Marshawn Lynch should be a fantasy RB2 with upside in Oakland

The veteran back will reportedly come out of retirement to play for the Raiders. Jeff Ratcliffe examines the fantasy football impact for the ex-Seahawk.

| 2 weeks ago
marshawn-lynch

Marshawn Lynch should be a fantasy RB2 with upside in Oakland


After weeks of speculation, Marshawn Lynch decided to pull his cleats down from the telephone wire and return to the NFL after agreeing to terms with the Raiders on Friday. Lynch’s rights are still held by the Seahawks, but a trade seems imminent. He returns in what will be his age-31 season, and how he’ll fare seems to be one of the most polarizing topics in fantasy circles.

The prevailing argument is that Lynch is on the wrong side of the 30 and coming off a year out of football. His dwindling yards per carry (3.8), injury issues, and the fact that he was thoroughly outplayed by Thomas Rawls in 2015 bode poorly for sustained success in 2017.

There’s certainly some merit to this narrative, but we do have some cursory analysis going on here. The idea that Lynch’s play declined in 2015 seems to be a bit off base. Our analysts graded out Lynch as the No. 3 running back over the first 10 weeks of the season before his injury. Sure, his yards per carry was lackluster, but he was also running behind one of the league’s worst run-blocking units.

But how does that explain Rawls performance? I’m going to share a secret with you, but don’t tell anyone. Ready? Rawls really wasn’t that great in 2015. Sure, he put up some big numbers, but he actually only had four 100-yard games. Those performances all came against bottom-half rushing defenses, and his 200-yard outburst in Week 11 was against the league’s worst run defense: the 49ers.

While we can’t debunk the injury or over-the-hill ideas, the notion that Lynch played poorly in 2015 just doesn’t hold up. Of course, fantasy owners were certainly spoiled by Lynch’s production with Seattle. He topped 1,000 yards four straight seasons from 2011 to 2014 and was a top-five fantasy option all four years. Better yet, he did so behind middling run-blocking units. Lynch’s strength has always been after contact. He’s been one of the most effective backs at creating yards after contact and forcing missed tackles, the latter of which he led all running backs in 2012 and 2013.

In Oakland, he’ll have the benefit of playing behind one of the league’s best offensive lines and arguably the best offensive line of his career. The Raiders graded out as fifth in run-blocking last season, helping Latavius Murray to an unlikely 13th-place fantasy finish among running backs. If Lynch can stay healthy and doesn’t show major ill effects of missing a year of football, he figures to step right in and lead the Oakland backfield in touches. As such, he can conservatively be placed in the RB2 conversation. There’s certainly a lot of risk with Lynch for fantasy purposes, but the reward is very intriguing.

| Director of Fantasy

Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.

  • dbonedig

    Someone is paying for this article to be printed/produced. HE will be lucky to get 3 yards average over a game, after the 3rd game. Teams, after the third game will have his game down and will be lucky, if he gets an average of 3.5 yards per carry after the third game. He will be piss tested every week, so, no outside influences will be involved. I don’t think he will play full time in more than seven games for the Raiders. He should have stayed retired. Mentally tough is a BIG difference, than Physically tough. The Body at his position, 30 plus years cannot take the pounding that the front seven, generally 270 lbs. and under 22, will be delivering. Best of Luck!

    • Brandon

      Lynch hasnt taken the same beating that someone like Adrian Peterson has. Despite peterson missing an entire season with a torn up knee he still has 300 more rushing attempts than lynch does. Lynch wasnt a workhorse back for the bills, his body just didnt take the beating that petersons did. Hes got over a season less in carries than peterson. He only carried the ball 300+ times in a single season one time, peterson did it four times.

  • John

    “Rawls really wasn’t that great in 2015. Sure, he put up some big
    numbers, but he actually only had four 100-yard games. Those
    performances all came against bottom-half rushing defenses, and his
    200-yard outburst in Week 11 was against the league’s worst run defense:
    the 49ers.”

    So, how exactly does that make him not all that great? How many RBs put up 200 yards in a game that season? I’m fairly sure that other teams played against the 49ers and had running backs. You also mention that lynch was running behind a terrible oline. Did rawls get a better line to run behind? He eclipsed lynchs career high in a single game twice. I’m not saying that rawls is better than lynch, far from it, but the end results are that rawls got the job done and he didnt really do a bad job.