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The Case Against Michael Turner

Last season,
Michael Turner
emerged from the shadows of future hall of famer, and former perennial top fantasy running back
LaDainian Tomlinson
, by rushing the Atlanta Falcons to a surprising playoff berth. His 1,699 yards on the ground and 17 touchdowns made him the second-best fantasy running back, behind divisional rival
DeAngelo Williams
. It was a remarkable season by all accounts, and it launched him into the discussion of the games best fantasy running back. But in reality, it shouldn’t have. It was simply the result of a dangerously high number of carries against the league’s worst defenses.

While Turners overall numbers are quite impressive, they lose a lot of luster when you consider that 873 yards and nine touchdowns came against
Detroit,
Oakland,
Kansas City,
St. Louis,
Denver and

Green Bay
. Those teams ranked 32nd, 31st, 30th, 29th, 27th and 26th, respectively, in rushing defense last season. His numbers in those six games accounted for more than half of his overall production. When you replace those six atrocious defenses with the Jets, Redskins, Giants, Dolphins, Cowboys and Patriots defenses that he’ll have to face this season, his prospects dim significantly.

Also, even though the Falcons surprised the league by winning 11 games last year, they are highly unlikely to reach double-digit wins again this season. In 2008, the Falcons went 7-1 against the inexcusably easy AFC West and NFC North and 4-4 against the rest of their schedule. This season, they will have to play the much tougher NFC and AFC East. While it’s not unreasonable to assume that they’ll split their divisional schedule again, it’s pretty difficult to imagine them going .500 against the rest of the competition.

What’s the point of all of this? Well in the four games that the Falcons lost last season (not including the Denver game), Turner produced a high of 12 points fantasy points against New Orleans in Week 14. In the other three losses, he produced four points against Tampa bay, five points against Carolina and five points against Philadelphia. It may be a small sample size, but football teams in general call fewer running plays and more passing plays when they’re behind.

Finally, he carried the ball 377 times last season, and that figure, above everything else, is most likely to see a sizeable decrease. According to research done by the guys at Football Outsiders, players who approach 370 caries have a strong tendency to suffer injuries the following season. Even if he stays healthy, he’s virtually non-existent in the passing game and the team has already stated that one of their goals is to get the highly underrated
Jerious Norwood
more involved this season.

So what does it all add up to? In my opinion, he’ll most likely put up the numbers of an RB2. My best advice regarding
Michael Turner
this year: follow

San Diego
’s lead and view at him as a replaceable second option.

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