Commentary

Burleson injury downgrades Seattle passing game

Updated: September 8, 2008, 6:48 PM ET
By Christopher Harris | ESPN.com

Mike Holmgren confirmed at his press conference Monday that Nate Burleson's injury is far worse than the Seahawks initially feared. Burleson tore a ligament in his knee and will be placed on injured reserve. Unbelievably, that means all four of Seattle's top receiving options heading into the season are out for an extended time. Burleson and Ben Obomanu are done for the year, Bobby Engram is out for another month with a broken collarbone, and Deion Branch continues to rehab from ACL surgery.

Nate Burleson
Luc Leclerc/US PresswireNate Burleson's knee injury will have a major ripple effect on the Seahawks' offense.
The fantasy fallout here lands most directly on the Seahawks' quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck was already battling a bad back (he had an epidural last week to alleviate pain), and suffered through an ignominious opener against Buffalo: 17-of-41 for 190 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Now the Seahawks will have to find someone to replace Burleson, who led the team with five catches for 60 yards and a TD against the Bills.

Hasselbeck was obviously (and rightly) frustrated with some of his lesser receiving options on Sunday, as players like Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne and Jordan Kent struggled. While any of these guys might actually be the Seahawks' starters in Week 2 against the Niners, you probably don't want any part of them.

And you probably also don't want anything to do with starting Hasselbeck until he has some weapons. In fact, it's very hard to imagine starting Hasselbeck with his current cadre of receivers. If you drafted a backup to go along with him, start that backup. If you didn't, it's time to go fishing on the waiver wire. I wouldn't go so far as to say you need to be in full-fledged panic mode over Hasselbeck, not for the course of the entire season (because he will get a couple of his important weapons back). This situation isn't as dire as it is for those folks who own Tom Brady. But for at least a couple weeks, it's dire. In shallow leagues, guys like Jake Delhomme, Trent Edwards or Philip Rivers might make safer plays until we see what the heck Seattle gets going on offense. In deeper leagues? Well, there's always Matt Cassel. I'm not saying I'm definitively ranking Cassel ahead of Hasselbeck in Week 2, but put it this way: it'll be darn close.

Perhaps the only silver lining here is rookie tight end John Carlson. He caught four passes for 52 yards Sunday and proved at least that he seems to know where to be on the field (unlike those kid wideouts). Now, Carlson definitely isn't a fantasy starter yet; in fact, he didn't start Sunday's game in Buffalo, instead coming off the bench to spell the underwhelming Jeb Putzier. But as the early season rolls along, the bet here is that Carlson is going to start getting a lot more involved in the Seattle offense. He might be worth a look in deeper leagues.

Ironically, the savior here just might be Branch. The guy who looked least draftable among the Seattle receivers in August suddenly looks like he'll be the first man back, perhaps even beating Engram. Still, since he's coming off major knee surgery and relies on speed much more than size or physicality, it's tough to predict huge fantasy things for Branch now, either. In short: this is one hellacious mess.

Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him here.

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