Marshawn Lynch has been a top RB in fantasy football since 2010. Signing with the Seattle Seahawks has rejuvenated his career and made him a consensus first-round pick over the last few years. However, Lynch has rushed for over 300 carries in each of the past two seasons and is now 28 years old this year. How will that impact his 2014 production?
In 2013, Lynch had almost 1,600 combined yards and 14 total TDs. At just under 2,000 career touches, Lynch has shouldered a heavy workload. Of all active RBs in the NFL, Lynch has the sixth-most carries with 1,753 rushing attempts in his career. However, while RBs do decline with age and usage, each player is different. In the last three seasons, Lynch has averaged 4.4 yards per carry. Last year, he averaged 4.2 yards per carry, good for 23rd best in the league.
Lynch also isn’t much of a receiving threat, although he did catch a respectable 36 passes last season, two of which went for TDs. While these numbers aren’t amazing, they are still very good among other running backs. More importantly, Lynch sees enough carries and TD opportunities in Seattle’s run-first offense to make up for his YPC and low reception total.
The question then becomes whether he can continue to see that many touches per season, particularly near the goal line. Darrell Bevell, Seattle’s offensive coordinator, recently remarked that the Seahawks “are going to be running back by committee” and that the team “really likes what Christine Michael is doing right now.”
Lynch’s status as a top RB has been partially due to the fact that he is one of the few remaining bell cow backs in the league. If Seattle plans to give Michael or Robert Turbin more touches this coming season, Lynch’s production will suffer.
However, Lynch has elected not to participate in the Seahawks’ OTAs, and comments made by NFL coaches three months before the season begins should be taken with a grain of salt. It was around this time last year that Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett commented to media about RB C.J. Spiller, saying that the team was “going to give him the ball until he throws up.” Spiller ultimately only saw 235 touches in 2013.
It’s anybody’s guess right as to how carries in Seattle’s backfield will be divvied up in 2014, but I don’t think Lynch’s starting job is in danger. While the Seahawks may want to give their up-and-coming star Michael some more experience this year, Lynch has been a proven stud capable of carrying their offense.
Even if there is some kind of timeshare, I believe that Lynch will see the majority of carries. There is a good chance that Seattle may release Lynch after the 2014 season to make room to pay Russell Wilson and other players who need new contracts. The Seahawks have nothing to lose by giving Lynch as much work as he can handle.
At his current ADP as the seventh player drafted overall, Bevell’s comment worries me, but only slightly. I’ve mentioned similar misgivings about Doug Martin being overrated in 2014, and I believe that Lynch is as well. However, I see Lynch still reaching 1,000 yards rushing and double-digit TDs.
Don’t get me wrong. Lynch is still a great RB1 option, and this situation will be worth monitoring up through the start of the season. However, if Seattle does go to more of a committee approach, I would rather take Jimmy Graham or a WR1 with the seventh overall pick, especially in PPR leagues. Lynch’s carry total and possible RB committee scenario in Seattle bump his overall rank for me down to 11th overall. Remember, the less risk you take in the early rounds, the better.