Fantasy Analysis: Michael Turner is Criminally Undervalued

Fantasy Analysis: Michael Turner is Criminally Undervalued
Byron Lambert,

Agreed, it’s better to abandon a player one year too early than one year too late. It’s better to be on the cutting edge, finding the “next best thing” sooner than later. A lot of fantasy owners tend to hold on too long. It’s strange, though, in the case of Michael Turner. People are jumping off of the bandwagon left and right. His fantasy football drop-off is nearing, but I’m not yet ready to adopt that strategy for “The Burner”. He has a couple of good years left, and I’m willing to roll the dice on him in 2012.

I noticed the distaste for Turner while perusing the Fantasy Pros rankings . These rankings are the aggregate of 56 experts, including rankings from Yahoo Sports, CBS Sports, NFL.COM, and FootballGuys (along with the notably accurate rankings of yours truly here at Rosterwatch.) Turner’s expert consensus ranking is 15th among running backs, 39th overall, and has an average draft position of 33. I do not agree with this, and Turner’s Rosterwatch RB rank of #7 supports that.

Turner has been incredibly productive and very consistent the last two years. Posting 216.8 gross fantasy points in 2011 and 217.6 in 2010. Almost identical. 13.55 gross points/game in 2011 and 13.6 in 2010. 1,508 total yards in 2011 and 1,456 in 2010. 11 TDs in 2011 and 12 TDs in 2010. You get the picture. This guy is solid gold. Like I always say, early in your fantasy draft, put the money in the bank. He may not be the 20 point/game, “true” #1 RB we all dream of, but there are only a few of those. He is one of the few players in the league that could have 15-plus TDs this year.

The concerns are legitimate, though. Turner is 30. It’s his ninth year in the league. He’s had over 300 carries the three of the last four seasons. He runs with a physical style. The Falcons are transitioning to a passing offense. Jacquizz Rodgers is about to turn in to Ahmad Bradshaw.

Here is the silver lining: Remember, Turner’s first 4 seasons were on the bench behind LaDanian Tomlinson in San Diego. During that span, he only averaged 57 carries a year. His physical style helps maintain his production as he ages, and he continues to be valuable at the goal line. A more prolific Falcons offense actually creates more scoring opportunities for Turner. Jones and White open the field and take pressure off of the run game. Jacquizz Rodgers is not impressive, is tiny at 5’6″, and still sits 3rd on the depth chart behind Jason Snelling. I don’t see either of those guys emerging as a dominant #2.

Nor, am I ready to embrace this list of questions marks over a Michael Turner-stamped bar of solid gold:

Ryan Mathews (Upside w/ uncertainty. Projects to score in Turners range. Why take the chance?)
Marshawn Lynch (Last year was a revival. Will it last? SEA or ATL?)
Roddy White (Julio Jones)
Greg Jennings (WR is deep)
DeMarco Murray (I love him. Don’t trust him this much quite yet.)
Matt Forte (Seriously? Michael Bush)
Mike Wallace (No way.)
Jamaal Charles (Early 2011 devastating knee injury + Peyton Hillis)
Steven Jackson (Always hurt and old now too. Talk about Jacquizz – check Isaiah Pead)
Adrian Peterson (Late 2011 devastating knee injury + Toby Gerhart)
Frank Gore (See Steven Jackson and insert Jacobs, Hunter, James for Pead)
Dez Bryant (For real yo?)

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