Michael Turner's fall from grace

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It wasn't that long ago, 2009 in fact, that Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner was thought of in the same breath as the best backs in the game. He was coming off a monster season with 1,699 yards rushing along with 17 touchdowns and was the No. 3 overall selection off the board behind Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew.

Expectations have certainly changed in the three years since. While Turner has continued to be a double-digit touchdown back, and posted 1,300-plus yards in each of the last two seasons, fantasy owners are jumping ship without even looking for their life preserver.

Turner's fantasyfootballcalculator.com ADP (Average Draft Position) has fallen from a high of 2.9 in 2009 to 8.1 in 2010 then to 15.7 last season and he is currently mired as an end-of-the-third-round selection at No. 30.

The question to ask yourself, is the drop deserved or will he become a bargain at this level?

The first thing you need to know is the Falcons have become a pass-first team.

Check the numbers.

Over the past three seasons, quarterback Matt Ryan's passing yardage has improved from 2,916 to 4,177 and this trend should continue in 2012. He is clearly a star in the making

The team has three talented wide receivers in All-Pro Roddy White, second-year stud Julio Jones and Harry Douglas along with future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez to catch the ball.

And a favorable passing "strength of schedule" to use them against All told, the Falcons play just two teams that ranked in the top 10 for fewest passing yards in 2011 (Denver, Philadelphia) and play 10 teams who were ranked 21st or worse (out of 32 teams). Only San Francisco has a better schedule for the passing game.

So with more passing in the game plan, Turner's opportunities figure to drop in 2012 because he's not part of that phase of the game. In four years with Atlanta, Turner has caught just 40 passes which is less than half a season for some running backs like Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy. In addition, the Falcons drafted Jacquizz Rodgers, a back with good hands and he seems ready to be the third-down pass receiving back.

The team also gets backup Jason Snelling into the game for a series or two.

All this means that it's unlikely that Turner will get his hands on the ball 300-plus times as he has in three of the last four seasons. Assume a 20-percent reduction in carries for Turner and even if he carries the ball at the same rate of 4.5 ypc, his total will drop to about 1,080 yards.

The bottom line therefore is whether 1,080 yards and 11 touchdowns with little or nothing in the way of receiving yards is worth the No. 30 pick.

As an end of the third-round selection, he's not a bargain, but he's not a bust either. We think mock draft players have it right - the No. 30 pick is fair- market value for Turner.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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