The Seattle Seahawks have been an NFC power for the past several years, in large part due to a stout defense loaded with Pro Bowl talent at all three levels.
However, while Seattle’s defensive core has remained intact, thanks to some player defections among complementary players and injuries that defense wasn’t its dominant self for much of the 2015 season — especially in the back end (where the “Legion of Boom” suddenly couldn’t cover tight ends) and in a pass rush that fell to 17th in the NFL in sacks.
Still, by season’s end the Seahawks finished second in total defense and passing defense and first in run defense, and as such there’s plenty of talent that appeals to IDP owners.
Numbers in parentheses denote 2015 positional finish in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.
The Seahawks have some offseason drama along the defensive front. Coming off a career-high 10 sacks, defensive end Michael Bennett (DL11) wants a new contract and the pay raise that goes with it. And as ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia pointed out, the 30-year-old hasn’t been even a little shy about saying so.
“It is never-ending,” Bennett said. “Especially when people are getting new contracts every day. You sit there and you’re like, ‘Damn, really?’ I’m just to the point where it’s kind of like, if you don’t think I’m valuable, then just get rid of me.”
Bennett is immensely valuable to the Seahawks as he’s a versatile linemen capable of collapsing the pocket and stuffing the run from anywhere along the line. Assuming that the Seahawks and Bennett mend fences (a fairly safe assumption), he’ll enter the 2016 campaign as a high-end DL2.
Batterymate Cliff Avril (DL12) also had one of the better seasons of his career in 2015, racking up 47 tackles and chipping in nine sacks. Avril’s play last year drew accolades from Sam Gold of SB Nation. “While Avril does not produce double-digit sacks,” Gold said, “he is a playmaker on the Seahawks defensive line both in the run and in the pass game. Avril has totaled at least eight sacks in five of the last six seasons, and has forced 24 fumbles in his eight-year career.”
Like Bennett, Avril’s 2015 numbers are likely close to his IDP ceiling. And like Bennett, Avril heads into 2016 as a higher-end second defensive lineman in fantasy leagues.
The top IDP for the Seahawks is their defensive play-caller and man in the middle, linebacker Bobby Wagner (LB14). Wagner has, in many ways, been about as consistent as linebackers get. In each of his four NFL seasons Wagner has topped 100 tackles, and in 2015 Wagner was the ninth-ranked ILB in the NFL per Pro Football Focus.
Wagner told ESPN 710 in Seattle that he’s benefited from playing with the same people the past few years. “I feel like it’s kind of an interesting year,” Wagner said, “because when I got here a lot of the team was super young and still trying to learn, but you can see now the growth from everybody. Everybody’s been in the league a little bit longer, everybody’s starting to mature and understand the defense, and we’re starting to talk more about things that we probably didn’t even talk about when we first got here.”
What IDP owners don’t talk about with Wagner enough is the Seattle stat crew that leans heavily toward awarding assists over solos. Or the fact that Wagner plays on a stout defense that has a tendency to get off the field quickly. Or the fact he hasn’t hit 70 solos since 2013 and hasn’t posted 90 solos since…ever. He’ll be drafted as a top-10 fantasy linebacker — but the odds are as good as not he won’t produce like one.
It wasn’t Wagner who led the Seahawks in tackles in 2015, however. That was sixth-year veteran K.J. Wright (LB22), who Pete Prisco of CBS Sports called the team’s most underrated player. “We hear a ton about the Seattle front and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and the Legion of Boom,” Prisco said, “but Wright is often overlooked. He shouldn’t be. That’s why he’s the pick here for the second straight year. He is a long, athletic linebacker who can run to the football. He’s a big part of why Seattle has been so good on defense the past four years.”
Wright occasionally gets overlooked in IDP leagues too, which can make him a sneaky value pick as a third linebacker.
Prisco wasn’t as kind when it came to strong safety Kam Chancellor (DB91) who missed five games last year en route to his worst season since his rookie year. In fact, Prisco wrote that Chancellor was the most overrated player on the team.
“Chancellor is a big hitter,” Prisco said, “which is why the highlight shows love him, but he has never been good in coverage and that was exposed even more last season. In the past four seasons, he has six interceptions and he doesn’t do a great job when asked to cover tight ends. The game has changed. Some 10 to 15 years ago Chancellor would have been an all-out star. But with offenses spread out, he’s becoming more of a liability.”
Chancellor hasn’t cracked the top-30 fantasy defensive backs since all the way back in 2012 — making him awfully hard to trust as more than an IDP DB3.
Things have gone a bit better for free safety Earl Thomas (DB51). Sure, Thomas struggled through an injury-marred 2015 of his own, but the two years prior he was a top 25 fantasy option — including a top 10 finish in 2013. As opposed to last year, when Thomas entered camp battling a shoulder injury, he’s 100 percent this year. And it’s Thomas who now is the defensive back to own in the “Legion of Boom.”
But even then, the Seattle scorekeepers hurt him just as they do Wagner, and a healthy Chancellor could cost him some tackle opportunities. I wouldn’t mind rostering Thomas as a third defensive back, but odds are his name and reputation will get him drafted before that.