The PFF 101, No. 10: Marshawn Lynch

Kicking off the Top 10 in PFF's 'Top 101 of 2013', Sam Monson presents Marshawn Lynch.

| 3 years ago

The PFF 101, No. 10: Marshawn Lynch

2013-101-feat-lynchThe PFF grading system has proved to be pretty robust over the years. Marshawn Lynch broke it the night that Beastmode was born. With that run in the playoffs we had to concede that a +2 grade simply wasn’t enough of a positive grade to award for the play and had to manually alter his positive in the database.

That’s the kind of runner we’re dealing with when it comes to Lynch – a guy who can break not only a defense, but also the very grading system we’re using to evaluate him.

Lynch has always been an immensely talented runner, and I suspect had he come into the league in any other season – away from the looming shadow of Adrian Peterson – it would have taken far less time for him to get the recognition he now enjoys (or shies away from). Even back in his relatively disappointing Buffalo days he was running hard against an insurmountable scarcity of blocking.

In Seattle, though, his game has gone to another level, and he has become the workhorse that can carry that offense even with average blocking at times. That run against the Saints showed the kind of thing he is capable of, but his ability to force missed tackles is peerless in the league – even when compared to Peterson.

This season he forced 75 missed tackles as a runner in the regular season, 11 more as a receiver and the postseason added another 22 across three games. That is a ridiculous rate and by far the most PFF has ever recorded for one runner over a single season. Beastmode may have been born in one paradigm shifting run against the Saints, but he remains alive and well to this day.



Best Game: Week 10 @ Atlanta (+4.9)

It’s tempting to list his playoff game against the Saints as his best game of the season given the history involved, and his 140-yard, two touchdown performance that night certainly impressed, coming with a ridiculous 13 missed tackles forced, but his best grade on the season was against the Falcons.

It featured a season-high 145 rushing yards as well as a score on the ground, forcing 7 missed tackles along the way – a standard night for Lynch in that regard, but a career high for most backs. He also caught all three passes thrown his way that day, providing a valuable outlet for Russell Wilson even if they weren’t big plays after the catch.


This run typifies what Lynch brings to the table. He shows good burst to get through the line at all, a good move to cut past a defender at the sideline and then passes up the easy route out of bounds in order to stick his head down and pick up a few tough yards at the end.


Key Stat: Forced 108 missed tackles including the postseason.

Marshawn Lynch is the toughest back in the league to take to the ground, and this is a league containing Adrian Peterson. He just does not go down easily and the sheer volume of missed tackles he forced this year is a testament to that. He forced 31 more misses than the next best mark, that’s two per game.

He didn’t have the league’s best blocking, but he still averaged 2.6 yards per carry after contact, and despite 403 touches of the ball had an Elusive Rating of 70, shy only of Mark Ingram (who had a little over a quarter of the workload).

Lynch took a lot of negative press during the Super Bowl Media Week because he didn’t want to talk to the media. That isn’t who he is. He just gets on with the job of running the football and gaining as many yards for his offense as he can on every single opportunity he is given. There are many reasons the Seahawks were able to win the Super Bowl in 2013, but Marshawn Lynch is a big reason they were able to get there in the first place.

Marshawn Lynch is No. 10 in the PFF Top 101.


101–91  |  90–81  |  80-71
70–61  |  60–51  |  
40–31  |  30–21  |  20–11

10. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks



Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam 

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

  • Mike Bullene


  • Name

    He’s just about that action, boss. Seeing Lynch live is really something, no one else in the league runs like him. PFF is an incredible site, its cool having something you can clearly see when you watch the game validated with hard quants.

  • Zanzibar_Buck_Buck_McFate

    Perhsps the most underrated aspect of Lynch is his balance and body control. Watch him play and notice how many times the play ends and he is “tackled” but still standing.

  • Woody

    Rating Lynch over Charles is stupid. Charles out performed him in nearly every statistical category and carried Chiefs’s offence on the back of his shoulders for most of the season.

    • amirite

      All the way to the super bowl right?

      • strong analysis

        maybe you missed the part where he said most of the season, oh yeah Russel Wilson > Alex smith

      • Woody

        Charles got hurt early in Chiefs’ playoff game. He never got the chance to carrie his team to the Super Bowl.

        Anyway, Lynch wasn’t even close to the most important player in Seahawks winning the Super Bowl. The fact that he had 39 yards on 15 carries in the Super Bowl, and it still was a historic blow out tells a lot.

        • jacklaughing

          Because the Bronco defense completely sold out vs the run. That was the only thing they consistently stopped at the line, which is Harvin burned them out of the back field repeatedly on swing routes. Anyone who watched the game knows this.

    • eYeDEF

      Charles also had better blocking. Not saying KC’s OL was elite but they still had two lineman playing at a high caliber for them all year with Albert and Schwartz. Seattle’s line was pathetic, and even when they did get their pro bowl left tackle and center back both were shadows of their 2012 selves and were painful to watch. Their guard play was particularly atrocious, it’s definitely the Achilles heel of the team, so their run blocking was consequently poor all season. It’s only because they had a tenacious runner like Lynch that they were able to overcome such pathetic run blocking. Not taking anything away from Charles, he’s a great runner, but I’m pretty sure if he had to run behind Seattle’s line last year he wouldn’t have come close to what he did. Plus, Charles did disappear for a stretch. Lynch didn’t.

      • Woody

        Albert didn’t really play that well and he didn’t deserve going to the pro bowl. Also he lost the last four regular season games to injury. Schwartz only started 7 games in the regular season. He did indeed play very well when he started, but I don’t really se the argument as legit when he didn’t play for most of the season.

        Please tell me when Charles disappeared? It totally sliped by me.

        Btw, Charles has never averaged under 5 yards/carry over a year in his career. Lynch had his best year last year with 5.0 yards/carry. I’m not saying previous years should be taken into account, but if you’re going to blame the fact that Charles averages clearly better numbers on the o-line play, then you’ll also have to stand by the fact that Charles has had a better o-line in every year than Lynch ever has.

        People have to remember the major job of a skill player. Generate yards and score touch downs. Blocking etc is great, but it’s a secondary skill. I might be biased, but I just can’t see why Lynch should be rated above Charles. I just don’t.

        • eYeDEF

          First let me make clear I’m a huge Charles fan and have been since the day he made Larry Johnson expendable. His yards per carry has always just been insane and I’ve always considered him a more talented back than Marshawn. Even behind Seattle’s pathetic line last year I’m pretty sure Charles would still have a higher yards per carry than Lynch, that’s just my hunch, even though I don’t think it’d be as high as it was for him in KC because KC’s line was still a good deal better than Seattle’s and this is supported by PFF’s offensive line grades and rankings for 2013. Total yards is what I’d find a bit more questionable because it comes WITH the caveat that Charles stay healthy running behind a line as bad as the one in Seattle. And the fact remains that he was injured on his 3rd carry and team’s first possession in their first playoff game and did not return. I’m sure that is why Lynch is ranked one ahead of Charles on this list and I find it completely reasonable even if I do consider Charles the better back *when he’s on the field*. This list factors in post season performance, of which Charles had none to speak of and was unable to contribute in any meaningful way to any postseason success for the Chiefs. In fact his absence was likely the key contribution to his team’s failure. Lynch’s beast mode durability is what gives him the edge here and his post season superiority by comparison is simply indisputable. If this list was about the regular season then I’d completely see your point, but it isn’t.

          • Woody

            What does it matter that he went down on the third play in the game? The chance of getting a concussion is probably just as big on the third play as on the 101th play. Charles also said he wanted to come back into the game, but he was not alowed to.

            Charles has never been injury prone, so i don’t really see the argument about him staying helthy. If you look past his torn ACL he has lost one game in this career. That’s not very much.

            You can’t say one guy is better than another because one got a concussion in his only playoff game and the other didn’t. It’s just unluck on Charles’s behalf. Blaming him for going down and saying that makes him a less good player is just stupid. He wanted to play on but couldn’t because of the rules of the league. There were absolutely nothing he could do about it.

          • eYeDEF

            The argument about staying healthy is simple. Lynch has never had an ACL tear OR suffered a concussion, and especially not on the biggest stage of the NFL playoffs. He’s simply more reliable in that regard than Charles is, especially last season when on the biggest stage. It doesn’t matter if it was his “fault” that he got injured, that’s totally irrelevant. An injured player can’t play and therefore there’s no way for us to measure what his theoretical performance in that game would be. Your homerism would have you filling in his stats in that game as if he had not gotten injured, but that’s just ridiculous. It sounds like for you, a list of best backs in 2011 would have Charles ahead of Lynch too even though he suffered an ACL tear that year and couldn’t play most of the season because it wasn’t his “fault” he was injured. Sorry but your homerism is interfering with your ability to see and think logically on this one.

          • Woody

            I said it wasn’t his fault he couldn’t come back into the game. He wanted to, he said he was ready, but the rules didn’t alow him to. The point is, Charles would have played if he was alowed to. When that is the case, it really shows that we’re talking about a player who fights to injury for his team. Imo that’s all you can ask. Anything outside of that you can’t controll. Claiming that a guy becomes a worse player because he gets one injury in one game that makes him not able to play for the rest of that game, and just that game is just stupid. If you don’t get that, I see no point in arguing with you.

            Your injury-argument is so stupid it makes me sad. I don’t even know how I’m gonna argue it without falling down to your level. We’re talking performance over a season here. When Charles went out in the second game of the year I would never argue him as one of the best RBs that year, because he didn’t play. This year though, Charles was beast for 15 regular season games. Lynch was decent, nothing more nothing less. The fact that Charles made all pro first team, and Lynch didn’t even make the second team tels a lot.

            Lynch has never lost a game to ACL or concussion. Okey, but he has lost games to other injuries, something Charles has not. So that must mean Charles can handle more pain than Lynch, right?

            With your Super Bowl-argument I’d guess you think Ray Rice was better than Adrian Peterson in 2012? Football is a team sport. Success comes on the hand of the team, not the player.

            Please tell me, do you really think Lynch had a better year than Charles? If yes, tell me one good reason. “Charles would probably go down with that poor O-line.” is just a silly argument. Come up with something better.

          • eYeDEF

            That’s right, you said it wasn’t his fault. I’m saying it’s never the fault of the player that he gets injured, so what’s your point of saying so but to point out the obvious? You seem to keep forgetting that this list includes postseason performance. The author has said this, and I’ve said it, but you keep ignoring this vital point because it leaves your argument in the dirt. So I’ll say it again, this list includes postseason performance, please get it through your head. Charles had no postseason performance to speak of.

            It doesn’t matter that Charles would have played if he were allowed to. All that matters is THAT HE DIDN’T. All that matters is that in the 2013 season including playoffs Lynch was never injured, and Charles suffered a concussion that prevented him from playing in the postseason to any consequence. This is really such a simple thing to understand that it’s mind boggling that you remain so hard headed in your inability to see it. Like the author said, the best players raise their level of play to come through in the biggest games. Lynch did that. Charles did not. It does not matter one whit that he would have gone back in the game or that the injury wasn’t his fault because an injury is never a player’s fault. All that matters is that when it was time for his team to lean on him and for him to come through in the clutch, he did not. He got a concussion. It might not seem fair, but life’s not fair dude. He got concussed and Lynch didn’t. It was instrumental to his team’s loss while Lynch was instrumental to his team’s success. Ray Rice isn’t even in the same league as Adrian Peterson and never was so your argument there falls flat. Lynch is arguably a top 5 back, just as Charles is. And when you take into account postseason performance, that’s where Lynch shines and Charles failed. So Lynch gets the edge.

          • Woody

            You can’t blame a guy because he got injured in a big game. That’s 100 % chance when you get an injury. Every player does from time to time. Saying he’s not reliable is just so stupid. If getting hurt was something you could controll I could agree, but you don’t. When he lost one game out of 16 he played during the year the argument just isn’t solid. I do very well understand what you are saying, but in no way do I agree with it.

            And if playoff performance is so important, why is Watt no 1? Why is 4 of the top 10 guys from teams with losing record? Why is McCoy, Mathis and Whitworth in the top ten when they couldn’t make it past the first round? I’m fine with where Charles is rated, and I have no problem seeing him rated under McCoy, even though I think Charles is better. The porblem with the list is that Lynch is massively overrated.

            Yes, I know comparing Peterson and Rice is a reach, but I’m stating a point. Charles is arguably a top three back in the league. Lynch is not. And there is no way he is a top ten player in the league. His play and production just is not that good.

            If Lynch played on Jaguars no one would have him even close to a top 10 player in the league, and that is the problem with this list to me. You have to rate a player on his talent if you’re going to do this, not the success of his team. Yes, he is a part of that success, but so is every other Seahawk, and I don’t see anyone of them beeing overrated because of the success of the team.

            Malcolm Smith was Super Bowl MVP. He must be a top 100 player, right?

          • eYeDEF

            It’s perfectly legit to not rank a player as highly when they go out with injury during a big game. Absolutely 100% legit. Because it just proves they’re not as clutch. And yes, being clutch does rely on the chance of staying injury free, but that’s just the way it rolls. That’s life. You can’t consider an injured player who can’t play ‘clutch’. Watt was number 1 because he was absolutely dominant compared to his peers. If Charles rushed for over 2000 yards and left his peers in the dirt, then he’d be ranked #1 too. But he didn’t. His rushing yards were almost identical to Marshawn’s during the reg season. Sure, he had more receiving yards, but again, this list includes the post season as much you might wish it didn’t. I don’t know what you’re smoking to say if Marshawn played for Jax no one would be talking about him. FYI he played for Buffalo before being traded to Seattle and racked up 1000+ yard seasons every year he was there except in ’09 when he split carries with Spiller right before he was traded. That’s about equivalent to playing for Jax. When a back forces as many missed tackles as he does piling up the yards, I’m sure he’d be talked about. You’re totally underrating him.

          • Woody

            Lynch played for Bills, but did anyone talk about him as one of the best in the league at that point. Or even as a top ten player in the league. No, because he wasn’t then and he isn’t now.

            Again, I’m fine with Charles being ranked 11th. I think skill players generally are overrated. My problem is that Lynch is ranked 10th, because he is in no way the 10th best player in the league. Sure, he played two good and one bad game in the playoffs. Is that really enough to make him a top ten player? Not even that alone should be enough to make him that high. Combine it with a good but not great regular season and the grading is just wrong.

            PFF clearly said his key stat was all the missed tackles. I just don’t get how it’s better to make people miss the tackle than just running so quick they don’t get the chance to tackle. It’s not like yards after contact is more valuable than yards before contact.

          • eYeDEF

            If you haven’t noticed, there are less 1000 yard rushers now than there were then. So the capable runners are at a premium. So yes, people would still be talking about him. Not sure what you’re smoking on his playoff performance. In the Super Bowl he was only given the ball 4 times in the 2nd half when the game was already well out of reach to Denver. His backups got the rest of the carries. You are just out of your mind thinking he’s not a top ten back, to think that there are ten backs better than him.

  • Bob Easter

    The Beast that broke the grading system!

  • RA

    Lots of people come to a site based around numbers only to ignore numbers. Lynch has carried seattle for multiple seasons now. The entire offense is based around him and he has done it with mostly terrible line play.

    If you want to ignore the numbers go to bleacherreport and run your mouth there.

  • Frank Reynolds

    Marshawn at number 10 and Charles at 11 on the list. Maybe, just maybe, it’s possible that they’re both great players who helped carry their teams throughout the year even in spite of some sub-par O line play…. lol