Holding a top-five pick in a fantasy football draft these days is nothing short of a Russian roulette game.
Conventional wisdom and common sense dictate using the pick on a running back, as you should. However, when you look back on the recent history of top-five backs chosen in fantasy drafts, you see something closer to a who’s who of a ‘Busts Anonymous’ group then an All-Pro list of running backs.
So what should you do?
If you hold the one or two pick, it’s hard to pass on Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster at the top. Of course they too come with question marks, primarily health concerns, but they are consistently ranked high because they consistently perform at that level, warranting their draft status.
But once you hit the no. 3 spot, it gets cloudy.
It is hard for me to justify a top-five pick on anyone that I do not believe will produce every game. If there are risks and red flags or data screams inconsistency, my nature is to balk and continue to browse down the list.
One running back that I have noticed falling outside the top five in most preseason rankings is a back that I find to be the most consistent statistically week in and week out. In 16 games one year ago, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch posted 10 games of 100-plus rushing yards and he scored in nine.
In four games, he rushed for 85 plus yards, meaning in only two games did he drop below 85 yards. That, folks is consistency.
Lynch’s 2012 stat totals are impressive alone: 1703 total yards, 11 rushing touchdowns and one receiving. When you throw in the week-to-week production, what you have is a safe top-five pick. Well, as safe as a top five pick can be these days in fantasy football.
Sure, Lynch lacks the flash of other running backs some may consider in the top-five, which is why he flies just below that mark in most ranking lists. What you do get with Lynch is a hard-nosed runner who consistently sees carries every game and simply gets the job done.
The argument on Lynch will be missed games due to injury in the past, which is true. However, he has started 31 of the last 32 games for the Seahawks, rushing for 2,794 yards and even more impressively, scoring 23 times.
When I look at top-five running back candidates, there has to be three known qualities: consistency, a nose for the end zone and the ability to produce when it matters most — the playoffs.
The previously mentioned stat lines prove consistency and Lynch’s knack for scoring. I now leave you with one final stat line. During the traditional fantasy football playoff run of 2012 (weeks 14-16), Lynch rushed for 352 yards and scored five times. Only that 2,000-yard rusher with the last name Peterson was better down the stretch.
Upside is not a word you will associate with Lynch. He is a classic case of simply getting what you see. I, for one, continue to like what I see when evaluating Lynch’s game. If I am stuck with pick three through five and I’ve exhausted all options of trading down, Lynch is my guy 100 percent of the time.