Fantasy Football: What Should We Do With Marshawn Lynch?

Once among the fantasy elite at the running back position, Marshawn Lynch hasn't quite lived up to expectation through the season's first three weeks.

Marshawn Lynch was supposed to be a fantasy phoenix, rising from retirement to score double-digit touchdowns in a high-octane offense such as the Oakland Raiders. Beast Mode was back in 2017 and it was going to be a beautiful thing.

However, it's been anything but pretty for fantasy football players who have Lynch on their squad.

He's just 33rd among running backs in PPR leagues through three weeks of play, and with an average of just 8.6 points per game, he's lagging behind backs like Shane Vereen and Terrance West. It's still early, but these numbers aren't living up to the hype which made him the 17th running back off the boards in 12-team PPR leagues, according to Fantasy Football Calculator.

Is this merely a temporary dip in production before Lynch retains his place among the fantasy elite? Or is this the new norm?

The Legend Of Lynch

While the prospect of watching Lynch lift his hometown Raiders to new heights was exciting, the reality was that it'd be an uphill climb for him to be relevant in fantasy again. He's getting by on reputation alone at this point because he hasn't been an elite option in fantasy since 2014.

We saw the warning signs and named him as a player to avoid this year, and one of the reasons why it was easy to predict a decline was because we've already seen this movie...two years ago. Everyone remembers that he retired prior to the 2016 season, but it might be tougher to remember that Lynch wasn't producing like himself in his final games before hanging it up.

Lynch's 2015 season was one of his worst -- he played in just seven games, rushing for 417 yards at a clip of 3.76 yards per carry. That was his worst such mark since 2010 when he was playing for the Buffalo Bills. If he was healthy for all of 2015, he was on pace to gain 953 yards. Considering he was coming off five straight seasons of 1,200-plus rushing yards, this drop in production was sobering.

It's not that Lynch has been bad lately, but he's no longer the difference maker he once was. In his last 11 games, he's cracked 80 yards on the ground just once and still hasn't reached that number in a single game since coming out of retirement.

The Efficiency Isn't Bad

The 31-year-old has nothing to be ashamed of when we take a look at efficiency metrics, though, like Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per carry and Rushing Success Rate, both of which you can read more about in our glossary.

Among 50 running backs with at least 15 carries this year, Lynch's 0.00 Rushing NEP per carry ranks 16th, meaning he's not costing his team anything in terms of expected points on the ground. That ranks along the likes of Jordan Howard and C.J. Anderson, who are both currently in the RB1 category through Week 3.

Rank Player Rushes Rushing NEP per Carry Rushing Success Rate
12 Jeremy Hill 19 0.02 36.84%
13 James White 17 0.01 58.82%
14 C.J. Anderson 53 0.01 28.30%
15 Jordan Howard 45 0.01 42.22%
16 Marshawn Lynch 36 0.00 30.56%
17 Tevin Coleman 20 0.00 40.00%
18 DeMarco Murray 35 0.00 34.29%
19 Matt Forte 23 0.00 47.83%

The good news for Lynch is that he does get to run behind a good Oakland offensive line, which returns the same group that ranked 11th in run-blocking and 1st in pass-blocking last year, per Football Outsiders. So, it's not as if we should be expecting him to completely fall off the map.

A Question of Touches

The problem for Lynch is the Raiders appear committed to limiting his touches, which seriously cramps his chances of being a difference maker. During the offseason, Oakland claimed they wanted to keep Lynch at the same 195 carries that then-starter Latavius Murray had in 2016.

The Raiders believed they could afford to do that because of their depth in the backfield, and so far, the numbers bear that out. When taking a look at fantasy production, just 7.6 points separate the team's three top running backs.

Player Rushes Rush Yds Receptions Rec Yds Total Points
Marshawn Lynch 36 139 3 28 25.7
Jalen Richard 13 84 4 61 24.5
DeAndre Washington 10 24 10 57 18.1

Jalen Richard has scored nearly as many points as Lynch, and he was the 60th running back coming off the board in 12-team PPR leagues this summer. Lynch has also received just 51% of the touches, which pales in comparison to other workhorse backs. For example, Le'Veon Bell has received 93% of the Pittsburgh Steelers' touches and rookie Leonard Fournette has handled 68% of touches in the Jacksonville Jaguars' backfield.


Without significantly more work, these numbers are the new norm for Lynch. There is no reason to expect he his suddenly going to bounce back to his 2014 level of production, either in terms of efficiency or workload.

He could still be useful in fantasy lineups, but likely not as much as many were hoping based off his average draft position. If you're able to cash in on the name recognition Lynch still carries before we get too deep into the season, you should strongly consider selling him now in order to get some kind of value in return.