The average career of an NFL player is what these days – three, maybe, four years?
For the second time in as many days, a 30-something, recently elite fantasy football running back agreed to terms with a new squad. Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch are freaks of nature. As Raiders beat writer Vic Tafur noted, you’re talking about two running backs with the most yards after contact since 2010. You’re also talking about two backs on the wrong side of 30 years old.
AP signing with the Saints after missing most of 2016 with a knee injury is one thing, but Lynch took ALL of 2016 off. Now he’s back. If you dig into his stats a little, his decision to step away from the game makes sense.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsKyle Terada
Lynch's pre-hiatus workload
From 2011-15 – a span of 70 games – Lynch ranked third in rush attempts behind Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy. In fact, even though Lynch hasn’t played in the past 23 regular season games, he still ranks fifthin rush attempts from 2011-16. I could see why he needed time to heal up. The Seahawks ran him into the ground.
The good news is Lynch 2.0 has a shot to embrace a large role with the Raiders, albeit in an offense that's different from the one he played in with Seattle.
Raiders' offense becoming more balanced
Derek Carr has played in all but one regular season game since he was drafted in 2014. He missed the one only because his left leg snapped in the previous game. The pass-heavy offense has become slightly more balanced as the Raiders defense improved over the past three seasons.
2016 – 58% of all offensive plays were pass 2015 – 62% 2014 – 65%
Remember, the Raiders were outscored by 199 points in 2014 or 12.4 points per game. So, Carr was chucking the ball around during garbage time.
Here are the three-year rush percentages of all Seahawks plays during Lynch’s last three full seasons:
2014 – 54% of all offensive plays were rushes 2013 – 55% 2012 – 57%
In addition to Lynch’s heavy workload, Russell Wilson averaged more than 100 rush attempts per season during that stretch to bump up those splits.
So, fantasy owners know Lynch won't be rushing 300 times in 2017, but what should they expect?
What if Lynch matches Latavius' production?
Few people probably realize Latavius Murray was a red zone machine for the Raiders last season. Sure, the 12 rushing touchdowns may tip them off, but is it common, household knowledge that Murray ranked sixth in rushes inside the 20 (40 attempts), fifth inside the 10 (26 attempts) and fourth inside the opponent’s 5 (17 attempts)?
So, if the Raiders elect to use Lynch in a similar fashion, fantasy owners can expect 200-225 rush attempts with a heavy red zone workload. It wouldn’t shock me, however, if Lynch finished north of 225 rush attempts. The final tally also depends on the defense's ability to keep games close.
What is Jalen Richard's role?
Jalen Richard carved out a role during his rookie campaign with the Raiders last season. At 5-foot-8, he is the definition of a change of pace back. He finished with 83 carries for 491 yards (5.9 YPR) and added 29 receptions for 194 yards with three total touchdowns. The most active pass-catching running back still on the roster, Richard was part of a four-headed committee in the backfield.
Unlike Peterson’s time with the Vikings, Lynch was becoming moreinvolved in the Seahawks passing game before his injury-shortened 2015 season. He caught 73 passes for 683 yards with six touchdowns from 2013-14. It’ll be interesting to see if the Raiders send Lynch out in the flat or if Richard and DeAndre Washington see those targets.
DeAndre Washington's role?
Of all the running backs behind Murray, Washington posted the most fantasy points in any one game last year. Standing about the same size as Richard, Washington rushed 12 times for 99 yards with two touchdowns against the Colts in Week 16. He averaged 5.4 yards on 87 carries in 14 games last season.
With Lynch coming to town, I can’t imagine Washington’s role changes much.
First, Lynch is going to be the RB-1 workhorse with fresher and, relatively, healthier legs than Adrian's. With running back committees peppered around the league, splintering touches and targets, Lynch can lock up fantasy RB-2 status in 2017 with a high ceiling should he play in all 16 games. Depending on league scoring, his average draft position pre-NFL Draft would be the fourth or fifth round.