Buffalo Bills Running Back
Marshawn Lynch was a 3rd or 4th round selection in most fantasy football leagues last year. In 2008, Lynch is creeping up into the bottom of 1st rounds in many leagues.
Marshawn Lynch will slide into the early 2nd round in as many leagues as he won’t, most likely. The Buffalo Bills 2nd year running back is one of those classic runners with a big upside, who might go before a few established veteran RB’s because you don’t know how high his ceiling is.
There are good reasons to place Marshawn Lynch in the high rounds.
He showed good speed and quickness in the Bills games that I watched last year, even the ones where his numbers weren’t that impressive. The reason Marshawn Lynch’s numbers weren’t better in those games was the anemic offense they put around him. So potential fantasy owners of Marshawn Lynch have to answer for themselves whether the Buffalo Bills’ offense is going to be appreciably better this year.
Years Pro: 2
Weight: 215 lbs.
College: California Golden Bears
Current Team: Buffalo Bills
Marshawn Lynch – Career Summary
Marshawn Lynch was born and raised in Oakland, California. He stayed in the San Francisco Bay Area for his college ball, playing for the University of California (Berkeley) Golden Bears. Marshawn Lynch had been the nation’s #1 rated defensive back prospect as a senior in high school, but he chose to sign with a school where he could play running back.
This didn’t happen at first. J.J. Arrington, who would be drafted by the Arizona Cardinals, was the Golden Bears’ running back during Lynch’s freshman year.
Lynch remained a solid backup, gaining over 600 yards as a freshman. He would be the starter in his sophomore and junior years, when he became became first an honorable mention and then a 1st team All-Pac 10 player.
Announcing for the NFL Draft in 2007 instead of returning to Berkeley for his senior year, Marshawn Lynch was the second running back selected, behind Adrian Peterson. Marshawn Lynch was drafted 12th overall as the Buffalo Bills 1st round draft pick. The Bills had traded Willis McGahee in the 2007 offseason, so they were looking for a new starting runner to carry the burden of the offense.
Marshawn Lynch – NFL Rookie Season
Marshawn Lynch became the Buffalo Bills every down runner in the 2007 preseason. The Bills offense was led by J.P. Losman at the time, though he was on his last leg as the Buffalo Bills starting quarterback. Lee Evans was the only other real threat on offense, and Losman was injured early in the season with a sprained knee. This led to the installment of rookie Trent Edwards as the Bills quarterback. Edwards was injured, returning Losman to a brief stint as the starter. There was talk that some Bills players were upset that JP Losman lost the job in the first place.
All of this was enough to make the Buffalo Bills offense sputter throughout much of the season. Close losses to the Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys dealt blows that would have crushed the morale of most teams. The Bills defense, meanwhile, was ravaged by injuries to numerous players, including rookie 2nd rounder Paul Pozluzsny.
Through all of this, Marshawn Lynch was a bright spot. At 215 pounds, Lynch is big enough to stand up to the pounding as an NFL runner. Marshawn Lynch combines quickness and elusiveness with enough breakaway speed to make him dangerous. Lynch also showed solid pass-catching abilities. Buffalo Bills players claim that Marshawn Lynch brought a breathe of fresh air to the locker room, because of youthful exuberance. For 2007, Marshawn Lynch rushed for 1,115 yards and 7 touchdowns — a solid rookie season, considering the state of the Bills offense.
Fantasy Outlook – Marshawn Lynch
Let’s lay this out.
Marshawn Lynch will be suspended for the first 3 games on the 2009 NFL Season. The Buffalo Bills have said they are going to give Fred Jackson the full time job as the third-down back this year. Fred Jackson basically took that job last year, anyway.
The Bills also brought in Dominic Rhodes in the offseason, though Rhodes is apparently the 3rd RB and isn’t taking Fred Jackson’s job.
One reason I touted Marshawn Lynch last year was he was one of the few 2nd round (turned out to be 1st round in many drafts) runners who didn’t have to share carries and didn’t have a history of injuries. Marshawn Lynch had a solid rookie NFL season, because he caught a lot of balls out of the backfield and was an every-down back.
Both of those factors have turned against Marshawn Lynch just a year later. With Terrell Owens in town, the Buffalo Bills Offense could be more high-powered and that could make for more production for both Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson in 2009. The Bills now have a pretty dangerous team, given that Lee Evans becomes an extremely dangerous #2 WR.
But the most important thing is that Marshawn Lynch is sitting out for sure the first three weeks of the season. I don’t like drafting players that you know won’t help you in the first month of the fantasy football season, because that’s when the tone for the whole year is usually set. Let someone else draft Marshawn Lynch too high, then trade for him a month into the season when that team is getting desperate for a win.
Fantasy Outlook – Marshawn Lynch 2008
Marshawn Lynch should grow as a second round player. He’s one of the few running backs with 1st round potential without a history of injuries, so fantasy owners might look at Marshawn Lynch as a fresh young runner without too much wear-and-tear.
Marshawn Lynch is the type of player who could quickly jump into the NFL elite, if he avoids the sophomore jinx and continues to develop as a player. If his stats increase across the board, you could expect 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns from Marshawn Lynch.
The major factor holding Lynch back is his offensive situation. He’ll be the main man on the Buffalo Bills roster, but the offense is unlikely to be very high-powered. Trent Edwards showed composure and leadership last year, but the Bills gameplan was very conservative with him in there. Whether this was due to Edward’s rookie status or an indication of the style of offense Dick Jauron wants to employ. Though the team no doubt wanted to avoid too many rookie mistakes, I expect that Dick Jauron (a defensive-minded coach) wants Trent Edwards to be more of a "game manager" than a playmaker at quarterback. Expect a conservative offense again.
That’s not always a bad thing for a running back. Marshawn Lynch will be the focus of the offense; if Dick Jauron wants to play ball control, most of the ball controlling will be done by Marshawn Lynch. Also remember that the Buffalo Bills Defense should be healthier this year. This means the offense will get the ball back quicker and Marshawn Lynch should naturally get more carries.
Also, the team drafted James Hardy, a 6’6" wide receiver, in the 2nd round. Many experts believe James Hardy will have the most productive year of all rookie receivers, and some scouts compare Hardy to Plaxico Burress. If the rookie can produce, this will give the Bills a possession receiver/red zone target opposite the small but speedy Lee Evans, which could open up the Bills passing game. James Hardy appears to be the perfect compliment for Lee Evans, at the very least. Whether that materializes this year is uncertain.
Trent Edwards should improve from year one to year two, which will increase the productivity and efficiency of the Buffalo Bills offense. Therefore, there are several reasons to assume that the Bills offensive unit should improve from 2007 until 2008. Overall, the Buffalo Bills ended with a respectable 7-9 record in 2007, so they might be in a position to contend for a playoff spot with a couple of games’ improvement. The AFC looks very tough, though, and the AFC East should in all likelihood be dominated by the New England Patriots again. Still, a fantasy football player could do worse than drafting Marshawn Lynch late in the 1st round or anywhere in the 2nd round. Young runners break out in fantasy football, so you could be drafting a breakout player.
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