Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch has been a fantasy football enigma this year, and arguably one of the most iffy fantasy prospects in the first-to-second rounds. While he still has just enough upside to continue to be regarded as an RB1, the news that the Seahawks want to give less touches to Lynch and more to their other running backs doesn't bode well for Lynch's future value. It's one of those situations where is it "coachspeak," or will Seattle stick to their future game-plan and give Lynch less of the carries than the previous two seasons (616 total carries)?
RB Christine Michael (15/61/1) and RB Robert Turbin (16/96) have made it a dogfight for the No. 2 spot, and essentially a spot as Lynch's handcuff. Turbin has been playing better-than-expected in the preseason, but I continue to believe Michael is a starter in waiting if/when Lynch is let go in 2015. If one or both continue to impress, a subtle committee approach could form early.
Because of the above info, taking Lynch is too much of a gamble for me and should be for you to. In fact, I will go so far as to say there are at least 3 running backs being drafted much later than Lynch who offer more upside and less question marks going into the regular season. There might be even more, but these guys popped out at me as soon as I saw their ADP. Keep in mind Lynch's ADP is currently at the 2.8 spot according to My Fantasy League, but he is being drafted as the 10th overall running back in PPR leagues. These 3 players have the best chance at outperforming Lynch this season.
1. Rams Zac Stacy - ADP 3.6
Like Lynch, Stacy doesn't have much upside as a pass-catcher. However, he's young enough to handle a full load of carries in 2014. There was initial thought that rookie RB Tre Mason would push Stacy for touches, but he hasn't panned out like the Rams coaching staff would have hoped. His biggest problem has been picking up the blitz, which has been up-and-down all summer. Stacy only has one year under his belt, but he will be a 20+ carry guy ala Michael Turner in his younger days because Stacy's body can handle the damage. Stacy continues to be drafted in the third round This is just as shocking as his overall running back rank, which is currently at No. 13. A player who will see 300 carries shouldn't be ranked this low, even in a PPR league. Stacy is going to be a bellcow and offers much more stability and upside than Lynch will in 2014.
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2. Cardinals Andre Ellington 3.7
In the eyes of the Cardinals coaching staff, Ellington went from a "we don't know if he can be anything more than a rotational player" to "we want to build our offense around him." Just goes to show you how much the NFL changes from the winter to spring/summer. Ellington has been one of the most hyped running backs all year, and is now considered the team's bellcow after Ellington added up to 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason. However, unlike Stacy, the definition of bellcow is different here. While the team has continued to commit Ellington receiving 20+ touches a game, we don't know how many of those touches will be carries. Ellington might have gotten bigger, but he's still not as talented an inside runner as RB Stepfan Taylor or RB Jonathan Dwyer. Still, 20 touches times 16 games is 320 touches, which is still a high volume for a running back. In all the years that Reggie Bush has played, he's never come close to 300 touches in one year. And these are including years where he rushed for over 1,000 yards. Ellington should be a PPR gold mine.
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3. Jaguars Toby Gerhart - ADP 5.5
Gerhart has all the makings of an RB1 since he's going to be the Jags' three-down back. At least that's what I believe. RB Jordan Todman and rookie RB Storm Johnson have done nothing in the preseason that would convince me to think they can cut into Gerhart's touches. RB Denard Robinson has looked exceptional, but he's been putting up strong numbers against third-string defenses. There is belief that the Jags will give Gerhart 15-18 touches per game, which is absurdly low for a three-down back who can actually catch. Gerhart's ADP is so low due to the fact that this is his first year as a starter and he's playing in an offense that is in the lower half of the league in terms of quarterback and receiver talent. But that should be a good thing since the Jags will run a lot to make up for their passing deficiencies. The bad news is that the Jags will be playing behind a lot this year as well, which could tamper with Gerhart's touches in the second half of many games this season. Still, three-down backs like Gerhart are rare. I'd rather pass on Lynch early and take a chance on Gerhart, who is another upside guy. Also like Stacy, Gerhart could turn into a Michael Turner clone. Turner, like Gerhart behind Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, played backup for 4 years behind RB LaDainian Tomlinson until breaking out as the starter with the Falcons.