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Marshawn Lynch is a RB1

Heath goes on the record with his love for Beast Mode.

NFL: Oakland Raiders Training Camp
Here is Marshawn laughing at all of his detractors.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I was going to say Marshawn Lynch is a polarizing player in the fake community, but most of what I have seen on him in recent days is negative. Keep driving that ADP down, major fake sports outlets. In the meantime, keep driving up Frank Gore’s (which makes total sense). I am known to be sarcastic on occasion.

Lynch’s current ADP is #24 overall (RB14) according to FantasyPros consensus rankings. At Fantasy Football Calculator his ADP is #21 (RB12). However, the recent negative propaganda against his person is cause for optimism. I believe you will generally be able to snag Lynch in the third or fourth round of your fake drafts this season, especially as the “drumbeats” increase for guys like Isaiah Crowell, Lamar Miller, Carlos Hyde, and Ty Montgomery (to name a few).

I included Lynch among my top 12 running backs, listing him as the RB9. I understand the recent arguments made against him, and I get that his ceiling is capped a bit based on his age. However, strange as it is to say, I love the 31-year-old running back’s floor. Here is what I said in my top 12 RBs article:

I realize it may be logical to spell the 31-year-old at times between the 20s, but Murray only averaged a hair less than 14 carries per game in 2016 and still finished as the RB13. That seems like a floor projection for Lynch, who is the RB14 on FantasyPros and the RB12 at FF Calculator.

Latavius Murray played in 14 games last season and averaged a shade less than 14 carries per game. He still finished as the RB13, mostly on the strength of his 12 touchdowns. I like comparing Murray and Lynch because Lynch is a direct replacement for what Murray did last season...except he’s better.

From 2011 to 2014, Lynch rushed for double-digit touchdowns every season (12, 11, 12, 13). His Y/A marks of 4.2, 5.0, 4.2, and 4.7 were steady. He has a career mark of 4.3. Lynch has only had three seasons below 4.0 Y/A (2009, 2010, 2015). I want to quickly take a look at those seasons below.

2009

Lynch was suspended for the first three games of the season on misdemeanor weapons charges. He was also eventually replaced as the starting running back by a some stud named Fred Jackson. Lynch only averaged 9.2 attempts per game and finished with 3.8 Y/A. This is the only season of his career that he was not treated as a workhorse type—he only had 120 carries in all. Currently, the Raiders view Lynch as their “main guy” and Derek Carr can’t wait for Lynch to “run through people’s faces.” The major threat to his workload is age, not the presence of Jalen Richard or DeAndre Washington.

2010

Lynch suffered an ankle sprain in the preseason and only started in three games for the Bills before being traded to the Seattle Seahawks. In his short stint with Buffalo, Lynch only had 9.2 attempts per game but still averaged 4.4 Y/A. After the trade to Seattle he averaged 13.8 attempts and 3.5 Y/A...a rate I believe we can give him a bit of a pass for after the transition to a new team. The next few years in Seattle Lynch averaged 4.2, 5.0, 4.2, 4.7, and 3.8, respectively. The 3.8 Y/A came in 2015...

2015

This was Lynch’s final season prior to his retirement. This is the only year of the three sub-4.0 years that didn’t include a suspension, a timeshare, or a trade to a new team. It is also Lynch’s “oldest” season, meaning many pundits will point to this year as the beginning of the end for the 31-year-old running back. But can we make it so simple? In short, the Seahawks had an atrocious offensive line in 2015. Seriously, just google it. I know Lynch left midway through the season for sports hernia surgery and I know Rawls averaged 5.6 Y/A behind the same line in 2015. But neither of those facts are applicable to Lynch in 2017.

2017 Outlook

In my opinion, Latavius Murray’s 2016 output is a floor projection for Marshawn Lynch. It even has two missed games baked into it. Murray’s 12 scores last season were a career-high, one year after amassing only six touchdowns in a full 16 games (on 266 attempts). Lynch has amassed double-digit scores in four different seasons, all of them recent (2011-2014).

Latavius Murray averaged 4.0 Y/A in the Oakland offense in each of the last two seasons. That is a pretty solid sample size of 30 NFL games. If you subscribe to the belief that a 31-year-old Lynch is an upgrade over Murray (I agree with the Raiders on this one) then you have to at least put Lynch at 4.1 Y/A this season...right? We can’t be worried about the sports hernia surgery, since most patients recover in two to three months...can we? Lynch was just out of football for over a YEAR. So your primary concern at this juncture is age, right?

Marshawn Lynch turned 31 years old in April of this year. His sports hernia surgery is far behind him. His team context is prime, and he has little competition as the “main guy” in Oakland. Below is my somewhat aggressive projection for him.

2017 Projection

15 games, 210 carries (14 per game), 924 yards (4.4 Y/A), 13 rushing touchdowns, 32 receptions, 253 yards receiving, 0 receiving touchdowns.

This equals 195.7 fantasy points in standard scoring, what would have been the RB11 in fantasy football last year. There was a bit of a rebirth in the running back ranks last season, though. Lynch’s above projection would have placed him as the RB4 in 2015. Are you buying the return to dominance of the running back position? Or do you subscribe to the belief that it is an injury-riddled position?

The above projection assumes Lynch only averages a hair more than his career rate of 4.3 Y/A. He is projected at barely more than two receptions per game, which is less than Murray managed in Oakland the last two seasons and less than Lynch proved he could handle in 2013 and 2014 in Seattle. All of these rates are very safe, in my opinion. Lynch could easily be far more efficient behind that dominant offensive line.

So what say you, gamers? Am I too bullish? Are you letting one little thing like age scare you away from a top 10 running back?