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Christine Michael Cut, Thomas Rawls Fantasy Impact

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Fantasy Shakeup: Rawls in, C-Mike Out

christine-michaelBreaking News: The Seattle Seahawks have cut Christine Michael as Thomas Rawls is now finally healthy.

When former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch unexpectedly announced his retirement on February 7, 2016, he left a gaping hole in the team’s backfield. Entering the offseason, Seattle decided against pursuing a running back in free agency, in which notable players that included Lamar Miller and Doug Martin was available. Instead, they believed that they had his heir-apparent already under contract in the form of Thomas Rawls.

Rawls was an undrafted rookie in 2015 who worked his way up the depth chart and beat out Christine Michael for the No. 2 spot behind Lynch. He received an opportunity to showcase his abilities early in the season after Lynch suffered a hamstring injury, missing two games and most of a third as a result. Rawls drew the start from Weeks 3-to-5 in his predecessor’s absence, in which he totaled 377 yards and a touchdown during that span. Rawls impressed in his limited early-season action, but he wasn’t finished yet, however.

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Lynch sustained an abdominal injury during a Thursday practice before the team’s Week 10 contest against the Arizona Cardinals. He played in the matchup, but it was the last regular season game that he appeared in during his career. Lynch underwent sports hernia surgery on Nov. 25 that sidelined him until the Divisional round of the playoffs. While he was on the mend, Rawls had another outstanding run as the featured back. He started four games from Weeks 11-to-14 and compiled 435 yards on the ground and four total touchdowns. Rawls was in control of Seattle’s power rushing attack heading into the postseason, but an ankle injury suffered in Week 14 ended his remarkable rookie campaign. Because he finished the year with 905 total yards and five touchdowns, it was understandable why Seattle didn’t pursue Lynch’s replacement in free agency. They indeed already had him on their roster.

Rawls’ ankle injury lingered throughout the offseason. He was sidelined through spring workouts and began training camp on the PUP list. During the time Rawls was rehabbing his injury, Michael had a career resurgence. He dazzled in the preseason as the lead back, earning the praise of Head Coach Pete Carroll in the process.

Approaching Week 1, reports swirled that Rawls would be limited in the contest. He was, playing in only 22 snaps, leaving Michael as the starter for the season opener. Following an offseason full of rumors that the job belonged to Rawls, there was suddenly a running back controversy in Seattle. That dilemma didn’t last long, as Rawls sustained yet another injury in Week 2. This time, to his leg. He was diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his fibula and would miss “multiple weeks” of football activities.

Multiple weeks turned into eight, and Rawls was on the outside looking in when it comes to fantasy relevance due to Michael’s tremendous start. The key word is “start.” Through the first five games, he received 81 carries for 354 yards and four touchdowns, adding 15 receptions for 87 yards and another score. However, in his last four, his production fell off, only totaling 41 touches for 124 yards and one touchdown.

C.J. Prosise also factors into the reasons behind Michael’s statistical drop-off. Since returning from a hand injury in Week 7, Prosise saw his playing time and production increase almost on a weekly basis. After a terrible Week 9 outing against the Buffalo Bills, in which both Michael and Prosise struggled to move the football, reports indicated that the latter would receive an expanded role moving forward.

With Michael hampered by a hamstring injury, Prosise had the best game of his NFL career in Week 10 against the New England Patriots. He played in 77 percent of Seattle’s offensive snaps, carried the ball 17 times for 66 yards and caught seven passes for 87 yards. Clearly, he was the dominant rusher in the Seahawks’ backfield that night since Michael only received six touches for 26 yards.

On Tuesday, the Seahawks cut Christine Michael.

After all the work that Michael put in, the team must have felt they could move on with the return of Rawls. The NFL is a business first and foremost, but this was a cold-hearted move considering how hard Michael worked to turn his career around. There is still a good chance another team could pick him up.

Fantasy Impact

C-Mike’s role in the offense faded as quickly as it increased, which bodes well for Rawls’ fantasy outlook for the remainder of the season. His highly-anticipated return from injury is on the horizon as he is on track to play in Week 11 versus the Philadelphia Eagles. With Michael reeling, Rawls is poised to factor into Seattle’s rushing attack immediately. He isn’t heading into the most desirable matchup upon his return, though. Philadelphia’s defense is ranked 25th in fantasy points allowed to opposing rushers giving up 15.1 FPPG. It could be a rough game for Seattle’s backfield as a whole on Sunday afternoon.

Does Rawls have Fantasy value moving forward?

Of course, he does.

Despite owning the second most difficult schedule for the rest of the way, Rawls is on a team that wants to play smashmouth football. But, before we go any further, let’s take a look at Seattle’s remaining games.

Parenthesis denotes fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs ranking.

  • Week 11 – Philadelphia (25th vs. opposing RBs)
  • Week 12 – @Tampa Bay (7th vs. opposing RBs)
  • Week 13 – Carolina (30th vs. opposing RBs)

Fantasy Playoffs (for most)

  • Week 17 – @San Francisco (1st vs. opposing RBs)
  • Week 16 – Arizona (31st vs. opposing RBs)
  • Week 15 – Los Angeles (21st vs. opposing RBs)
  • Week 14 – @Green Bay (24th vs. opposing RBs)

Breakdown:

  1. Four of Seattle’s remaining seven opponents are ranked in the bottom eight in schedule difficulty.
  2. Weeks 14-16 are the three rounds of the fantasy playoffs for most leagues. They are also the most challenging slate of consecutive games of the seven.
  3. Week 16, the hardest game of the seven, falls on the week when most fantasy league championship games are played
  4. Week 17, the easiest game of the seven, takes place in an irrelevant week for most fantasy leagues.

Rawls is a must-add in all Fantasy Football formats despite his unfavorable schedule entering the final stretch of 2016. The Seahawks will continue to run the football, even if they struggle at times. The power-running style of offense is their identity. It also keeps the defense honest and takes the pressure off of Russell Wilson.

If Rawls picks up momentum this Sunday against Philadelphia, he will quickly overtake the top spot on the depth chart.

Thomas Rawls FantasyFor now, and maybe just for this week, Seattle’s backfield will be split. Prosise isn’t an every-down player, though, his stock is high, and he’s playing well.

Fantasy owners who were fortunate enough to stash Rawls this year made the right decision. They might have carried a mid-range RB2 on their roster, whose stock is on the rise. He will likely receive 12 plus touches per game and garner the goal line carries, which could easily translate to double-digit fantasy points on the regular.

Having a player with Rawls’ upside returning now is a luxury for his fantasy owners, particularly for those who lost Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson earlier in the year. He could be entrenched as Seattle’s starting running back as soon as Week 12. If that’s the case, his fantasy owners should start him at the RB2/ Flex spot across all scoring formats moving forward.

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About the author

Anthony Cervino

Anthony Cervino is a lifelong NFL enthusiast, especially of the Dallas Cowboys. He has been infatuated with the game since childhood and was introduced to fantasy football as a young teen. Back then, the league commissioner typed out the weekly newsletter and used the Daily News to tally scores. In a statistic-driven game of fantasy football, Anthony believes that sometimes you have to rely on that good ole gut instinct. Anthony resides in New Jersey where he lives with his wife, son and a pomeranian that is named Roman (after Tony Romo). When Anthony is not immersed in the NFL or fantasy football related activities, he enjoys bodybuilding and spending time with his family. Anthony is committed to giving you his best analysis and most accurate statistics to help you win championships. Don't hesitate to tweet Anthony @therealnflguru about anything NFL or fantasy-related topics. He will always respond in a timely fashion.

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