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Will Michael Turner still ‘burn’ in 2013?

As the Aaron Hernandez situation continues to unfold with the news that he is being investigated for a double murder in 2012, I debated whether or not to shelve this particular article and chime in with my thoughts on the situation.

Feeling that the Hernandez situation is being thoroughly broken down from every conceivable angle, I decided to press onwards with my examination of a player that has come up time and again when I’ve been talking fantasy with friends, leaguemates (surprisingly, they are not always one and the same) and on message boards.

As an Individual Defensive Player (IDP) lover and ‘expert’ by trade, I often find my mind wandering to the nether regions of the offensive side of the ball when formulating my draft strategy. One name that is firmly entrenched in that region for the 2013 season is Michael Turner.

Michael Turner has made it known that he does not intend to retire and would like to continue his career. With the lack of any team visits or interest in general from the league, the NFL has let it be known that Turner is in a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” situation.

The simple, easy route is to go ahead and give up on Turner for fantasy purposes as he enters what will be his 10th NFL season coming off of a career low 3.6 yards per carry last year for the Atlanta Falcons. There is also the issue of the ankle injury he suffered in the NFC championship game and where he is at health wise. Well, I’ve never done things the easy way and I’m not going to start now, so let’s take a closer look at Turner and see whether or not he has been completely shutoff.

During his five-year stint in Atlanta, Turner put up some very impressive numbers and was a fantasy darling for four of those seasons. Turner started 72 of a possible 75 regular season games for the Falcons and amassed more than 6,000 rushing yards and totaled an impressive 61 total touchdowns. He has registered double-digit rushing touchdowns in each of the past five seasons, including 10 in 2012.

While he has never been a receiving threat out of the backfield, it should be noted that Turner did register a career-high 19 receptions last year along with his lone career receiving touchdown.

Unfortunately for Turner during his time in Atlanta, he also carried the ball 1,411 times in the regular season (which is what we care about in fantasy after all) and caught another 59 passes. That’s 1,470 total touches in five seasons for a man that makes his living running into contact and taking brutal hits to a compact 5-foot-10, 237-pound frame.

As I’ve stated in past articles, there is one defender that no player can outrun – Father Time. Turner is 31 years old, and while that doesn’t seem all that bad in the real world, it is generally the beginning of the end for NFL running backs and even more so for fantasy production purposes. Is this the end of the line for Turner? Could be. But there is a glimmer of hope.

Before we completely shut the door on Turner, let’s not forget that in last season’s divisional playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks he did put up 98 yards on 14 carries (7.0 yards per carry). To put that in perspective, Seattle’s defense finished 10th against the rush last season.

Should his ankle be deemed fit before training camps open and he keeps himself in game shape, there could be the chance that Turner latches on with a team searching for a short yardage/goal line back. Last season he carried the ball 29 times from the opponent’s 10-yard line and closer gaining 36 total yards (1.24 yards per carry) for nine first downs and eight touchdowns.

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