuracy but lacks upside. When he hurt his shoulder, the talented but raw John Skelton – a rookie 5th-round pick – took the job and ended up completing 47.6% for 662 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs. Skelton at least looks the part, but HC Ken Whisenhunt had no intention of playing him this past season. He simply had no choice when Anderson and Hall went down. Skelton made some throws and clearly has the physical tools to succeed, but his was uncomfortable making reads and doesn’t have a good feel for the pro game yet. Whether or not the team is willing to be patient with him is the question, but the Cardinals will likely cut ties with Anderson and try to bring in a veteran ahead of Skelton and Hall.
  • Fantasy situation to watch for 2011: Will the Cardinals bring in a veteran QB with the hopes of Skelton being molded into the long-term answer? Is taking a QB with the #5 pick in the draft an option?
RBs: With an unsettled QB situation, the Cardinals hoped to at least have some stability at RB, with Tim Hightower and second-year back Beanie Wells. But Wells failed to make progress, and the Cardinals ended up finishing last in the league, with 86.8 rushing YPG. Knee problems hampered Wells all season, but even when he played, he was largely ineffective. He totaled 116 carries for 397 yards (3.4 per carry) and 2 TDs after rushing for 793/7 with an average of 4.5 per carry as a rookie, and he rushed for more than 50 yards just three times – all in the first half of the year. In the final nine weeks, Wells never topped 5.6 fantasy points in a game. Not only did injuries derail him, but he’s still not played well enough all-around to allow the coaches to trust him. He continues to struggle in pass protection, which is often a big hurdle for young backs to overcome, and there were still some ball security issues. Wells’ numbers were nowhere close to those of the mediocre Hightower, who had a few moments of success and ended up with 153 carries for 736 yards and 5 TDs but struggled to protect the football and had 5 fumbles. Hightower occasionally puts up numbers, like he did with an impressive 18/148/2 against the lousy Bronco run defense in Week Fourteen, but he totaled 24/69 in the three games after that. So, the Cardinals were stuck with a talented young RB in Wells who struggled with injuries and pass blocking, while Hightower struggles with consistency and holding onto the ball and doesn’t have much upside. If Wells lived up to his potential as a 1st-round pick, Hightower would be a fine complementary back. Unfortunately, the Cardinals’ plan hasn’t come to fruition yet, and there are no serious questions surrounding Wells for the long-term. The 5’7” LaRod Stephens-Howling also had some involvement but was frequently banged up during the season. He ended up with 23/113/1 rushing and 16/111 receiving in a minimal role, mostly in passing situations.
  • Fantasy situation to watch for 2011: Can Wells put a completely forgettable 2010 season behind him and starting living up to his potential? Hightower is a free agent but will likely return and continue playing in a rotation.
WRs/TEs: Poor Larry Fitzgerald. He has proven to be one of the most talented WRs in the league, capable of taking over games, but he was at the mercy of horrendous QB play all season from a rotation of Derek Anderson and rookies Max Hall and John Skelton. But despite the consistently bad QB play, Fitzgerald still finished 5th in the league in catches (90) and 8th in receiving yards (1137). He had 6 TD catches, but as expected, he often had a tough time getting on the same page as his QB, catching 52.6% of his 171 targets. That included just 3 catches on 15 targets in Week One after he missed preseason action with a knee injury, but he ended up with 6+ catches in 10 of 16 games. Still, the fact that Fitzgerald’s numbers didn’t really fall off a whole lot (he had more yards this year than last) is a testament to his talent, given who was throwing him the ball. He was never comfortable with Anderson at QB, while neither Hall nor Skelton was comfortable as the starting QB. Several players ended up contributing alongside Fitzgerald, with Steve Breaston eventually giving way to Andre Roberts late, while Early Doucet struggled with injuries. Breaston had 77/1003/3 in 2008 and fell to 55/712/3 in 2009 and 47/718/1 in 13 games in 2010. He caught 54% of his 87 targets but fell out of favor in the last few weeks when Skelton took over at QB. He also had injury issues that slowed him down. The rookie Roberts ended up emerging with 5/110/1 against Dallas on Christmas before finishing with 4/23 Week Seventeen. In total, he had 24 catches on 49 targets (49%) for 307 yards and 2 TDs in what may have been an audition for a larger role with Breaston heading into free agency. As for Doucet, he battled through a variety of injuries, but the 10 games he played in actually set a career high in games played in his three seasons. In those games, he put up 26/291/1 on 59 targets (just 44%). While the Cardinals didn’t get much production at WR aside from Fitzgerald, they got almost nothing from the TE position. The offense doesn’t call for much action from the TEs as receivers, and that showed all season. Ben Patrick had 15/123 on 18 targets but was demoted in favor of Jim Dray and Stephen Spach, who blocked and didn’t little else with a combined 10/87 for the season.
  • Fantasy situation to watch for 2011: Breaston is likely on his way out of town, so will the Cardinals look for outside help, or is Roberts capable of moving into the #2 role?
Key Free Agents: RB Tim Hightower, RB Jason Wright, FB Regan Maui’a, WR Steve Breaston, WR Early Doucet, TE Stephen Spach, TE Ben Patrick, G Alan Faneca, C Lyle Sendlein, G Deuce Lutui, OT Brandon Keith, DT Alan Branch, DT Bryan Robinson, P Ben Graham
San Francisco 49ers
QB: The 49ers played musical quarterbacks all season, but no matter which Smith was behind center, they never had sustained success. Alex Smith ended up starting 10 games, while Troy Smith started the other six. After a 1-6 start, Troy took over the starting job in Week Eight and led the Niners to wins three of his first four starts. However, he was benched after the Week Thirteen loss to the Packers before retaking the starting job for a Week Sixteen loss at St. Louis and getting benched again. While he brought a strong arm – and therefore the ability to make plays downfield – and mobility to the table, Troy Smith completed just 50.3% of his throws for 1176 yards, 5 TDs, and 4 INTs, and he ran for 121/1 with 6 fumbles. While he can run, sometimes that’s actually a negative because he has very little pocket awareness and takes off running too quickly. He was completely lost at times, completing less than 40% of his passes in each of his last three games. Meanwhile, Alex Smith had an up-and-down season in which he was consistently in battles with HC Mike Singletary, highlighted by an ugly game against Philadelphia in which the two had a sideline blow-up, but Smith ended up throwing for 309/3/2 in what was nearly a comeback win. He also had trouble with a sprained AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder. For the season, Alex Smith completed 59.6% for 2370 yards, 14 TDs, and 10 INTs, and he had 4 fumbles. He’s more than capable of looking decent at times and putting up numbers, but he has poor arm strength and does not handle pressure well, plus he’s slow to process information, which compounds his lack of arm strength issues. Perhaps he can stick around the league as a top backup, but it looks like his time is up as a #1 QB, six years after being taken #1 overall in the draft. Behind the two Smiths, third-stringer David Carr attempted just 13 passes, while Nate Davis never got onto the active roster. With Davis already gone to Seattle, Carr is the only 49er QB currently signed for next season, as the Smiths are free agents. New HC Jim Harbaugh will almost surely bring in a new QB, ending the disappointing Alex Smith era. And to think that the Niners could have taken Aaron Rodgers #1 in 2005. That fact will haunt Niner fans forever.
  • Fantasy situation to watch for 2011: Who will be the 49ers’ starting QB? Veterans Donovan McNabb and Matt Hasselbeck could be available, and trade candidates include Kyle Orton and Kevin Kolb. Harbaugh is expected to run a West Coast system, and he could also elect to take a QB with the 7th pick in the draft.
RBs: Frank Gore was his usual workhorse self for 10 games, but he broke his hip in Week Twelve at Arizona and missed the rest of the season. Prior to that, he had 203 carries for 853 yards and 3 TDs, along with 46/452/2 as a receiver, and he still finished 20th in the league in carries despite missing nearly six games because of the injury. He should be good to go for next season, but health questions remain for someone who has missed nine games in the last three seasons. When healthy, Gore is clearly one of the most talented running backs in the league, as he consistently picks up yards as a power back between the tackles and is also one of the most versatile players as a dependable receiver. Following the injury against the Cardinals, the 49ers utilized a two-man backfield featuring two 2010 newcomers. Veteran former Eagle Brian Westbrook served as the starter, while rookie Anthony Dixon – who led the league in rushing in the preseason – also saw plenty of work. Westbrook (23/136/1) and Dixon (14/54/1) both got off to good starts as Gore’s replacements in the easy win over Arizona, but they struggled to produce consistently the rest of the way. After hardly playing at all while Gore was healthy, Westbrook finished with 77/340/4 rushing and 16/150/1 receiving, averaging a full yard more per carry than Dixon, who rushed for 70/237/2. Westbrook obviously isn’t what he once was and shouldn’t be much more than a third-down back, but he showed he still has some juice left and he continues to be a good fit for a West Coast offense. However, Dixon, who was hobbled by an ankle injury late in the season, tends to run as if he was a smaller back, trying to rely more on elusiveness and his feet instead of getting North-South and hitting it up in there. That’s not what the 49ers needed out of him, as they wanted their 233-pound rookie to be more of a power complement to Westbrook. But if Dixon improved, he does have a chance to replace Gore in a couple of years as their lead back. Westbrook’s contract is expired and he wants to return to football, but he also doesn’t want to be stuck with no playing time like the first half of the 2010 season.
  • Fantasy situation to watch for 2011: After Gore’s injury, will the 49ers mix in other backs, particularly Dixon? Gore saw nearly all the touches in the backfield until his injury in 2010, and Westbrook could barely get on the field after signing with the team. Will Westbrook re-sign or go elsewhere?
WRs/TEs: The 49er receiving corps was stuck with a mediocre quarterback carousel, and only TE Vernon Davis consistently produced as a receiver. After leading all TEs with 10.9 FPG in 2009, Davis averaged a solid 8.3 FPG, although he was banged up a bit at times with an ankle injury that limited him in some games. He led the 49ers in all receiving categories, catching 56 passes on 93 targets (60.2%) for 914 yards and 7 TDs. Davis remains one of the most athletic TEs in the game, and few players at the position can stretch the field like he can. In fact, he led all TEs with 16.3 yards per catch, ranking 12th overall in the league in that category, and he had 70+ yards in four of his last five games. He also has proven to be more of a complete receiver than previously thought, as he improved his route-running. The team also has depth at the position, as the athletic Delanie Walker proved to be a solid threat as well. Walker chipped in 29/331 on 44 targets and gives San Francisco a solid threat in two-TE sets. Walker’s athleticism can be illustrated by the fact that he returned a few kicks, which is obviously a rarity for tight ends. At WR, Michael Crabtree played his first full season after a holdout-abbreviated rookie campaign, and he finished with 55 catches on 99 targets (55.6%) for 741 yards and 6 TDs. He had just two games with more than 61 yards all season, with 9/105/1 in Week Five and 6/122/1 in Week Sixteen, and he had more than 4 catches just three times. It didn’t help that he started slowly after missing the entire preseason with a neck problem. Crabtree has a lot of raw talent, but he hasn’t been much of a downfield threat. He’s more of an intermediate receiver who needs a QB with intermediate accuracy and good timing. Unfortunately, the 49ers haven’t had that, and it will be hard for Crabtree to reach his full potential until the team gets a consistent passer behind center. Opposite Crabtree, Josh Morgan occasionally came through with a big play but wasn’t a consistent target. He had 44 catches on 80 targets (55%) for 698 yards and 2 TDs, including 3/82/1 in Week Fourteen and 7/106 in Week Fifteen, but he generally wasn’t good for more than 2-3 catches and wasn’t a guy who could help sustain drives for the offense. For now, Morgan does still look effective enough to stick as their #2. No other receiver made much of an impact, as #3 WR Ted Ginn had just 12/163/1 on 34 targets (35.3%), including a total of 2 catches between Weeks Seven through Fourteen. He did end the season on a high note with a TD in Week Seventeen, but he was a kick returner and offered little else.
  • Fantasy situation to watch for 2011: Will a new quarterback under new head coach Jim Harbaugh help lift Crabtree to the next level after he failed to take a step forward in his sophomore season?
Key Free Agents: QB Alex Smith, QB Troy Smith, RB Brian Westbrook, C David Baas, DT Aubrayo Franklin, LB Manny Lawson, LB Takeo Spikes, LB Travis LaBoy, S Dashon Goldson, PK Jeff Reed
St. Louis Rams
QB: Rookie Sam Bradford wasn’t expected to do much of anything in 2010 with the team signing veteran A.J. Feeley in the off-season for Bradford to learn from and play behind this season. Bradford had a strong preseason and was named the starter when Feeley suffered a thumb injury before the regular season began. He ended up having a very solid rookie season, and while he's didn’t put up huge numbers, he's did a great job of limiting mistakes. He never really looked overmatched or limited as a player, and that's important for his development as a passer. What was most impressive about Bradford is how the ball comes out of his hand with some juice and accuracy you wouldn't expect from a rookie QB with a shaky WR corps. Because of Bradford's good feel for the passing game, he showed the ability to make his still-developing OL better. Those are qualities you see in a Pro Bowl-level player, not a rookie who wasn't even supposed to start just a few months ago. When you consider that Bradford's best receiver has been slot man Danny Amendola, it's pretty amazing how well he performed with teammates who don't have much more experience than he. By the end of the season, he had a fairly deep receiving corps, which includes a great slot guy (Amendola), a pair of solid possession guys (Brandon Gibson and Laurent Robinson), and a dangerous deep threat (Danario Alexander). Remember, he lost Donnie Avery in the preseason and Mark Clayton, with whom had had fantastic rapport, just five games into the regular season. By the end of the season, we were using terms like poised, accurate, and consistent to describe Bradford’s game, and rookies typically aren't associated with such terms, especially one with a WR corps that didn't look like very much at the beginning of the season but has improved because of Bradford. He said after the season that he felt the team had a lot of confidence in him, and he was pleased to progress in this offense as much as he did. When only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees throw more passes than you in a season, it’s a pretty good sign your team has no problem letting you do whatever it takes to run the offense. Bradford completed 354 of those 590 passes (60%) for 3512 yards, 18 TDs, and just 15 INTs, very impressive numbers for a rookie who started all 16 games on a fairly young team. While it definitely helped to have a reliable RB in Steven Jackson, there’s no doubt Bradford took this offense to the next level. Bradford’s progression will only be helped by the addition of Josh McDaniels as the team’s new OC. Remember McDaniels has worked with Tom Brady and Matt Cassel in New England and handpicked Kyle Orton to be his QB in Denver this past season, which went pretty well, for the most part. If Bradford’s rookie season was any indication, he’s on his way to a fantastic NFL career. Oh, and those questions about his durability are long gone.
  • Fantasy situation to watch in 2011: With expectations significantly higher heading into his sophomore season, will Bradford be able to take the next step? Also, how will his game change and/or improve with McDaniels on the staff?
RBs: Despite major changes in the passing game, Steven Jackson remained the constant for the Rams heading into the 2010 season. Jackson had a very underrated 2009 season as the only legit contributor in the team’s offense, running for the 2nd-most rushing yards (1416) playing with constant back problems and as part of a team that went through three different QBs. Even with the impressive play of rookie QB Sam Bradford, Jackson was still essentially the focal point of the offense because he was by far the best player and because Bradford was still developing, as was their young receiving corps. He took a beating this year and has become more a grinder and a compiler than a truly dynamic talent, but he runs hard and is willing to run through tackles to pick up every last yard. That's good enough in today's fantasy landscape and a big reason why we love watching the guy play. Jackson was much more of a sustaining back than a true dynamic force this season, but he still had a fine season and fought through pain while playing with a rookie QB to get to the verge of winning a division title. Early in the season, Jackson played through a groin problem, and later, on he underwent a procedure on his ring finger but didn’t miss any time. He continued to be a guy who absorbs contact, and there are very few guys, if any, who run as hard as he. Jackson is one of the few backs left who doesn’t share the ball with anyone. Kenneth Darby is a decent receiver and a serviceable runner capable of putting up decent numbers if he's getting volume, but with Jackson playing the entire season, Darby saw some time only here and there, finishing with just 34 carries for 107 yards and 2 TDs. Jackson played and started all 16 games, rushing for 1241 yards and 6 TDs on 330 carries (3.8 YPC, the lowest of his career), while grabbing 46/383 as a receiver. That put him only 16th among RBs at 12.4 FPG, but his ranking would have increased greatly with only a few more scores. With Bradford and the passing game making great strides, we could see Jackson’s role diminished a bit in 2011, if only to keep him fresh down the stretch. He doesn’t have much upside left, but is still about as solid as they come and is on a team moving in the right direction.
  • Fantasy situation to watch in 2011: Considering the strong play of QB Sam Bradford and the addition of OC Josh McDaniels, who wants to install a “strong but aggressive” offense, what changes, if any, will come to Jackson’s role in the offense?
WRs/TEs: Depending on whom you ask, the Rams have no talent or a wealth of it at the WR position. The casual fan may say they don’t have much because guys like Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, and Danario Alexander aren’t household names. However, if you bring the Ram receiving corps up to someone who knows the game, you’ll find out that they have so much talent that it might be tough to figure out just what their starting lineup will look like in 2011, assuming everyone is healthy and re-signed (which, admittedly, might not be a safe assumption). Things didn’t look so good when they lost Donnie Avery to a knee injury in the preseason. But luckily for St. Louis, the Ravens had no need for Mark Clayton, so they traded him to the Rams, where he immediately became QB Sam Bradford’s favorite receiver. Unfortunately, Clayton would also go down for the year when he tore his patellar tendon just five games into the season. At that time, Clayton had 23/306/2 on 41 targets and was averaging 8.6 FPG. Slot receiver Amendolawas the team’s most consistent receiver and a great security blanket for Bradford, grabbing 85/689/3 on 123 targets (69.1% caught), which was good for 5.9 FPG. Gibson was a pretty solid possession guy all season, playing in 14 games and catching 53/620/2 on 91 targets (58.2% caught), good for 5.5 FPG. He was probably the best PPR option outside Amendola. The name that really intrigues us is Alexander, who has drawn comparisons to Calvin Johnson because of his size (6’5”) and speed. Alexander had some serious knee issues in college at the University of Missouri and started the season on the PUP list. He had a meniscus injury during the season but was able to return and finished with 20/306/1 (15.3 YPC) on 37 targets (54.1% caught) and ended up with 4.6 FPG. Alexander probably has the most upside, and Bradford showed a willingness to go down the field to him and also look his way in the red zone. Alexander, if healthy, provides the Rams with the vertical option and that’s important if they want to expand their passing attack. Although he finally started showing some flashes later in the season, Robinson has been a disappointment since coming over from the Falcons last season, catching just 34/344/2 on 73 targets (46.6% caught) for 3.5 FPG. He’s a free agent and isn’t expected back. The TE group was tough to distinguish for fantasy purposes, but their best performer was Daniel Fells, who had 41/391/2 on 64 targets (64.1% caught) and 3.2 FPG. The guy the team likes is Michael Hoomanawanui, who was limited to seven games because of ankle issues and caught just 13/146/13 on 22 targets, which was good for 4.7 FPG. He looks like more of a blocker at 6’5”/270 pounds, but he does have a lot of natural talent and will be entering only his second season. They also have the extremely athletic Fendi Onobun, a former basketball player, who did nothing in 2010 as a rookie, but was considered a project, anyway. Speaking of rookies, WR Mardy Gilyardwas pretty much a non-factor, grabbing 6/63 in just 11 games, although the team does like him, despite his disappointing first season. With all of this talent, the Rams will have some decisions to make in the draft and in free agency, but it’s a nice problem to have for a team with a star QB in the making.
Fantasy situation to watch in 2011: There’s a lot of talent in this group, but the team needs to decide if Alexander can be a #1 WR or if they need to look to free agency or the draft. Also, Clayton looked great with Bradford before his injury, but is a free agent. The team wants him back, so we’ll have to see if they can hammer out a deal, which may depend on his recovery.
Key Free Agents: RB Kenneth Darby, WRs Mark Clayton and Laurent Robinson, LB David Vobora.
Seattle Seahawks
QB: What could have been a transition year for the Seahawks under center wasn’t so much that as it was a continuation of the old regime. Although new coach Pete Carroll brought in Charlie Whitehurst and signed him to an extension to compete with Matt Hasselbeck or at least provide some much-needed depth, Hasselbeck still started 14 games, throwing for 2998 yards, completing 59.9% of his passes, for 12 TDs and 17 INTs. He finished with a below-average 15.8 FPG on the season, although he was playing behind a shaky line all year and had a revolving door of weapons with the only constant being Big Mike Williams. Hasselbeck missed two games on the season with first a concussion and then a hip injury, also while dealing with a non-throwing wrist injury. While Hasselbeck was uneven all year and threw a ton of INTs early in the year, there’s no doubt the Seahawks and Hasselbeck were able to exceed expectations on the year, and he did a damn good job shutting up critics with his phenomenal performance in an upset win over the Saints in the NFC Wild Card round. So while Hasselbeck’s arm strength is still suspect, and he turned the ball over more than we’re used to seeing, he will make the Seahawks face a tough decision. He’s a free agent, and Whitehurst didn’t exactly play well enough to instill confidence in him for the future. Of course, we have to give Whitehurst credit where it’s due; he started the Seahawks’ most important game of the season in Week Seventeen, throwing for 192 yards with a TD and a pick on 22/36 passing, leading them to a division title. He’s mobile and has a big arm but is really unpolished, indecisive and isn’t exactly young for a developing QB – he will be 29 when the 2011 season kicks off. So with Hasselbeck entering free agency and Whitehurst shaky at best in his five games of action (two starts), Carroll will have to assess his situation under center. Unfortunately for Seattle, their “playoff run” landed them in the mid-20s in April’s NFL Draft, as opposed to the top-10 pick losing in Week Seventeen would have given them. What we do know is that Seattle needs upside for the future here, and we don’t know that Whitehurst gives them that. We’re sure the aging Hasselbeck doesn’t.
  • Fantasy situation to watch for 2011: Will it be more of the same, with Hasselbeck starting and Whitehurst backing him up, or will the Seahawks let Hasselbeck go and draft a young QB? They could also draft a QB and have Hasselbeck train him, while exploring a potential market for Whitehurst.
RBs: The Seattle Seahawks didn’t have a running game in 2010. Bottom line. Yes, they tried to have one, and a long Marshawn Lynch run was their signature offensive play of the season, but let’s be frank. For the most part, their rushing offense was an abomination, and it drove fantasy owners up a wall. Seattle entered the year with Julius Jones, Justin Forsett, and Leon Washington in the backfield, which was a particularly inept trio through four games. So the Seahawks dealt for Marshawn Lynch of Buffalo before their next game (cutting Jones in the process), and Lynch was their starting tailback for 12 games. But whether it be Lynch’s skill set, the struggles of the Seahawk offensive line, or a combination of multiple factors, he wasn’t particularly effective. In 12 games with Seattle, Lynch finished with a 165/573/6 line on the ground, a 3.5 YPC average and a 8.9 FPG line, good for just 34th in the league over his time with the Seahawks. We saw Lynch fall back on a lot of the tendencies that plagued him in 2009 with the Bills. He’s a naturally powerful runner, but he ran side to side (like a crab) far too often for our liking, and when a struggling offensive line isn’t blocking well, that’s a recipe for disaster. Hey, let’s give the guy credit for running hard and his amazing TD run against the Saints in the postseason, but he didn’t do much else to inspire us for his fantasy future. In his 12 games with the Seahawks, he never topped 89 yards rushing, and he averaged under 3.0 YPC five separate times. That isn’t good. What might have been surprising, then, was the fact that the Seahawks underutilized Forsett and basically ignoring Washington, except on kickoff returns. Forsett finished the 2009 season in a flurry but couldn’t get going in 2010. He ran for a line of 118/523/2 and caught 33 passes for 249 yards, but he received 10+ carries in only three of the Seahawks’ games, and only once after Lynch arrived in town. His 5.6 FPG were good for only 56th in the NFL, and in most leagues, he was worth owning only as a depth option. He doesn’t have long speed, but he’s really quick, and there’s a burst to him that stands out. Unfortunately, his lack of true timed speed might have affected his role as a true third-down option, and we’d have to think the Seahawks will look to upgrade in that area if at all possible because they don’t seem to be committed to Forsett at all.
  • Fantasy situation to watch for 2011: With Washington almost certainly gone (as a free agent) and the Seahawks seemingly unwilling to commit to Forsett as anything more than a changeup, will the Seahawks make moves to improve their versatility? This is speculation, but the Saints may be unwilling to pay Reggie Bush’s bonus heading into the 2011 season, and that could be a convenient reunion with his former USC coach The Pete.
WRs/TEs: The Seahawks entered the 2010 season with a lot of question marks at the WR position, and while they didn’t answer a whole lot of those questions, they did make one huge find. Former first-round bust Michael Williams, a failed top-10 pick out of USC, reunited with his former college coach Pete Carroll to post one of the most remarkable comeback stories in recent NFL history. The 6’5” Williams entered the season with a 44/539/2 line in 27 games over three seasons, with no games played since 2007. All he did this year was work himself into shape and post a relatively incredible 65/751/2 line in 13 games (on 109 targets, 59.6%). Although he ranked just 51st with 6.7 FPG in standard-scoring leagues (thanks to a lack of TDs), there’s a lot to look forward to. Yes, there were some things he struggled with (including ankle and foot injuries), as he doesn’t have very good natural speed, but he used his big frame to shield his body against hapless defenders, and his hands were very impressive for a guy who had taken three years off from the game. He was rewarded with a three-year contract extension just recently, so Williams will certainly be back as the Seahawks’ biggest target. Who flanks beside him will be the big question moving forward. The Seahawks had a rotating cast throughout the season, including young speedster Deon Butler (36/385/4, 52.9%), who started the year in the lineup but whose season ended prematurely with a gruesome leg injury suffered on an awkward hit after a TD catch. If Butler isn’t ready to start the season, look for Ben Obomanu (30/494/4, 68.1%) to contribute. Obomanu does nothing special, but he has decent size and is a long strider who had a knack for making acrobatic catches. There’s a place for him in the NFL, although it ideally isn’t as a starting WR. The Seahawks also got solid contributions from veteran Brandon Stokley (31/354/0, 72.0%), who caught a high percentage of his passes and consistently moved the chains, while making a positive impact in the postseason. The Seahawks need to upgrade the position, but they’ve certainly got something to look forward to in Williams. Where 20010 #2 pick Golden Tate fits in is likely in the slot, but his rookie season can only be deemed a disappointment. There’s still time for him, however. At TE, we were disappointed (yet again) with John Carlson, who was essentially a non-factor all season, until he scored twice in Seattle’s Wild Card win over the Saints. On the season, Carlson was used prominently as a blocker as the Seahawks fought their way through offensive line struggles, but that’s underutilizing his positive receiving skills. Carlson put up a very low 31/318/1 line on 57 targets, giving him a low conversion rate of 54.4% and ranking him a miserable 43rd at the position with 2.7 FPG. And by the end of the year, even the immortal Cameron Morrah (9/117/0) was stealing some looks. Hopefully, Carlson’s positive playoff showing (before he left the second-round game with a concussion) is a harbinger for the future, but after seeing his role decrease in two consecutive seasons, we can’t be sure.
  • Fantasy situation to watch for 2011: Will the Seahawks look to add a WR opposite Williams, or do they think Butler will recover and rookie Golden Tate (21/227/0) will take a stride toward the starting lineup? Will Carlson ever be featured in this offense in the way his talent dictates?

Key Free Agents: QB Matt Hasselbeck, RB Leon Washington, FB Michael Robinson, WR Brandon Stokley, WR Ruvell Martin, T Sean Locklear, OL Tyler Polumbus, C Chris Spencer, DT Brandon Mebane, DT Craig Terrill, LB Will Herring, LB Matt McCoy, CB Kelly Jennings, S Lawyer Milloy, S Jordan Babineaux, K Olindo Mare

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