Marshawn Lynch is returning to football in 2017, after a year in retirement. When we last saw him on a NFL field two years ago, he was battling through injuries and finishing the year with less than 500 yards from scrimmage.
I went through some early ADPs (average draft positions) on some sites just to scout some general moves, and noticed that Marshawn Lynch was shockingly high to me. On average, he’s around the 12th running back being drafted, and half of the sites I checked had him at #10. That would put Lynch as a late 2nd round pick in a typical draft.
I understand some of the optimism as it relates to the Oakland Raiders offense. Latavius Murray was 10th and 13th in fantasy RB rankings the last two years, though last year’s was bolstered by an extreme touchdown rate. Overall, the Raiders were 6th in team rushing yards a year ago, spread across Murray, and rookies Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. Marshawn Lynch has been a touchdown machine in the past, and the expectation must be there that he will just come in and score double digit touchdowns.
But here’s my reservation. Lynch is now 31 years old. We are now three seasons removed from him being a productive NFL back, when he led the league in touchdowns at age 27 and 28. Lynch is a power back, and the backs like Lynch have tended to decline at pretty much the same age that Lynch fell off two years ago.
I’m not an age absolutist. Everything has a value at the right price. Curtis Martin was one of my value plays back in 2004, but he had been healthy and productive but saw a downturn in his TD numbers the year before. I’ve had plenty of older backs as my second running back, but not my first.
I think rolling with one of your top two picks on a back that hasn’t been among the top producers in three years is too much risk.
There’s a general rule when it comes to age and backs: they remain good until they aren’t, and while we can’t always predict the dropoff age, we should recognize the signs that it has happened. Twenty-two running backs have had at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage at age 31 since the merger. The average yards from scrimmage for that group at age 30 was 1,427. In other words, they were the same backs that were among the best at age 30. Only four of them had failed to reach 1,000 yards from scrimmage, and all of them had at least 800 yards from scrimmage at age 30.
The good backs at age 31 didn’t come from the guys who dropped off a cliff at age 29 and 30.
Conversely, here are the guys most similar to Marshawn Lynch at ages 25-28 as well as with a dropoff at age 29, and then what they did at age 31 (this excludes those similar to Lynch who were retired at 31):
That’s a rough list. None of them had even 500 yards from scrimmage at age 31.
Lynch’s path to success is probably as a TD vulture in the Jerome Bettis at the end of his career mold. But it’s a high price to pay right now to hope for Beast Mode from years ago.