Seemingly always a value in dynasty fantasy football drafts and season-long leagues, Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson comes into the 2022 campaign facing a much more uncertain value as injuries begin to pile up. Can Carson be a reliable dynasty asset in 2022, or should fantasy managers look in other places for production?
Chris Carson’s dynasty profile for 2022
For several seasons, Carson was possibly the best running back value you could find on draft day. From 2018 to 2020, he averaged 19.1 opportunities, 92.1 total yards, 0.66 TDs, and 15.5 fantasy points per game. He finished as an RB1 in 37% of his games and an RB2 or better in 74% during this stretch. He was the RB15 in 2018, RB12 in 2019, and RB20 in 2020 (RB14 in ppg).
2021 started out much the same way. In Week 1, Carson rushed 16 times for 91 yards, caught all 3 targets for 26 yards, and finished as the RB22 in PPR (12.7 points). His snap share was also through the roof following Rashaad Penny’s injury in the first half. Carson played on 78% of the offensive snaps and received 85% of the RB rushing attempts. It was also the last time he hit the 90-yard threshold.
A neck injury likely halted Carson’s upside for dynasty
Just four weeks later, Carson was inactive due to a neck injury and would remain sidelined all season, eventually having surgery. In total, Carson appeared in just four games, rushing 54 times for 232 yards and 3 TDs while catching all 6 targets for 28 yards as the RB22 from Weeks 1 through 4.
Injuries have begun to catch up with Carson. He missed four games in 2020, meaning he has been sidelined for more games in the last two seasons (17) than participated in (16). Carson is under contract for at least the 2022 campaign and should be a part of the Seahawks’ backfield, but his days as the unrivaled No. 1 are likely over.
2022 could see Carson in an unfamiliar role
I don’t see Carson’s dynasty value returning to where it was. Given he missed virtually an entire season and will be 28 years old in September, Carson has plummeted from a lower-ranked RB2 to a running back now in the RB4 range.
Due to Rashaad Penny’s success towards the end of last season, this is now, at minimum, a 1A/1B scenario, assuming Seattle brings him back in free agency. That would be the best-case scenario for Carson. However, there is also a distinct possibility Penny assumes No. 1 responsibilities, relegating Carson to a 30% or less opportunity share. Given head coach Pete Carroll’s reliance on a singular RB when the lead back is healthy, it could be even less for Carson.
Fantasy projection for Carson
Much of what I would base my projection on for Carson for the 2022 season revolves around two different players. For one, is Russell Wilson the Seahawks’ starting QB in 2022? Personally, I lean yes. However, over the last few seasons, there has been enough smoke to believe there is a fire smoldering somewhere in the PNW.
We need to see who the quarterback will be to get a solid idea of how the offense will look. Given Carroll’s reliance on the rushing game, it would be reasonable to assume running the ball will remain a high priority on offense no matter who is under center. Just using Weeks 5 through 8 of last season as an example, Seattle ran on 46% of their offensive snaps (eighth in the league) when Geno Smith was under center compared to 42% in Wilson-started games (17th).
Rashaad Penny earned the No. 1 role, placing Carson in an unenviable spot
The second player to consider is Penny. Healthy for the first time since 2018, he was simply electric. From Weeks 14-18, Penny averaged 18.4 rushes for 134.2 yards and 1.2 TDs per game. He was the RB1 in dynasty, averaging 22.0 PPR points per game. Rushing for over 135 yards in four of five games, Penny has now posted at least 100 yards in six of the seven career games in which he received 12+ carries.
Seattle has said they want him back, but they will likely need to give Penny, well, a pretty penny to retain him. If they do, Penny is likely to assume RB1 responsibilities. This would place Carson in a brutal spot.
Aside from last season when Seattle rotated RBs due to Carson’s injury, the Seahawks’ No. 2 RB under Carroll has seen more than 100 carries only once since 2017. That was Mike Davis with 112 back in 2018. Carson would be unlikely to see over 120 opportunities if Penny is back unless he becomes heavily used in the passing game. However, that has never been his style of play.
Not to mention, we are assuming Carson can stay on the field for all 17 games. That seems like a long shot as he has yet to play a full season. It seems highly likely Carson will see the most significant drop in touches of his career and transition to an RB2 role, which could amount to 7-9 opportunities a game.
If so, Carson’s time as a reliable dynasty and season-long fantasy option are likely behind him. Barring an injury to Penny (assuming he returns), Carson is closer to a bench stash than anything else in 2022.