Marshawn Lynch was nothing short of a revelation for the Seahawks last season. After a relatively quiet first season in the Emerald City, Lynch exploded for 1,204 rushing yards, 212 receiving yards and 13 total touchdowns last year. The most amazing statistic from Lynch’s breakout has to do with his consistency – he scored in an amazing 11 straight games for Seattle.
So, where’s the dilemma here?
Lynch has simply never shown this type of consistency before and what should be even more concerning to his owners is that last year’s performance came in a contract year. Seattle rewarded him handsomely for his efforts with a four-year deal worth $32 million, with $17 million of that guaranteed.
Dynasty owners have to immediately think of Chris Johnson when they look at Lynch getting that deal. After Johnson got his money last year, he came into camp out of shape and looked like a shell of himself for most of the season. Lynch owners just need to hope Marshawn Lynch doesn’t turn into Marshawn Lunch and go into “Feast Mode.”
Talent is not the problem as Lynch has always been a capable player ever since joining the league out of the University of California in 2007. In fact, he was the consensus number two pick in rookie leagues that year, right behind one Adrian Peterson. His career with the Bills was up and down as he had moments of greatness (two 1,000 yard seasons to begin his career) and a few moments he’d like to forget (losing his starting job to Fred Jackson and some run-ins with the law).
After being traded to Seattle, Lynch had a very mediocre ten game stretch in 2010 that featured just 573 yards and six touchdowns on 165 carries, good for a pedestrian 3.5 yards per carry average. However, most will remember him from his epic “seismic run” in the 2010 playoff game against the Saints.
If you’ve forgotten, just check out the clip below.
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Simply put, owning Marshawn Lynch in a dynasty league is a tough position to be in. As with each of these dilemmas, there are two schools of thought.
Let’s start with the case to sell.
Lynch has simply never been this good. While he’s not lacking in talent, his work ethic and focus have been questioned throughout the years. After getting his big contract, is he going to play as hard as he did last season or will he lose his motivation? He has a history of getting out of shape in the offseason, so it’s a concern for sure.
Even with his monster statistics, he still only managed 4.2 yards per carry, so it’s not like he was breaking off big runs each and every week. In fact, his career average is less than four yards per carry, even with last year’s great season. He’s also compiled 1,137 career carries, or 19 fewer than Marion Barber, who just retired because his body broke down.
In addition, the Seahawks are running dangerously thin on offense. They’ve added Matt Flynn to the group of quarterbacks, but will most certainly protect him in the running game – that’s going to give Lynch another massive workload. You can bet Seattle is concerned as they recently brought in Michael Bush for a visit, only to lose him to Chicago. Will they address that need in the upcoming draft?
Dynasty owners should also be very leery of players who score unusual amounts of touchdowns in any given season – Lynch has 39 in his five year career, with 13 of them coming just last season. Touchdowns are just awfully tough to predict for any player.
Now, the case to buy.
There are simply not many featured backs in the league any longer and Lynch is one of the select few. With virtually no real competition on the depth chart, Lynch is going to get all the goal line opportunities and could touch the ball 20-25 times a game if the Seahawks don’t add anyone else to the mix via the draft. While that may shorten his career a bit, he’s a great asset for the time being. The comparison to Barber may not be entirely fair, either – Barber has taken more of a beating than Lynch has during their careers.
As far as talent goes, Lynch’s is unquestioned. You can simply make the case that he’s realized his full potential now and found an offense that truly takes advantage of his skills. He’s not old, either – Lynch won’t turn 26 until later this April.
Maturity is a word not used often with Lynch, but it may be soon. He was notoriously lazy early in his career and spent last year taking much better care of himself. In fact, Lynch himself says that his success was attributed to him finally taking care of his body by watching what he ate, exercising the right way and stretching himself out properly – that combination seemed to keep him healthy and fresh.
The addition of Flynn certainly puts a lot of pressure on Lynch, but could it really be worse than having Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst at the helm? It’s entirely possible that Flynn is good enough to actually get defenses off of Lynch, creating some running lanes he hasn’t seen in Seattle since his arrival – that’s actually a scary thought.
We currently have Lynch ranked just outside the top ten in our running back rankings as a “high risk, high reward” type of player. If you can get something comparable to that value without as much risk, it’s obviously going to be worth looking into.
If you own Lynch, you’ll need to be very aggressive in mining for information this offseason and well into training camp. If there’s one little sign that he’s out of shape or has put on weight, I’d be selling as fast as I could before it’s too late.
Let’s just cross our fingers that Lynch is a player who has simply turned the corner, not one who will revert to past bad habits.