Backfield Emotion

Nathan Miller

It was a sad day for Buffalo last week when the Bills cut perennial over-achiever Fred Jackson. At 34, Jackson is at the end of a very accomplished career. Heading into training camp, he missed time due to a hamstring injury and cutting Jackson saved the Bills $2.5 million in cap space. With Bryce Brown and Karlos Williams looking competent behind bellcow LeSean McCoy, the Bills have decent depth at the position and saw Jackson as expendable.

For fantasy purposes, Jackson is a cozy blanket on a cool winter day that keeps your roster warm and toasty. In addition to being a three-down back with above average tangibles, Jackson has seen success as a kick returner as well. Back in 2009 when my friends and family league toyed with return yardage in our scoring, Jackson was the wrecking ball that destroyed the very foundation of my opponents. He may be old, but he’s talented.

Heading into 2015, under Head Coach Rex Ryan, Jackson appeared to be in line for enough work to make him flex worthy in 12-team and deeper leagues once again. Now in Seattle with the man he once mentored, Marshawn Lynch, Jackson’s final season (maybe?) may be more supernova than superfluous.

The aforementioned Seahawks had Jackson in for a visit earlier in the week, but didn’t sign him immediately. Things changed for the Seattle backfield very quickly last night as it was revealed Seattle was frustrated and simply not confident in their current running corps. As such, they signed Jackson, waived/injured Robert Turbin and reportedly put the habitually underwhelming Christine Michael on the trade block.

Let’s break down the aftermath of a very interesting evening in the Emerald City.

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Fred Jackson, RB SEA

Buffalo hasn’t had a competent quarterback since Drew Bledsoe in 2004. The fundamental approach for moving the ball in Buffalo for ten years has been to run, and then run some more. For eight years, Jackson has worked behind shoddy offensive lines and without competent quarterbacks or consistently credible receiving options. Despite these unfortunate circumstances, Jackson has finished as a RB1 once (2013) and has finished as an RB2 four times (one of which was a 13th place finish).

Now Jackson moves to Seattle, a team that finished second in rushing attempts last season. Seattle’s offensive line could be superior to the paper-mache group in Buffalo and the supporting cast is Super Bowl caliber. With a top 10 quarterback in Russell Wilson, an elite tight end in Jimmy Graham and lightning in a bottle rookie wide receiver Tyler Lockett, Jackson will feel the gulf stream at his back more than not while running in Seattle.

Marshawn Lynch, RB SEA

A fourth place finisher in rushing attempts last season, expect Lynch’s attempts to drop a bit with the addition of Jackson. On the bright side, I don’t expect a significant drop. Odds are Lynch finishes near the 250 carries mark and only relinquishes 10% of his carries to Jackson. Where Lynch may actually see a significant dip is on receptions, and to a lesser degree, touchdowns.

Jackson has excelled as a third down back. He hasn’t been just serviceable, but one of the best (if not THE best) third down back in the league. I fully expect a 50% decrease in receptions for Lynch. How affected Lynch’s touchdowns are is anyone’s guess, but it likely won’t be a deathblow.

Bottom line – looking at this year alone, Lynch moves from the seventh ranked running back to ninth or tenth. Still an RB1, but enough reduction in PPR leagues to bump him down just a touch and moderately less in standard leagues as the Seahawks try to keep him healthy.

Robert Turbin, RB SEA

Seattle waived/injured reserved Robert Turbin Friday night, shortly after Jackson’s confirmed signing. Injured most of the preseason and an afterthought in the backfield since Christine Michael was drafted, Turbin provided the Seahawks with a capable backup who consistently outplayed Michael and kept himself squarely on the dynasty radar. With Jackson now in the fold, Seattle began cleaning house. If Turbin isn’t claimed off waivers he will head to the IR for Seattle. If he’s on your roster then, he’s droppable in all formats except the deepest of leagues. Keep in mind there’s a good chance he does get claimed, though.

Christine Michael, RB SEA

More speculation out of Seattle Friday night indicated Seattle’s patience with Christine Michael may have run out. The team is reportedly seeking a trade partner for Michael’s services. Rumors point to the Dallas Cowboys as having interest, but given the preseason and beat reports out of Seattle, it’s hard to get excited about Michael. Regardless of if true or not, Michael’s lack of focus, understanding of the fundamentals and motivation to improve his game have haunted the back who’s stock was once as valuable as gold bullion in fantasy circles. He’s a hold at this point with the hope he gets a second chance behind a competent offensive line and awakens from his incompetency, but the Jackson impact is either a wash or a negative. Time will tell.

Thomas Rawls, RB SEA

While Thomas Rawls name has also been mentioned as a potential trade target, I don’t expect the Seahawks to move on from him so quickly. His dynasty value is trending upward with the Jackson signing and Turbin release. Regardless of Michael’s future, Rawls could quickly find himself as the next man up in a run heavy offense. The Seahawks really like what they see in Rawls and he should be squarely placed on the dynasty radar.

Russell Wilson, QB SEA

Fred Jackson’s signing in Seattle is nothing but positive for Wilson. Jackson’s soft hands, superior vision, top-notch pass blocking and veteran presence will only elevate this offense and help the signal caller.

Jimmy Graham, TE SEA

Rinse and repeat the above paragraph. Jackson behind the line provides an additional competent target for the defense to consider, as well as an above average blocker to compensate for any inadequacies of the offensive line. While some may suggest that Jackson will steal targets from Graham, I think it’s a moot point. What Graham loses to Jackson occasionally will conversely help Graham in situations.

For the rest of Seattle’s skill positions, the Jackson move only helps. He brings an element to this offense it was missing. Lynch has his “Beast Mode,” but some circumstances require something other than beasting, and the person to deliver on that is Jackson. That being said, Jackson is a beast in his own right. See HERE for proof of that.

On the cusp of his career finale, Jackson joins an old friend on a team that’s an early favorite to return to the Super Bowl for a third straight year. Seattle has taken big strides to improve their offense this off-season and the Fred Jackson Fan Club is likely in for a jubilant ride.



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