Whether you think Marshawn Lynch is a No. 2 fantasy running back or the No. 2 fantasy running back is dependent upon your perception of Lynch’s workload in 2012.
The artist known as “Beast Mode” was a must-start running back for the second half of last season, finishing as a top-five back overall. From Week 9 to Week 16, Lynch was the second-best fantasy running back, trailing only 2011 NFL rushing leader (and current holdout) Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jones-Drew led the NFL in carries with 343.
But if Lynch’s eight-game stretch was projected over a 16-game schedule, he would have topped Jones-Drew’s rushing-attempt numbers by 41 carries.
For those two months, Lynch carried the ball 192 times for 855 yards and nine touchdowns. He amassed at least 100 yards in six of the eight games and at least one touchdown in seven.
Lynch averaged 4.45 yards per carry, which is respectable for an NFL runner. But a 384-carry season for a single running back is very improbable in today’s NFL.
Seattle also drafted a rookie running back in the fourth round by the name of Robert Turbin. Turbin should be able to handle some of the load for Lynch, providing each back a greater chance of sustaining himself throughout the season.
Lynch is already dealing with injury concerns, so it’s possible that his production looks similar to that of last season; he could start a bit slow and finish the year strong. He’s never played fewer than 13 games in a single season during his five years in the league.
If Turbin were to take 100 handoffs this season, that would still leave about 250 carries for Lynch, provided each back stays healthy. Lynch averages 4.0 yards per carry over his career and seven touchdowns per season.
Lynch should also see a fair amount of passes thrown his way with rookie Russell Wilson under center. Lynch is an accomplished pass-catcher, with a career-high 47 receptions in 2008 with the Buffalo Bills. He has averaged 7.1 yards per reception over his career.
Seven touchdowns and 1,400 total yards is a somewhat conservative projection for Marshawn Lynch, especially if he plays 15 games this season, a mark which he has met or eclipsed three times. He barely topped 1,400 total yards in 2011, but only saw 69 total touches in the first five games.
Lynch is a clear No. 1 fantasy running back even if he does split a bit more time in the backfield in 2012. He should impress again with his rushing touchdowns, as long as there are Skittles waiting for him in the end zone.