The Truth is out there.
My mission today is to prove it.
Over the course of the last week, the reality of Christine Michael being a thing (again?) in fantasy football has set in. If you're already skeptical after reading the first sentence, I can't really argue with you. Michael has basically burned every NFL and fantasy writer at some point or other during his potential-laden but underwhelming three seasons in the league.
But as a member of a Seattle Seahawks backfield that's truly in a state of flux even with preseason games looming, Michael presents an opportunity for fantasy owners to capitalize on the healthiest and most experienced back on Seattle's roster.
You can basically get Michael for free in most fantasy drafts. He's the RB79 according to FantasyPros.com and is not being drafted in 12-team leagues or even 20-round MFL10s at this point.
Look, you guys told me not to do this.
I had been fairly warned. Against my best judgment, I chose not to heed your advice.
A snapshot of Michael's litany of letdowns:
-- In 2013, Michael set the NFL Draft community on fire with his off-the-charts performance at the combine, making him a measurables darling loaded with potential. Drafted in the second round by Seattle, Michael saw just 18 carries in his rookie campaign as Marshawn Lynch, still in his prime, dominated the workload.
-- In 2014, NFL Media's Marc Sessler of Around the NFL included Michael as a "Making the Leap" candidate, as the talented back seemed poised for a breakout. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry on 34 rush attempts that year. Alas, the forecasted "leap" did not happen. Sessler has moved on since then, but I have not.
-- In 2015, Michael bounced around from Seattle to Dallas to Washington and back to Seattle again. NFL Media's Chris Wesseling of Around the NFL predicted that Michael could lead Dallas in rushing last year. Alas, the team cut him after just 15 carries for 51 yards in five games. Without hesitation, Wesseling has passed the Michael truther torch to me.
-- With Lynch and Rawls both out with injuries late last year, Michael started two regular season games and one playoff contest. He played well enough for the Seahawks to bring him back to compete among a fresh class of rookie backs this offseason.
Why the opinion on Michael has changed:
Yes, the sample size is extremely small; Michael set career highs in 2015 in carries (54), rush yards (243) and games started (two). But among the 18 running backs who logged between 47 and 67 carries in 2015, Michael's 4.5 yards per carry average ranked him sixth.
In the four games in which he received carries with Seattle at the end of 2015 (three regular season, one playoff) he averaged 4.3 yards per carry on 60 rush attempts and saw no fewer than 16 touches in three of those four contests. With Seattle playing in must-win situations at the end of the season, the team was operating without both of their top running backs, Lynch and Rawls, due to injury. In frigid conditions, the Seahawks relied on Michael in the NFC Wild Card game against Minnesota.
Michael answered the call with 70 yards on 21 rush attempts, and out-performed all-time great Adrian Peterson who managed just 45 yards on 23 attempts in that game.
Since then, the drumbeat (as Matt Harmon has dubbed it) surrounding Michael has grown louder and more incessant, and it's mostly being driven by Seattle's coaching staff, who has been through the worst of times with the Texas A&M product.
"I trust him a lot more than I have in the past." Smith went on, saying Michael "is a player we are counting on and he is accepting the challenge of being a guy that we can rely on." Smith continued, "I've seen change ... Things were distracting him a little bit [in the past]. But right now, he's just a different guy."
Smith is not alone in his opinion that Michael's mentality has changed since his return to Seattle last season. With a career yards per carry averaged of 4.7, it's definitely not his performance that had him getting cut by several teams in a matter of weeks. But now, the Seattle coaching staff is showering their draft investment with praise. Smith went so far to say that Michael "is everything we hoped he would be when we drafted him a few years ago."
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell joined in, saying that Michael is "kind of the leader in the group now ... He's come a long way ... He's matured in so many ways."
Head coach Pete Carroll talked up his number one back, too, saying Michael has "been on the money throughout [camp]."
Michael got first-team work in OTA sessions in May with Rawls rehabbing his ankle. In mid-June, it was reported that Michael had shed eight pounds in an effort to increase his quickness, an additional sign that he might be taking this professional football player gig more seriously.
Since training camp opened in late July, Michael has been the only consistent factor in Seattle's backfield. Soaking up first-team reps as he had all offseason, Michael has drawn raves from coaches and beat reporters close to the team. Since rookie C.J. Prosise has been sidelined with an injury and fifth-rounder Alex Collins is working on refining his game at the pro level, Michael projects to have a key role early in the preseason. If he continues to impress in exhibition contests, Seattle may feel less pressure to hurry Rawls back to the field.
It is a positive sign that Rawls was removed from the PUP list but it is still extremely likely he misses the entire preseason. Coach Carroll has already said the team plans to take it slow with Rawls. If they ease him back into the offense once the regular season starts as they said is the plan, Michael will probably absorb whatever snaps Rawls is absent for. And if Rawls suffers any setbacks in his path to recovery, Michael would likely slot in as Seattle's starting running back for however long they need him to be that guy, and possibly beyond that if he performs well.
In a futile attempt to quantify Michael's ability as a runner, I took the liberty of watching every carry that he received in 2015. The majority of his runs, or about 80 percent, were either impressive runs where he displayed great vision, hit his lanes with authority, burst into the next level and gained yards after contact. Or, they were par-for-the-course-type runs where he did the minimum of what the play was designed for before getting taken down, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Only about 20 percent of his runs were what I considered poor based solely on the old-fashioned eye test.
My point is if you watch the film it becomes evident that Michael has the physical traits to be a great running back. His combination of quick feet, top-shelf cutback ability and toughness make him a guy who cannot be ignored. He runs less violently than Rawls does, but his finesse, patience and vision were indisputable on tape.
He's not a bad player, but he has the reputation as one because of his continued failures. But an entire coaching staff, who is arguably one of the best in the NFL in developing talent, would not be this all-in if Michael didn't have something left to offer.
Michael's performance in camp even has John Clayton, a longtime NFL reporter, ESPN commentator and now covering the Seahawks for 710 ESPN Seattle, reporting that Michael "does have a chance -- a legitimate chance -- to be the starter" for the Seahawks.
The drumbeat grows louder ...
If Michael truly has turned the corner, fantasy fans should be excited to see him finally reach his true potential as a football player. Since you can get him for free in drafts right now, he's well worth taking a flier on late in your drafts, and he could make waves with a strong preseason showing. Get your popcorn ready.
Hey Marcas Grant, you're up: