One of the biggest topics of conversation in the world of fantasy football is the value of Michael Turner. Last year's breakout superstar is coming off the best season of his NFL career, rushing for an amazing 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Numbers like that have made him a viable top-five fantasy option in 2009 drafts.
However, is there a reason for owners to be concerned about this talented back, who's already proven to have a tremendous nose for the end zone? Well, there is the "Curse of 370," which has come into prominence in Turner's case. "Canton," as he's been labeled here at the NFL.com offices by Senior Associate Editor Andy Nesbitt, carried the ball a league-high 376 times last season.
What's more, the facts that support this curse are enough to scare Brett Favre back into retirement.
On 27 different occasions, a running back has carried the football at least 370 times. All but one – LaDainian Tomlinson in 2002-03 — failed to score the same number of fantasy points the following season. Other runners like Eric Dickerson, Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith were also able to produce well (albeit on a slightly decreased basis) after a 370-carry season, but overall this has been a statistical death sentence.
Furthermore, the last five running backs to hit the 370-carry mark, Larry Johnson (2006), Shaun Alexander (2005), Curtis Martin (2004), and Jamal Lewis and Ricky Williams (both in 2003) all saw an average drop off of 193 fantasy points the following year. OK, so Williams didn't play in 2004. But even if he's omitted from the list, the average decrease is still significant.
Here's another little factoid to wrap your fantasy brain around — out of the 27 occasions where the 370-carry mark was reached, the running back missed part or most of the following season due to injuries on 19 occassions.
That's almost 71 percent of the time.
While Falcons coach Mike Smith and coordinator Mike Mularkey won't be counting his carries all season, it's hard to envision a scenario where Turner doesn't see at least a slight decrease in attempts this season. Smith echoed that sentiment in a recent Journal-Constitution article, saying "we know that [Turner] can't sustain 370 carries over a number of years." Smith went on to say that he and Mularkey know they "have to reduce the load that we put on [Turner] this year."
Turner does have an advantage over other running backs who've been hit by the "Curse of 370," in that he posted a combined 228 carries in his first four seasons as a member of the San Diego Chargers. And to think that he'll reach even the 350-attempt mark in 2009 could be far fetched. That is, unless the Falcons want to risk losing arguably the most explosive weapon in their offense.
So what do fantasy leaguers do with Turner?
Well, the numbers of those "370" backs do make a significant argument to passing on the Burner in Round 1. But based on his age (27) and the low career workload he has at the NFL level, there's still no reason to avoid him -- as long as you're not expecting him to duplicate his 2008 totals.
Instead, look for Turner to compile around 1,400 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. And don't forget to draft Jerious Norwood has insurance in the middle rounds.
News and notes
- » Raiders wide receiver and fantasy sleeper Chaz Schilens will miss at least a month (and possibly more) after breaking a bone in his left foot during Tuesday's practice. The wideout was tremendous in his first preseason contest and was firmly on the fantasy radar, but this ailment makes him almost undraftable. His absence could also hurt the value of JaMarcus Russell, who was looking to Schilens a lot in practice.
- » The Denver Post reports that Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall returned to practice on Tuesday, one day after telling the team he wanted it to give him a new contract or trade him. On the bright side, the wideout seems to be 100 percent back from an injured hip and now has some time to gain a better rapport with Kyle Orton. He remains a bit of a risk, but Marshall is still a borderline No. 1 fantasy wideout.
- » Eagles running back Brian Westbrook continues to recover from offseason surgeries on both his ankle and knee. He is fully practicing with his teammates once again, but there's a chance he might not see any preseason action. That wouldn't hurt a veteran like Westbrook, though, who knows the offense inside and out. Still, age and health do make him a risk-reward pick in drafts. Be sure to grab LeSean McCoy as insurance.
- » The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that rookies Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie are not among the Browns' top three wide receivers on the current depth chart. Instead, Mike Furrey and Josh Cribbs have been used as the No. 2 and 3 receivers behind Braylon Edwards. Whether or not that changes between now and the start of the regular season, it's hard to draft Massaquoi or Robiskie with any confidence.
- » Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson returned to practice on a limited basis Tuesday, but he did not catch any passes in an effort to protect his sprained thumb. Though he still has a cast on the thumb, it seems like he's getting closer to being back on the field. His status for the Lions' second preseason game remains questionable, but he could be back for the third contest. Don't pass on Megatron in drafts.