Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Will Michael Turner be successful or another Lamont Jordan frustrating fantasy owners everywhere?
Determining the former San Diego Charger backup turned Atlanta Falcons starting running back's productivity in 2008 might just be the key to your No.2 running back situation. If he is as advertised, he could be a 300-carry, 1,200-yard, 10 TD guy. But there are a lot of questions which surround his ability to produce those numbers.
Let's go back in history to another running back in a comparable situation.
Before being signed by the Oakland Raiders for the 2005 season, Jordan was everybody's pick to be the next star running back. He was productive as a part- time player behind the Jets' Curtis Martin, accumulating 1,277 yards and 10 TDs on just 262 carries (4.87 yards per carry).
As a free agent he was pursued by a number of teams and landed a five-year deal worth $27.5 million with the Oakland Raiders. As the Raiders starter and focal point of the offense Jordan struggled to put up the numbers expected of him. Between 2005 and 2007 Jordan averaged just 669 yards and 4.67 TDs per season. His Oakland career started well with 1,588 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns in 2005, but injuries and an inept offensive line kept him from producing in 2006 and 2007. Jordan was released by the Raiders after the season and will play a backup role for the Patriots this season.
Turner's Charger career mainly consisted of mopping up after Ladainian Tomlinson had decimated the opposing defense and as a change of pace. His backup numbers, 228 carries for 1,257 yards (5.51 yards per carry) and six TDs, are strikingly similar to Jordan's Jets production.
Like Jordan, Turner became a free agent and jumped at the chance for a starting spot...and lots of cash. Turner signed a six-year contract believed to be worth $34.5 million with the Falcons.
Again like Jordan, the Falcons expect the offense to run through Turner. Turner even said at the beginning of training camp that he thought he would carry the ball 300 times in 2008.
But the Atlanta offensive line is likely to struggle. The team finished 26th (of 32) in rushing yards per game last year. Additionally, changes are expected up front with only Todd McClure, Justin Blalock and Todd Weiner, who's coming off major knee surgery, slated to return. The team did draft USC tackle Sam Baker with a late first-round pick, but a rookie quarterback (Matt Ryan) and a make shift line seems like trouble for a running back.
And first-year head coach Mike Smith along with offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey would also like to see Jerious Norwood get some carries because of his explosiveness.
It all spells disappointment for those who draft Turner expecting a No.2 running back. His average draft position is 19th among running backs and 40th overall, but in my opinion, he should not be a starter for your fantasy team. Turner is a No.3 back to be used only against weak defenses or when one of your two starters has a bye week.