White's departure provides no clarity
Wow, was I ever wrong.
When the Seahawks traded for LenDale White on draft day last month, I assumed White would instantly be in the mix for starter's carries in Seattle. He would be reunited with his college coach, Pete Carroll. He would be in the mix for goal-line touches again, with the potential to build on the glorious 15-touchdown season he produced back in 2008. He would overcome a shaky depth chart, and rise to the top.
Friday afternoon, the Seahawks ingloriously released White, rendering my most recent ranking of him as fantasy football's No. 31 running back utterly foolish. Our fantasy football magazine will be out in a couple of weeks, and while it will be one terrific publication, it, too, will have a foolish ranking for White.
This is, it's safe to say, an utterly shocking situation. Not that the Seahawks paid a king's ransom for the Artist Formerly Known As LunchDale. But all we've heard the past month-plus has been rosy: White is down to his college playing weight, has renewed his commitment to fitness, is stoked to get out from behind Chris Johnson's shadow. Suddenly, White is gone, and it may or may not be related to the fact that he's reportedly facing a suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. He's a pariah once more. The only positive I can really draw is this: Thank heavens this happened in May, and not September.
What's left behind in the Seattle backfield? For the moment, you'd have to say that Justin Forsett, last year's surprisingly effective Seahawks backup, is the most valuable member of what promises to be a confounding committee. Forsett managed 5.4 yards per carry in '09 and provided a real boost with four touchdowns from Weeks 10 to 12. But he's a small, quick guy who presents some skills duplication with Leon Washington, the other man the Seahawks acquired on draft day. Of course, Washington is trying to return from a badly broken leg. Perhaps White's release means positive things about Washington's health, but it's still a long way between where we are now and Washington being a fantasy factor in Week 1. The only "big" back left on the Seahawks' roster is Julius Jones, who had a couple of decent moments in '09 but mostly could be described as part of the reason Jim Mora lasted only one season at the helm in Seattle. Jones averaged 3.7 yards per carry and shouldn't be any NFL team's lead back any longer. Perhaps this means that the Seahawks will renew their pursuit of Marshawn Lynch, who's on the outs in Buffalo?
Regardless, it's difficult to imagine White catching on with any team in a meaningful role for '10, especially if a suspension is looming. And for Forsett, Washington and Jones -- running behind what should be a fairly mediocre offensive line -- a confusing offseason has simply grown more confusing. Unless another trade is forthcoming, we'll probably have to wait until training camp to fully understand how playing time will shake out.
Editor's note: This story was originally published with erroneous information about the draft picks given up by the Seahawks in the LenDale White trade.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy.
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