Thomas Rawls best fantasy value in Seattle backfield

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The Seattle Seahawks had their worst rushing offense of the Russell Wilson era in 2016. The team ranked 25th in the NFL with 99.4 rushing yards per game. Leading rusher Christine Michael emerged (awoke) seemingly out of nowhere with 469 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns. Despite Michael's early-season production, he was waived following a Week 10 win against New England, also known as C.J. Prosise's coming out party. I digress.

Depth is something the Seattle backfield lacked a season ago, mostly due to attrition. Now, the trio of Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and Prosise looks, on paper, like one of the deeper and more versatile backfields in the league. All three backs figure to carve out chunks of playing time given their differing skill sets. But let's dive in a bit deeper, consider each back's current redraft value and see if we can't uncover some clarity as you prepare for draft day.

*ADP data comes from FantasyPros.com consensus rankings

Eddie Lacy (ADP 70, RB29)

Lacy played four seasons in Green Bay. His first two were productive, finishing with over 1,000 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns in each (the fantasy RB6 both seasons). These performances had fantasy drafters selecting Lacy as a top-10 running back in redraft leagues for each of the last two years. But inconsistency, injury issues, and weight issues led to overall ineffectiveness as he totaled just 1,118 rush yards and five total scores combined, frustrating fantasy owners everywhere for two straight seasons.

As noted above, Seattle's ground attack was abysmal last year. So, the team added Lacy in free agency in the hopes of revamping the run game and to add depth to what became a sparse backfield.

Lacy's one-year deal is laden with incentives and weight goals, the first few of which he has reportedly met, in an effort to keep his conditioning on track. The addition of Lacy may be a sign that the team doesn't fully have faith in Rawls' reliability, seeing as Rawls has missed 10 games over the last two seasons with injuries.

Some fantasy owners might think that because Lacy is a bigger name, has the most professional experience and put together two solid seasons with the Packers, that he's the favorite to be Seattle's primary back. But his early Round 8 ADP reflects some uncertainty.

For starters, Lacy's move to Seattle is a downgrade in terms of opportunity. He'll now be sharing time with Rawls and Prosise, as opposed to being the go-to guy in Green Bay when healthy; he even hauled in 42 receptions in 2014, boosting his overall value. But his lack of production over the past two seasons is baked into his asking price, and personally, I'm asking myself if it's still too high.

All summer, the storyline out of Seahawks camp has been that Lacy and Rawls will battle for the starting role. So far, neither has emerged the leader. But we need to remember that Lacy is less than a year removed from ankle surgery and has been limited throughout the offseason program. He's new to the Seattle offense. His running style has been referred to by coach Pete Carroll as "thick and heavy" which was meant in a good way, but let's be honest, the dude straight up rumbles down the field. At this point, Lacy's presence on the field would signal an obvious run play, in a similar way we have seen New England use LeGarrette Blount in past seasons.

The days of Lacy catching 35-plus receptions are gone. His fantasy value in Seattle will lie in his ability to punch through goal-line carries. Am I suggesting that Lacy is about to become a touchdown vulture to Rawls and Prosise? Yes, I am. Now ask yourself, can you confidently sink an eighth-round pick into a goal-line vulture on a team that had the 25th-ranked run offense in the league last season? When you see that players like Stefon Diggs, Jameson Crowder and Larry Fitzgerald are going in the same range, investing an eighth-round pick in Lacy seems like a waste.

There's a better value in the Seattle backfield hanging around much later in redrafts.

Thomas Rawls (ADP 141 overall RB47)

Fantasy enthusiasts fell in love with Rawls during the 2015 season. He took over for an injured Marshawn Lynch, led the league with a 5.7 yards per carry average (minimum 110 carries) and made for a hell of a waiver-pickup before going out with an ankle injury in Week 14. His violent running style mirrored that of Lynch so much, that Rawls was dubbed "Baby Beast Mode."

Rawls' 2016 campaign was marred in with injury issues, first carrying over from the aforementioned ankle ailment and was then compounded by a broken leg once he managed to get back on the field in Week 2. He returned by Week 11, and took over as Seattle's primary back; Michael had become ineffective, and Prosise was out injuries of his own.

Rawls averaged 12.8 carries per game for the Seahawks final eight regular season contests last year. He flashed his slippery, tackle-breaking style during a 100-yard performance against the Panthers in Week 13, and put up another 161 yards in a playoff game against the Lions when most fantasy owners had stopped paying attention. With an entire offseason of rest, we can assume Rawls' injury woes are behind him.

The Lacy signing does complicate matters, but it's safe to move forward with the assumption that Rawls is the healthiest back of the group and should be treated as the starter, for now. And while Lacy and Rawls split work in a recent team scrimmage, Rawls got the initial crack with the starting offense, per Seattle New Tribune beat reporter, Greg Bell. It's a minor detail but helps give us an idea that the Seattle coaching staff isn't simply handing the primary role to Lacy out of the gate.

We're likely to get additional clarity on the situation when the Seahawks kick off their preseason against the Chargers on August 13th. For now, Rawls' 15th-round ADP screams late-round value. Perhaps fantasy drafters are thrown off by his struggles a season ago and have factored in Lacy's presence as a detriment to Rawls' value. But when given the option between the two backs, Rawls comes into focus as the clear bargain play with immense upside.

C.J. Prosise (ADP 116 overall, RB43)

The most versatile running back in Seattle, Prosise's role is pretty much locked in. He'll serve as a third-down pass-catching specialist and two-minute drill guy. The main concern, again, is his durability. Prosise suffered a hamstring injury early in the offseason program last year which kept him out of vital practice sessions as a rookie. Then, he saw two touches in Seattle's season opener before missing time with a wrist injury. He was out four games before racking up 80 receiving yards in Week 8 against the Saints. He was dominant in Week 10 and for one quarter in Week 11 before suffering a season-ending scapula fracture. You can understand why Seattle felt they needed to add some depth to the backfield in the offseason.

Looking ahead, Prosise brings upside in fantasy that neither Lacy nor Rawls can provide. Prosise has home run ability as evidenced by his 72-yard touchdown run against the Eagles last year. He's big enough to be a feature back, but the team wants to keep him from taking too much of a pounding given his durability concerns. It's something he worked hard to correct in his first pro offseason, and along with diet, he honed his explosive skill set. Hopefully, that effort translates into fantasy success.

Prosise can also be lined up as a receiver; he played slot up until his senior year at Notre Dame when he converted to running back. That added ability will keep him on the field alongside Rawls/Lacy and will allow for Seattle to use him in different, inventive ways.

When you factor in the overall trend of Seattle's offense in terms of run/pass ratio the last three seasons, it makes sense why Prosise has been labeled by some as a second-year breakout candidate. Russell Wilson's pass attempts have crept up incrementally throughout his career, but the curve has been more severe in recent seasons:

Seahawks run/pass ratio trends

2014: 525 ru att | 496 pass att
2015: 500 ru att | 535 pass att
2016: 403 ru att | 609 pass att

Some of this has to do with poor offensive line play and lack of a consistent run game the last few seasons. But Wilson has also developed into a more well-rounded quarterback, and the team's identity has evolved to lean more pass-heavy in the post-Lynch era.

Whatever the reason, all of it makes Prosise an ideal target in PPR formats and a potential game-changer to stash on your fantasy bench until we have more clarity of his involvement in the offense. For now, he's well worth his 12th-round asking price in redrafts and has the potential to pay huge dividends with his dual-threat ability as a both a runner and receiver for Seattle.

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