I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Michael Turner is the biggest unknown in fantasy football this season. Based on what (little) we’ve seen so far, Turner has the potential to be a Top 4 fantasy running back. On the other hand, considering how bad the Falcons are, he could be a first round fantasy bust. So Mr. Fantasy Football Writer Guy, which one will it be?
I’m going to go with the potential. The Falcons offense is going to be led either by rookie Matt Ryan or, if Atlanta wants to give him some time, semi-veteran Chris Redman. Either way, the Falcons are going to run the ball. A lot. In Mike Mularkey, they have a new offensive coordinator who knows how to build a rushing game as he was the Steelers’ OC from 2001-2003. In all three of those years, the Steelers had a primary back (Jerome Bettis) who shared time with an auxiliary back. I expect the same thing this year from the Falcons, with Turner playing the role of Jerome Bettis and getting about 250 carries, with Jerious Norwood grabbing about half that many.
Now you maybe thinking “Yeah, fine, but the Falcons’ offensive line stunk last year”. That’s true, but since owner Arthur Blank fired everybody in the organization last year, there’s a new offensive line coach too. Paul Boudreau spent the past two seasons as the offensive line coach in St. Louis, where Steven Jackson once ran for 1500+ yards behind an offensive line that saw nine different starters. This guy has had a lot of success patching together an offensive line from driftwood and duct tape. If the Falcons had any duct tape, they’d really be all set.
Put it all together and it looks….pretty sad. New coach, new OC, new offensive line coach, rebuilt line, a young speedy RB in Norwood looking to steal carries, a rookie QB and one decent WR. You’re supposed to base your fantasy football season on that?!
My answer is yes. Turner is a low-end RB1 and an absolutely outstanding RB2. This guy will be the heart of the Falcons offense this year. There is a level of risk here without a doubt, but I think the risk is comparable to guys like Frank Gore and Larry Johnson. If you’re planning to make one of those guys your RB1, there is absolutely no reason not to draft Turner as your RB1 instead.