One man arms himself with a calculator, the other with his intuition. They enter the cage for a no holds barred bloodbath to answer the age-old question, “Is this guy any good?”
Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders
2016: Did not play (retired)
Mike Bergsman: One of the most interesting storylines of the 2017 season is Marshawn Lynch coming out of retirement to play for his hometown Raiders. From 2012 to 2014, Lynch was the top RB in standard fantasy leagues, and despite not having much of a reputation as a receiving back he was still ranked third in PPR leagues, behind noted pass-catchers Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles. That’s a great bit of history but it’s just that: history. After a year off, it’s tough to know how well Lynch will play, especially on a brand new team and in a brand new offense. Will he tear it up like the good ol’ days or go all Steven Jackson on the Falcons?
Alex Schillinger: There ain’t a soul in the league who can retire the way Beastmode can.
— Shawn Lynch (@MoneyLynch) February 8, 2016
Lynch isn’t breaking new ground by unretiring. There are plenty of players who have taken a year off and come back. The problem is that, if you’re a fantasy owner, it’s gonna be damn near impossible to be able to predict how well Lynch can do. That’s why I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw a 215-pound bag of Skittles.
Mike: I get it, because he likes Skittles. You’re great. Marshawn Lynch will be just fine next year. He’s older, yes. He took a year off, yes. HOWEVER, he actually has less cumulative attempts than some of his peers. In fact, I looked at ten Hall of Famers with comparable stats to Marshawn Lynch through their first nine years and did the following analysis:
Marshawn has 2,144 rushing attempts through his first nine seasons. As the data shows, a dramatic decline in production usually doesn’t happen until around 2,300-2,400 carries. If that holds true for Lynch, we can expect one more year of solid production, assuming he can stay healthy.
Alex: There is no doubt in my mind that Lynch has enough gas left in the tank to get through one more year. He’s certainly always had the skill.1 But ask any great running back, and he’ll tell you that he wouldn’t have accomplished anything if it weren’t for his line. Which, c’mon, we both know that’s bullshit. Some running backs can make things happen on their own. Even if we admit that that the whole running-back-is-only-as-good-as-his-line thing has some merit, last year Oakland’s line ranked…4th. Fuck, I really should have looked that one up before I started grandstanding.
Okay, maybe he’s on a team with a killer line. Maybe he’s under the normal number of carries for a hall of fame running back. That doesn’t matter when you’re injured all the time. And Marshawn found himself on the injury report 13 times in 2015 with three different ailments. He ended up getting hernia surgery and sitting out the last six weeks of the season.
Mike: A totally reasonable retort. Aging players with injury issues certainly pose a risk. It’s possible that Lynch gets banged up and his productivity falls short of my expectations. However, if he stays healthy2 and he’s used comparably to the guy he’s replacing, Latavius Murray, he could expect to see 44.9% of his team’s rush attempts. Oakland/Las Vegas/whatever-the-fuck-they’re-called rushed the ball about 27 times per game in 2016. If Lynch can do what Murray did he can be a totally viable running option, getting something like 12-14 rushes per game, not to mention his potential usage in the passing game.
Alex: Nope. He’s too old, too fragile and too far removed from the game. He won’t be able to do enough with so few carries. He’s just not gonna be good. I would say he falls somewhere in the RB3 or RB4 category but to be honest, I wouldn’t have him on my team at all. Unless he falls to me late or is going for less than $3, I’m not drafting him.
Mike: If he falls into the third or fourth round, which I think he will, I think he’s totally worth it. Likewise, in auction drafts, I’d take him for anything under $25.4