DeAngelo Williams vs Michael Turner: Truth or Fiction

DeAngelo Williams and Michael Turner exploded out of their draft stock in 2008, much to the chagrin of the owners who didn’t draft them. Freed of DeShaun Foster, Williams still wasn’t supposed to put up enough of a fight to keep rookie running back Jonathan Stewart on the bench. Opposing defenses should have swamped Turner, escaping from LaDainian Tomlinson’s shadow only to be the lone offensive threat in a Falcons offense led by rookie quarterback Matt Ryan.

As it turns out, both backs handled their problems very well. They just had slow starts.

Williams yielded to Stewart early in the season only to take games over in the second half of the year after Stewart had some injury setbacks. He finished the season as the No. 1 fantasy running back with 20 touchdowns and more than 1500 yards. Turner started the season hot but struggled to get touchdowns against more challenging defenses until the last handful of games. He ended the season with more than 1700 total yards and 17 touchdowns.

Was 2008 truth or fiction for these two running backs?

DeAngelo Williams: Fiction

Williams had a great year, the kind many expected to see from him since he came into the league. He was elusive in the open field, deadly in the red zone and did plenty to keep the starting job over Jonathan Stewart this offseason.

But sadly, I don’t see him coming close to these numbers in 2009.

Carolina’s 2009 schedule, rated among the top-five most difficult by most analysts, is much tougher than the one they faced in 2008, rated among the top-10 or at least top-15 easiest in the league. The tougher run defenses will limit the potential scores for the both Carolina Panthers backs and could open the door for Stewart to gain more ground as the tougher, inside-running red zone threat.

Speaking of Stewart, drafters will have to keep in mind that he wasn’t a poor runner either last season. Coming off his surgery in the offseason, he had a strong finish to the season, in which he racked up 10 touchdowns and almost 900 yards.

With a full offseason under his belt and, hopefully, a healthy training camp, he stands to get a larger portion of the carries. At best, Williams and Stewart could have an even split in 2009.

With this schedule and sharing with Stewart, Williams should have a hard time generating as many touchdowns as he did in 2008, and I doubt Williams will live up to his first-round draft stock.

I’d much rather take Jonathan Stewart in the fourth round or later and believe that Williams’ 2008 performance was purely fiction.

Michael Turner: Truth

Turner struggled against the better run defenses of the NFL early in the season, had many, MANY rushing attempts (376) in 2008 and has the MOST difficult rushing schedule in the league in 2009. Even still, he’s being ranked and drafted just behind Adrian Peterson as the No. 2 running back in fantasy football for 2009, and he deserves to be there.

Turner found his groove in 2008 and wasn’t slowed by the Vikings or Bucs when he faced them late in the season. With an entire offseason to recover from all those carries, I doubt he’ll be slowed down by his large workload in 2008.

As for his schedule, he may be facing the tougher teams from 2008 on defense, but the offense in Atlanta is much improved with the addition of Tony Gonzalez in the passing and blocking game.

Turner’s carries may be decreased this season, but a veteran tight end and big receiving threat on the field with Roddy White should make it tougher to bottle up a powerful runner like Turner and stop him from breaking longer runs. His fresh legs, in just his second season as a starting running back, will keep him atop the fantasy ranks even if he doesn’t finish in the top two where he is being drafted.

He’s one of the safest picks at the top of the draft in 2009 and should be among the top-five running backs at season’s end. His 2008 performance was truth, not fiction.

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  • http://www.ustailgate.com/ Joe

    As you mentioned Turner is probably the safest RB pick this season. I have him ranked first over Peterson simply because he is on the field more on 3rd downs

  • http://www.fantasyfootballfools.com Jacob

    Good point. That's not a bad strategy to rate the players you have
    more confidence in over those who are a bit of an injury risk, but I'm
    not sure Turner's third down presence is significant enough to jump
    him over Peterson at No. 1. Jerious Norwood is the receiving back in
    that Atlanta offense, and I don't think Turner has any chance of
    inching in on his role to improve his stats.

    Peterson, improving as a blocker, will get more chances to sit veteran
    Chester Taylor this season, but the real concern with him is whether
    he can stay healthy an entire season. If you want to play it very
    safe, Turner's not a bad choice, but I might risk it with Peterson
    with the first pick.

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  • http://fantasyfootball4winners.blogspot.com/ Scott McShane

    I couldn't agree with you more about Williams. His schedule was a joke last year and will be much harder this season. There is no way he can live up to his ADP. As far as Turner, I like him a lot, but just can't put him as number 1. Atlanta's passing offense will play a bigger part this season and the tougher schedule should slow Turner down some. He's definitely a top 5 back. I'm just not sure if he can crack the top 2 with so much working against him.

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  • http://www.fantasyfootballfools.com Jacob

    Great comment. I do agree that Atlanta's passing offense will play a larger role this season, but that's actually why I believe Turner's value should stay close to where it was last season, despite the more difficult schedule. With the passing game moving the ball down the field, Turner may have more chances to score, unlike last season where many of his fantasy points came from all the yardage he racked up.

    Like you, I am not sure he'll finish as one of the top two backs in the league fantasy-wise, but I have to say he is one of the safest picks to make the top five.

  • http://www.fantasyfootballfools.com Jacob

    Great comment. I do agree that Atlanta's passing offense will play a larger role this season, but that's actually why I believe Turner's value should stay close to where it was last season, despite the more difficult schedule. With the passing game moving the ball down the field, Turner may have more chances to score, unlike last season when many of his fantasy points came from all the yardage he racked up.

    Like you, I am not sure he'll finish as one of the top two backs in the league fantasy-wise, but I have to say he is one of the safest picks to make the top five.

  • http://www.fantasyfootballfools.com/ Jacob Sloan

    Glad to hear you agree, but as Atlanta fan, I suspect you might be a little biased. I don’t know that he hits the same numbers as 2008, but it’s hard for me to see him dropping off significantly enough to not be worth an early first round pick. Thanks for the comment.

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  • http://top-fantasy-football.com top_fantasy_football

    MJD is right below AP in my rankings.. Turner will not get the carries or the yardage he did last year and Gonzo will steal some red zone for sure.. so I got him in my third spot.

  • http://www.fantasyfootballfools.com Jacob

    I agree that Turner won't get as many carries as he did last year, but I don't think it's impossible for him to come close to the same amount of fantasy points. With an improved offense, he may get more yards per carry, and those games where he was shut out of the end zone may turn into one or two touchdown performances. He'll have to share with Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White for sure, but I think he's got a chance. Even so, third overall isn't too shabby. I see him as a safe pick anywhere in the top five running backs.

  • unspokenrespect

    You were more wrong than right.

  • http://www.fantasyfootballfools.com Jacob

    Well, it wouldn't be the first time, but I like to view the glass about 1/3 full.

    Had Turner not gotten injured, he might have finished a little better off than he did, especially considering Snelling's success in his absence. While Williams also had an injury late in the season, he was nowhere near his phenom numbers from 2008 even during the first part of the season. His team's struggles and Jonathan Stewart kept him from finding that groove he hit last year.

    Regardless, I'd still say Turner is the one I would consider drafting next season. I don't have the same confidence in DeAngelo.

  • http://www.fantasyfootballfools.com Jacob

    Well, it wouldn't be the first time, but I like to view the glass about 1/3 full.

    Had Turner not gotten injured, he might have finished a little better off than he did, especially considering Snelling's success in his absence. While Williams also had an injury late in the season, he was nowhere near his phenom numbers from 2008 even during the first part of the season. His team's struggles and Jonathan Stewart kept him from finding that groove he hit last year.

    Regardless, I'd still say Turner is the one I would consider drafting next season. I don't have the same confidence in DeAngelo.