Oakland Raiders: Best and worst-case scenarios for Marshawn Lynch

Even after the NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders remain excited about Marshawn Lynch, but what are the best and worst case scenarios for the running back?

Marshawn Lynch is with the Oakland Raiders. There’s no more reports about money and negotiations. Lynch is working out with the team at voluntary offseason practices and is already impressing. Even in the Raiders recruitment, it was said that he’d kept in fantastic shape and what little we’ve seen certainly indicates as much.

With that said, there are varying beliefs regarding what Lynch will actually bring to the Raiders in the 2017 NFL season. Opposing fans are of the mind that they shouldn’t really be worried about the veteran running back. What’s more, Raiders fans themselves are trying to temper expectations to at least some degree. This is a 31-year-old running back with a need to shake off rust, after all.

Given that the Raiders made the move and have been so prudent in their front office decision-making to get to the point where they’re a possible contender in the AFC, you’d think that they’d be wise enough to not take a risk on Lynch if he wasn’t able to contribute something valuable to the offense.

Then again, not every front office or general manager bats 1.000 — not even Reggie McKenzie. Thus, let’s take a look at the best and worst case scenarios for Lynch’s 2017 season. The actual outcome will likely fall in the middle of the two, but it’s wise to take a look at both ends of the spectrum to get an idea of the situation.

Let’s start with the potentially bad news first.

Sep 27, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) walks back to the locker room following the first half of a 26-0 victory against the Chicago Bears at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Worst Case Scenario for Marshawn Lynch

The obvious worst case scenario would be for Marshawn Lynch to go down with some sort of injury in the preseason — or any type of early injury that would cut his season short. That’s a no-brainer and too easy to come up with. So for the purpose of this, we’re going to eliminate injuries when considering what the worst case for his 2017 season with the Raiders is.

At 31 years old, most running backs lose their explosiveness and ultimately their effectiveness, though to varying degrees. For a power runner such as Lynch, that’s obviously a concern. That’s especially the case when you consider the fact that he hasn’t played since 2015 and wasn’t at 100 percent health that season.

Thus, the worst case scenario is that he’s ultimately a worse version of what Murray was a season ago. No one would ever mistake Murray for being a speed back by any measure. He’s a big man that punishes people, but doesn’t have the greatest vision and doesn’t make his living after contact. At his age, the potential is there for Lynch to be a lesser version of that.

However, it’s important to note about this lesser version of Murray that it still comes with some upside. At minimum, Lynch is going to be an emotional spark for this Raiders team. Not only does he bring a veteran presence and the experience of having reached the Super Bowl before, but he’s an emotional lift as he returns to his home in Oakland where he’s revered as a sports hero. So even if his performance isn’t up to snuff, he would still provide the team with a boost.

Dec 15, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) breaks the tackle of New York Giants defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (99) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Best Case Scenario for Marshawn Lynch

The quintessential essence of why NFL fans think so fondly of Marshawn Lynch is the fact that he represents something almost greater than a running back. Even if not a Hall-of-Famer, the Beast Mode persona is one that’s deserved as Lynch has time and again provided us with instances of demigod levels of performance on the field.

So even at 31 years old, it feels silly to dismiss the chance that he’s able to look, simply, like he’s not 31.

Yes, he suffered from injuries and wasn’t greatly effective in his last year with the Seahawks. As Russell Wilson will attest to, Seattle is also currently still dealing with a problem that plagued them that season as well: Their offensive line is a clown show. Lynch had far from adequate blocking when he was last playing in front of the 12th Man. That’s not going to be the case with the Raiders, who vaulted themselves into the conversation of having one of the best lines in the NFL last season.

What’s more, everything since he arrived in Oakland has been overwhelmingly positive. His conditioning has been praised, as has his attitude. Hell, Marshawn Lynch was at voluntary offseason workouts. When did we ever think that would be a thing?

Subsequently, the best case scenario for Lynch is that he’s a dominant force again in this league. Though it might be unlikely, there is the potential there still for him to be a 1,000-yard rusher, especially with the aid of the Oakland offensive line. If that same power and ability to break tackles is still within him and if the magic of Beast Mode can come alive again, Lynch could very well add another game-breaker to the Raiders already potent offense.

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