Marshawn Lynch is back as the Oakland Raiders' running back—but our fantasy advice is to stay away.
If you can’t get enough of Skittles, defiantly dull press conferences and touchdown celebrations that involve crotch-grabbing, let joy fill your heart—Marshawn Lynch is back!
|Marshawn Lynch||RB12||RB22||Stay away|
|DeAndre Washington||RB58||RB50||Throw a dart|
|Jalen Richard||RB68||RB63||Stay away|
The newly unretired Lynch has a Fantasy Football Calculator ADP of RB10 and is coming off the board 17th overall, on average. Early drafters are convinced that the Raiders are getting a reasonable facsimile of the rampaging rhinoceros who ran for more than 1,000 yards and scored double-digit touchdowns each year from 2011 to 2014. The fantasy rankers tracked by FantasyPros.com are slightly less optimistic, giving Lynch a consensus ranking of RB14, 34th overall, but there are a number of sharp fantasy writers who rate him RB12 or better.
The ceiling for Lynch is probably the sort of season Latavius Murray had for Oakland last year. In 14 games, Murray ran for 788 yards, averaged 4.0 yards per carry and scored 12 touchdowns. He finished 13th in total fantasy scoring among running backs, 10th in RB points per game. Murray had 51% of the Raiders’ RB carries last season. It’s possible Lynch will have a greater share of carries than Murray had, but it’s hardly a given. He won’t play much on obvious passing downs, and it only makes sense for the Raiders to make liberal use of second-round RBs DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard, both of whom averaged better than 5.0 yards per carry in 2016.
The floor for Lynch is like the floor of the Eyrie in Game of Thrones—virtually bottomless. Lynch has been away from football for a year. The last time we saw him, in 2015, he was largely ineffective before sustaining a sports hernia that ended his season after seven games. Lynch has compressed cartilage in his back, a condition that won’t heal. Lynch supporters point to the quality of Oakland’s offensive line as a reason for optimism. The Raiders do indeed have a good O-line, though it only ranked 11th in run blocking last year, according to Football Outsiders, and Oakland is no better than average at the right guard and right tackle positions. Some people have made the case that Lynch will have better run blocking than he ever had in Seattle, but that’s a stretch. During Lynch’s four-year run of 1,000-yard rushing seasons in Seattle, Football Outsiders ranked the Seahawks’ offensive line among the top 10 run-blocking units in three of those four seasons. And is it possible that Lynch’s comeback is just a money grab? I don’t make a habit of questioning players’ motives, but we’re talking about a guy who sought (and was granted) trademark registration for the phrase “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”
I’m completely out on Lynch as his current ADP.
As for the backups, Washington played five more snaps than Richard last year, he’s a better athlete, and he has a batter college pedigree. (Washington was a fifth-round pick out of Texas Tech; Richard was an undrafted free agent out of Southern Mississippi.) I believe that if Lynch were to get hurt or be marginalized due to ineffectiveness, Washington would play a bigger role than Richard in picking up the pieces. And since I’m bearish on Lynch’s chances for a successful season, I’m looking to buy multiple shares of Washington and maybe a share or two of Richard. It’s also worth keeping tables on Elijah Hood, a rookie seventh-rounder from North Carolina who could work his way into the mix.
As baffled as I am by Lynch’s ADP, he might not even be the most overpriced Raider. Derek Carr’s ADP of QB6 is hard to fathom. I’m actually a big fan of Carr. He passes the eye test for me, and I think he has a chance to be great – eventually. It’s just hard to get behind that ADP when he ranked 15th in fantasy points per game and 18th in yards per passing attempt last season. Carr also plays in a division laden with stingy pass defenses. The Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers all ranked in the top six in opponent passer rating last season. Carr does have some things working his favor. He has a very good pair of wide receivers at his disposal, and Oakland excelled at pass protection last year. Still, Carr is egregiously overpriced and shouldn’t be one of the first 10 quarterbacks off the board.
The way you view the current ADPs of Amari Cooper (WR10) and Michael Crabtree (WR23) may well reflect the sort of owner you are. Those who like to chase young players with seemingly vast upside will probably have no issue with the way the Oakland receivers are currently priced. Those who consistently target established, unsexy veterans at perceived discounts are probably dismayed at the yawning ADP chasm between Cooper and Crabtree. The latter group can point to the fact Crabtree has outperformed Cooper over the last two seasons. Crabtree finished WR11 last year; Cooper was WR14. Crabtree finished WR 19 two seasons ago; Cooper was WR24 as a rookie that year. I oscillate between the two ownership styles. The bargain-priced vets appeal to me, but I’m not too proud to chase a shiny object now and then. In this case, I’m in league with the upside chasers.
The gap in fantasy points between Crabtree and Cooper is entirely attributable to touchdown production close to the goal line. Cooper has yet to score a TD of less than 15 yards. Last year, Crabtree scored on six of 21 red-zone targets. Cooper failed to cash in on any of his 13 red-zone targets. In 2015, both receivers had two touchdowns on red-zone targets, with Crabtree getting 13 red-zone looks and Cooper getting only eight. I tend to view the red-zone disparity as a statistical hiccup rather than concrete evidence that Crabtree is the superior touchdown threat. If you’re certain Crabtree will continue to get more red-zone looks than Cooper, by all means pass on Cooper and buy Crabtree. Personally, I can’t help but be smitten with an athletically gifted young receiver who topped 1,000 yards as a rookie despite playing hurt for much of the season, then caught 83 passes for 1,153 yards in his second year. Cooper’s floor feels sturdy, and would it really be a surprise if he were viewed as a consensus first-round pick in fantasy drafts a year from now? Crabtree is probably maxed out at his current level of production, but the current level is nonetheless appealing. I think Cooper and Crabtree are both reasonably priced.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Seth Roberts and rookie Ishmael Zamora will fight for Cooper and Crabtree’s table scraps. Patterson had 52 receptions and a 74.3% catch rate for the Vikings last year but averaged 8.7 yards per catch. Those are curious numbers for a 6-2 receiver with 4.4 speed. Patterson wasn’t able to carve out much of an offensive niche for himself during his four years in Minnesota, but his athletic gifts and the change of venue could make him waiver-worthy at some point, particularly if one of the starters were to go down. Seth Roberts has churned out 10 TDs over the last two years but led NFL receivers in drop rate last year, had a catch rate of 49.3% and averaged 5.2 yards per target. He’s technically the incumbent third receiver but has all the job security of a teenage fry cook. Zamora is an undrafted free agent who surely would have been drafted if someone hadn’t posted a video of Zamora beating the hell out of his dog with a belt. Not exactly Dr. Dolittle, is he? But, hey, he’s 6-4 and athletic, and we know that a lot of NFL teams are willing to overlook abhorrent behavior if a guy can play. I’m a dog lover, so Zamora is dead to me.
|Jared Cook||TE15||TE20||Keep in mind|
Jared Cook is a reputed fantasy tease, but maybe it’s time to cut him some slack. He’s been tethered to lousy quarterbacks for most of his career, which is a big reason that he’s never had more than five TD catches in a single season. Cook got a chance to play with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay last year but was injured early in the season. Cook caught fire down the stretch, with 31 catches in his last six games, including the playoffs. As noted by PFF’s Curtis Patrick (@DynastyCommand), if you extrapolate Cook’s last six games to a 16-game pace, you get 82.6 catches for 1,067 yards and 5.3 TDs. His target potential is somewhat limited in Oakland, but I’m mildly interested in Cook in drafts where I punt the tight end position.