Marshawn Lynch: 2017 Fantasy Football (Fill in the Blank)

Marshawn Lynch will make for another interesting fantasy football player in 2017. He spent the 2016 season doing basically whatever he wanted to do, which included doing charity work such as building houses for those in need. The big question is at his age will take a year off be a benefit to him or something that keeps him from coming back in full force. The logical assumption is that he will be 31 years old with one less year of playing time and the effects thereof on him than other 31 year old running backs. I am definitely curious to know what his cardio shape is like, as it is much more difficult for an older running back to get into shape than it is for a rookie coming out of college who is not in shape to get into shape. Let’s take a look at how things pan out for Marshawn Lynch in 2017.

The first thing we want to look at for Marshawn Lynch is the landscape of the team that he plays for. The Oakland Raiders are no longer the laughing stock of the NFL as they have improved quite a bit over the last several years. Quarterback Derek Carr made strides to become one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL and he is still in his growth phase. The team has quality pieces on the outside in Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper that will force defenses to stay honest in not stacking the box, something that he dealt with from time to time in Seattle. Additionally, the team could have a better third receiving option than Seth Roberts who deals with quite a bit of dropped passes year in and year out. The team does lack a solid tight end option and this has been one of the downsides for quite a few years in Oakland. Clive Walford looked like someone who was going to be a suitable long-term tight end candidate but he has just not materialized. Perpetually overrated Jared Cook will join the team in 2017 after one of his better seasons in his career with Green Bay, but still has not proven to be a consistent option.

Perhaps the best thing going for Marshawn Lynch in 2017 will be Oakland’s offensive line. There is no question that they were a top 5 offensive line in 2016, despite the fact that the running backs behind it couldn’t perform on a consistent basis. That’s why Latavius Murray is no longer with the team and Marshawn Lynch was brought in to try to make this running game and more prominent part of the offense. Four of the five offensive linemen are above average players. That would include Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson. Really, the only liability on the offensive line is with right tackle Marshall Newhouse. It will be interesting to see if the Raiders attempt to do anything to remedy that issue with giving other players increase the opportunity to take the rule from him. The bottom line is this sets up much better for Lynch than his last two seasons in Seattlee, especially considering how poorly he played in 2015.

2014 to 2015 we’re polar opposites seasons for Lynch. In 2014, he played 16 games, carried the ball 280 times for 1300 yards averaging 4.7 yards per carry and 13 touchdowns. in 2015, he played in 7 games, carried the ball 111 times for 417 yards averaging 3.8 yards per carry and scoring just three times. Granted, he was dealing with a combination of injuries and declining offensive line production, but that was still a very bad stat line for someone who was being drafted relatively early in fantasy drafts. That begs the question: what will his fantasy production look like in 2017?

Do I think Marshawn Lynch is going to carry the ball 280 to 300 times like he did in a lot of the seasons he played in Seattle? No, I do not. I think it is far more realistic to look at him as someone who is going to carry the ball 180 potentially 200 times. The team still has Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, who they spent draft picks on in 2015 behind him. I think you will see a lot of the same that you saw in 2016 where the carries were split amongst 3 backs. Still, I do think Lynch will be far more likely to see the lion’s share of carries. Does that necessarily validate his current draft position of 55.3 in the middle of the sixth round?

Based on current ADP, Lynch is being drafted amongst the following players: Emmanuel Sanders, Jimmy Graham, De’Anthony Thomas, Donte Moncrief, Brandon Marshall, Marcus Mariota, Ben Roethlisberger, Leonard Fournette and Terrelle Pryor. He is the 18th running back going off the board, if we discount guys like Jay Prosch and Dreamius Smith, who will inevitably drop off of their current ADP because they will not see the field in 2017. I can make a case for drafting a number of those players ahead of Marshawn Lynch, including Jimmy Graham Donte Moncrief, Marcus Mariota and Leonard Fournette.

The running backs that are being drafted closest to him are Isaiah Crowell, C.J. Anderson and Leonard Fournette. C.J. Anderson falls victim to the running back by committee issue that has plagued Denver for as long as I can remember so I just cannot get behind drafting him in this spot. I definitely feel much better about Isaiah Crowell behind a much improved and revamped offensive line in Cleveland and Leonard Fournette who could flirt with 300 carries in Jacksonville in his rookie season this year.

I think it’s much more appropriate to view Marshawn Lynch as a fringe running back tw0. Is there a chance he could finish as an RB 1? Absolutely. If he returns to the form he had between 2011 and 2014, he will unquestionably win the comeback Player of the Year and lead many fantasy teams to championship glory. A more realistic situation would see him mired in inconsistency and another running back by committee situation in Oakland and have them turn out as a low-end RB3.

All things considered, like I said, I would much rather draft the likes of Isaiah Crowell and Leonard Fournette who I really do believe are in better positions for 2017. If you’re getting a discount on Lynch where he is being drafted maybe in the 80th pick range, I don’t hate it. I just think there’s too many unknowns and too many options out there to really take the risk that he represents.

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