Christine Michael has been one of the most overhyped and disappointing players in the fantasy universe for years, and that’s created a golden cross of impatience now that his time has finally come.
Other than Jeff Janis, no player has driven fantasy players insane by failing to live up to his expectations quite like Seahawks running back Christine Michael. And RotoViz certainly is no exception:
- In March of 2013, The Contrarian noted that his Agility Score makes him look a lot like Le’Veon Bell and Doug Martin.
- In May of 2013, Douche said it might be time to get out of the Marshawn Lynch game, right before he had two seasons in a row as the overall RB5 and the overall RB4.
- In July of 2013, James Todd passed along a quote from Seattle beat writer Brian Nemhauser that Michael “could challenge 2,000 yards in this offense.”
Well, he came up just shy of that total, having now posted 525 yards from scrimmage combined in his three-year career. Understandably, fantasy owners have lost patience waiting for a breakout, especially after last season when everything seemed to line up for it to happen.
After getting traded to running-back-needy Dallas right as Seattle was finalizing it’s 53-man roster, expectations were Michael would finally get a chance to shine, even before Joseph Randle was released after six games.
Some people (me, I’m talking about myself) knew that his being traded to the Cowboys meant great things — for Thomas Rawls. While the faithful fretted with bit fingernails and torn hair, investors in the undrafted free agent from Central Michigan reaped the true rewards that Michael enthusiasts have chased for so long:
Now the cheapest of the four running backs expected to make Seattle’s roster this season, it seems all hope is lost that Michael will ever be relevant in the way people have badly wanted him to be.
And that makes now the perfect time to finally buy.
THE MAN, THE MYTH, THE LEGEND, THE CHRISTINE MICHAEL
You may have heard at some point in your life before now, but let me reiterate: Christine Michael is an athletic human being.
A bigger, stronger, quicker version of LaDainian Tomlinson is a pretty damn desirable athletic profile for a prospective NFL running back. And it’s not just our Box Score Scout that comes up with that comparison.
The metric SPARQ was designed with the goal of being an all-encompassing measure of athleticism and size, and Michael damn near broke it.
Here’s his comparison to the other running backs on Seattle’s roster in 2014, where the margin between him and the next closest guy is larger than the margin between all the others. His comparison to some of the top backs of the century shows Tomlinson as the closest.
While Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles are thought of as two of the greatest athletes to play the position in the modern era, Michael’s ability to match or beat their scores almost across the board, while being much larger, has his number significantly higher.
So why hasn’t he ever gotten the chance to showcase his athleticism in the role of an every-down NFL running back? Other than Lynch putting the finishing touches on what could be a Hall of Fame career, Michael didn’t have a ton of experience playing in college.
For whatever reason, Michael routinely split carries while at Texas A&M with Cyrus Gray, Jerrod Johnson, Ben Maelena, and others. Still, he had ten rushing touchdowns as a true freshman that was 18-years old at the beginning of the year, on only 166 carries. That’s compared to Gray and Johnson’s combined 13 touchdowns, on 304 carries that season. Michael finished his career with 34 touchdowns and 5.3 yards-per-carry, despite missing games in multiple seasons, and having only 529 total carries over four years.
Age is still working in Michael’s favor, as he’s still yet to turn 26 years old, which is historically the peak age of a running back’s career. It’s really hard to gauge where he is on any normal kind of career arc, as Lynch didn’t miss a game in 2013 or 2014. Additionally, Robert Turbin was the second running back on those teams, despite never having more than 77 carries in either of those years.
After injuries ravaged the Seahawks backfield last season, Michael was brought back for the final three games of the season after being released by Dallas and then also Washington’s practice squad. Two of those three games, Weeks 15 and 17, were the only times in his career that he had more than ten carries in a game.
He averaged 5.6 yards per carry in those two weeks:
The third of those games was truly bizarre, with Michael having six carries, Bryce Brown having seven, and neither of them reaching ten rushing yards. Fred Jackson also absorbed the receiving work over those weeks, making it even more difficult to parse out anything actionable about Michael.
What we do know is that Lynch is retired, Jackson is retired, Turbin is on the Colts, and Brown is unemployed; Michael, however, was brought back on a one-year-contract.
We also know that Michael is the only running back in the organization with experience playing in Seahawks offensive coordinator Darren Bevell’s offense, who was drafted higher than the third round, and has a clean bill of health.
While it’s largely assumed that Rawls is the starting running back when healthy, he has yet to practice. Having just passed a physical Sunday, he is off the PUP list, yet still has no timetable set to return. Michael has significantly higher draft capital and athleticism, but I doubt those are relevant to the team trusting him over Rawls, after what the latter did last season in Lynch’s wake.
Kevin Zatloukal wrote in June why he thinks Rawls is worth the plunge at his current price, but I’m skeptical he has the health or ability to keep a stranglehold on all of the roles to justify it. His workhorse production profile, which is what originally tipped us off to his ability to succeed if he had this chance, says to probably stop overthinking this:
Rookie C.J. Prosise is something of a RotoViz darling. The Oracle said he looked like this year’s David Johnson before the combine, then The Contrarian reaffirmed it after the combine. Douche thinks his receiving ability makes him a natural dynasty Zero RB target, but he also had a healthy rushing production profile at Notre Dame.
Should Rawls not be in the picture for whatever reason, it’s tough to say what role Prosise would have. One thing that seems apparent is that his presence certainly limits the upside for anyone else operating as a Seahawks running back.
Rookie Alex Collins is the interesting counter to Michael, as he is the only other one of the four that is currently around the cost of free. While he may look like Mark Ingram due to a gaudy college production profile at Arkansas, his draft capital implies little chance at relevancy. His athletic profile, or lack thereof, is also alarmingly poor.
There are a lot of ways this turns out the same as it ever has before. Maybe Rawls is Lynch, Prosise is a hybrid hyper version of D. Johnson and F. Jackson in their primes, and Collins is a Terminator 2 version of Turbin.
At the price of basically a roster spot in all formats, though? I’ll take a stab at the guy with astronomically rare athleticism, who proved he can do it in the only opportunities he’s ever had, and draft capital that implies it’s unlikely he won’t ever matter.