Turner can't be completely dismissed on draft day

Posted July 23, 2012 @ 10:42 a.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

There will be owners in your fantasy league who want nothing to do with Michael Turner. Too old, they will say. A candidate to wear down. Not a speedster. This is a passing league, you know. Didn’t you hear they’re going to cut his workload?

You don’t need me to tell you that running backs take a pounding, that NFL clubs, knowing this, are: 1) more prone to turn to committee approaches at the position than before and 2) don’t hesitate to move on to the next back when they believe it's necessary.

Yes, running backs have small windows in which to perform, and Turner’s window, given his age (30), his hard-charging, high-contact, between-the-tackles running style and the volume of carries he has received the past four regular seasons (1,189), is, um, narrower than it was a few years ago.

But I’m not buying that Michael Turner is done being a valuable fantasy football performer. Here’s why:

• Even if his overall workload starts to shrink, he’s going to get the lion’s share of goal-line carries in a very good offense. Of Turner’s 50 regular-season TDs in four seasons with the Falcons, 40 have come from the opposition’s 10-yard-line and inward.

• For someone whose speed is not regarded as his strength, Turner’s yards-per-carry average is quite good. He has gained at least 4.5 yards per tote in 3-of-4 seasons in Atlanta and has never been held to less than 4.1 yards per carry over an entire season with the Falcons.

• Turner is far-and-away the most accomplished member of the Falcons’ backfield. Look, if the Falcons had drafted a running back high in the 2012 draft or added a Michael Bush-like performer in free agency, I wouldn’t be as high on Turner. But they did not draft a back or sign anyone of note. As of this writing, Turner’s primary competitors for carries are Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling, neither of whom exactly lit it up for Atlanta a season ago. That’s not to say that Snelling and Rodgers can’t be better this season, but before we completely write off Turner, let’s acknowledge he was the best back on the Falcons’ roster last season, and he’s very likely going to be their best back in 2012.

Could Turner end up being a bust? Sure, and the skepticism about his upside is healthy. But let’s not go overboard: this is a starting back in all formats. I would think most fantasy owners feel the same way, but I sense Turner’s bandwagon is far from full. He’s going to slide in some leagues, which lowers expectations, and he’s going to run right through a lower bar.