2014 Fantasy FootballFantasy Football

2014 Fantasy Football: How Much Does Beast Mode Have Left in the Tank?

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Source: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images North America

For a guy that finished as the No. 4 RB in the league last year finishing a run of three straight top seven finishes, Marshawn Lynch sure has fallen out of favor with fantasy owners quickly. The theory seems to be after three straight seasons of over 300 touches, the physical back is destined to breakdown. The assumption of Christine Michaels’ inevitable emergence has also played a role in Lynch’s ADP slipping to RB10 and many having him ranked as low as the No. 18 RB. Is Beast Mode done, or does he still have another big year left in the powerful body?

There are three major factors that go in to the breaking down of an NFL running back based on RB usage studies. First, turning 30-years-old. Lynch just turned 28 on April 22. According to age studies, Lynch could have up to three prime years left in his career. Secondly, coming off a 400 touch season. While Lynch is coming off three straight 300 touch seasons, the most touches he has ever had in a season is only 338 (2012). Third, and most important, is 2,500 career touches. Lynch has only 1,955 career touches. According to these numbers he should actually peak this year and not decline until 2016. RBs tend to peak at 2,250 career touches before dropping off at 2,500. Nonetheless, you can’t discount the fact that Lynch takes more physical punishment than your average RB because of his violent running style. You also can’t ignore that he is built to endure that punishment more than most RBs. Still, he is human, but with these usage statistics, he should have at least one prime year left in his tank.

The fantasy world has been buzzing about Michael. It shows with his No. 41 RB ranking according to his current ADP of 113.38. What has Michael really proven in the NFL? He has totaled 79 yards on 4.4 YPC and has never caught a pass or scored a TD. At Texas A&M he never once had more than 166 touches or broke 900 yards. Michael was also a virtual non-factor in the passing game, with a career high 15 catches as a freshman and only eight as a senior. His production has never been great, and word out of Seahawks camp is Michael has been badly outperformed by Robert Turbin. He is not a freak athlete, he doesn’t have blazing speed and he has been accused in the past of not fully utilizing his size by avoiding contact. This probably leads you to ask, why is everyone so high on Michael? The truth is I have no idea. He is clearly overrated and is the product of a non-factual hype machine. It is extremely unlikely he supplants Lynch at any point in this season. If you are a Lynch owner, Michael should not be a concern.

Lynch has shown no signs of decline. Although his numbers were down last season compared to his career best 1,590 rushing yards, 12 TDs and 5.0 YPC in 2012, he still managed the second best statistical season of his career, in which he had 1,257 rushing yards, 14 TDs and 4.2 YPC. That should hardly be considered a decline. Lynch is still running as strong as he ever has, and his impending demise has been greatly exaggerated. Even if his YPC dropped to 3.5 this season and his carries stay at 300, he would still have 1,050 yards and double-digit TDs. Barring injury this is worst case scenario. Expect Beast Mode to average right around 4.0 YPC and continue his TD production.

This is Lynch’s contract year, and everyone is well aware it could be his last in Seattle. This could be a very positive thing for his production. The Seahawks will most likely run him until the wheels fall off if they do not have plans to bring him back next season, and Lynch will be playing for another big pay day. Contract years do not always result in increased production, nevertheless I’m pretty sure it will be added motivation for a guy that puts velvet ropes around his Lamborghini when he parks it on the street.

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The fact of the matter is this; Lynch’s production is not going to fall off a cliff this year. All signs point to him having at least one more elite season left in him. There are a lot of fantastic young backs in the league right now, so not finishing out of the top five is a possibility. The fact still remains that he is an ultra-talented premier back in a rare single back system. If he is surpassed, it will be due to other RBs tremendous production, not his own catastrophic decline.

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