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Player Spotlight: Marshawn Lynch

A detailed look at Marshawn Lynch's fantasy prospects for 2013.

There may not be a more determined runner in the NFL than Marshawn Lynch. Lynch's determination in 2012 led to him averaging 5.0 yards per carry (YPC) on 315 totes. Only 17 backs since 1960 have been that efficient with more than 300 carries. After four seasons finishing outside of the top ten fantasy running backs, Lynch has now posted back-to-back top five seasons. Of course the real question remains, where does he go from here?

With Lynch's DUI case being postponed once again, the biggest concern for 2013 has to be his risk for injury or regression. While he's not missed a game for three seasons, Lynch's vicious style exposes him to more hits than the average back. That coupled with his 600 carries in the past two seasons have to make you at least consider the possibility of a decline in his seventh season. Here are the last ten backs to accomplish what Lynch did in 2012, and how their performance fluctuated in the following season.

Name Age ATT YPC ATT YPC ATT DIFF YPC DIFF
Chris Johnson 24 358 5.6 316 4.3 -7.2% -23.2%
Tiki Barber 31 327 5.1 NA NA NA NA
Frank Gore 23 312 5.4 260 4.2 -16.6% -22.2%
LaDanian Tomlinson 27 348 5.2 339 3.9 -2.5% -25%
Shaun Alexander 28 370 5.1 252 3.6 -31.9% -29.4%
Tiki Barber 30 357 5.2 327 5.1 -8.4% -1.9%
Larry Johnson 26 336 5.2 416 4.3 +23.8% -17.3%
Ahman Green 26 355 5.3 259 4.5 -27% -15.1%
Jamal Lewis 24 387 5.3 235 4.3 -39.3% -18.9%
LaDainian Tomlinson 24 313 5.3 315 4.7 +.01% -11.3%

That's an average drop of more than 12% in attempts and more than 18% in YPC. More telling is the fact that every back on the list saw some sort of drop in their YPC. It seems safe to say that all things remaining the same, it would be risky to expect the same type of production Lynch produced in 2012.

Of course, if you've followed the Seahawks at all you know that all things have not remained the same. The team made several acquisitions in the offseason, but the biggest splash was Percy Harvin. Harvin is a reception monster that excels catching the ball close to the line of scrimmage. He will grab the attention of the entire defense, which should in theory take some of the attention off of Lynch. Of course, the acquisition of Harvin along with the development of Russell Wilson is also likely to take the ball out of Lynch's hands more.

One other offseason move could also foretell the Seahawks desire to limit Lynch's touches. Despite having what many considered a very good back up running back in Robert Turbin, the team used their second round draft pick on Christine Michael. Michael, when healthy, is thought to be a more talented runner than Turbin and gives the Seahawks three legitimate backs in the backfield. The combination of an elite playmaker at receiver and a second young talented backup make it very hard to believe that Lynch will match last year's totals.

As I said in my spotlight on Ray Rice, the most important thing to remember is that a talented back will still get the rock. Lynch's talent and determination as a runner should not get lost. He's a workhorse back on an outstanding team that figures to have a lot of leads to grind out. He is a playmaker that never stops driving forward, making him a threat to break a big play at almost point in the game. Despite the development of Wilson and the arrival of Harvin, the Seahawks are still going to be a team that runs the ball a lot, and successfully.

POSITIVES

  • There are very few, if any, backs in the league with the tackle breaking ability of Marshawn Lynch
  • Lynch is in an excellent situation with a good offensive line and a great defense
  • The development of Russell Wilson will mean that defenses have to defend both the pass and the run

NEGATIVES

  • Lynch has carried a big load the past two seasons, and in the process taken as many hits as any back in the league
  • The Seahawks have more weapons in 2013 and it's unlikely he'll match his carry total from last season

PROJECTIONS

Projections Rush RuYds RuTD Rec ReYds ReTD
Heath Cummings Projections 286 1286 11 23 184 1
David Dodds Projections 285 1308 9 25 195 1

FINAL THOUGHTS

While Lynch's touches and efficiency should go down, there's little reason to think his touchdowns will. If anything, an improved Seahawks offense could actually present more scoring opportunities. I don't believe Lynch will post a third consecutive top five season, but he should still be a solid RB1, at least in standard scoring leagues. In PPR leagues, his value is somewhat diluted, but he's still a borderline RB1. Lynch is being drafted as the 5th back off the board in standard scoring leagues, which does not represent great value.

OTHER VIEWPOINTS

Jeff Brubach at Football.com wrote:

A cornerstone fantasy back should be useful on all downs and in all game situations and Lynch simply doesn’t offer that flexibility. The second argument against Lynch is his rapidly rising total of career carries. Coming off a season with an enormous workload (315 carries in the 2012 regular season alone) is difficult enough, but Lynch is now the owner of a whopping 1,452 career carries in six seasons. In addition to the high total of touches, we are not talking about easy carries with Lynch, which is made evident by watching any of his highlights.

Read more here.

Scott Engel from RotoExperts wrote:

Lynch was the same stellar RB he was during the stretch run of 2011, except he delivered outstanding totals from start to finish in 2012. Lynch finished fourth among all RBs in NFL.com leagues this past season with 246.60 points, and after two highly impressive campaigns, there can be no shreds of skepticism remaining among any Fantasy players heading into 2013. He is a surefire first-round pick next season and a prime keeper choice. He has scored 23 rushing TDs in the past two seasons and will turn 27 years old in April, which means youth is still on his side. He is showing no apparent signs of wearing down, either.

Read more here.


More from Heath Cummings:

Training Camp Believe It Or Not: Week 4 - August 28
Training Camp Believe It Or Not: Week 3 - August 22
What if Percy Harvin is lost for the season? - August 18
Training Camp Believe It Or Not: Week 2 - August 13
Draft To Trade: Mid-Late Rounds - August 12
What if Jamaal Charles is lost for the season? - August 9
Player Spotlight: Frank Gore - August 8
Draft To Trade: The Early Rounds - August 8
Training Camp Believe It Or Not: Week 1 - August 4
Player Spotlight: Julius Thomas - August 3