Over the course of the past two weeks, I have mentioned Redskins rookie Roy Helu and Dolphins rookie Daniel Thomas as the first legit Fantasy Football Sleepers at running back for 2011. Now I would like to delve into the first of many veterans in my sleeper series by analysing Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch.
It seems like just yesterday that you couldn't talk about first-round running backs without mentioning Marshawn Lynch's name. After a career in which he amassed over 3800 yards-from scrimmage at the University of California, Lynch burst out on the scene in his 2007 rookie year, putting up 1115 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. He followed that up with another 1000-yard season in 2008.
Then it all came crashing down......sort of.
During the 2009 offseason, Lynch plead guilty to misdemeanor weapons charges after cops found a concealed weapon in a 2006 Mercedes Benz Lynch was riding in during a routine traffic stop in Culver City, California. Following a disciplinary hearing with Commissioner Roger Goodell, Lynch was officially suspended for the first three games of the 2009 season. Lynch couldn't recover from the suspension, eventually putting up a mere 450 rushing yards two touchdowns and eventually losing the starting job to Fred Jackson in Week Twelve.
2010 came with a flurry of rumors that Lynch was going to be traded on or before draft weekend, but it never happened. Then more rumors persisted that he was going to be traded in the weeks leading up to the regular season, but that didn't happen either.
The trade that fantasy owners were hoping for finally came on October 5 after the Bills shipped Lynch to Seattle for draft picks. It wasn't exactly the team many were projecting as Lynch-to-Green Bay rumors were all over the place. In his first year as a Seahawk, Lynch started 11 out of 12 games, amassed 573 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns, which isn't bad considering he had to deal with a new offense, time-zone change and a new coaching staff.
Going into 2011, there isn't a reason Lynch can't bounce back to at least a low-end RB2. But he will need a few rolls of the dice to go his way. First, the team has to find a competant quarterback. There has been news that Matt Hasselbeck wants to come back, but the team has been hesitant about the feeling being mutual. They simply can't rely on Charlie Whitehurst again. Second, the offensive line has to step up their run blocking. The Seahawks ranked 30th in yards per carry with 3.7 and 31st in rushing yards a game with 89. For Lynch to find any running room, this line has to step up and in a big way.
Now I'm not recommending Lynch be drafted as an RB2 right out of the gate. Far from it. But if you can snag him as a low RB3/high RB4, the upside is there. And think about it; if Lynch can rack up 1000 yards in back-to-back seasons on a team like the Bills, there is no reason he can't in Seattle. But he is going to need a lot of help in order to qualify as a legit fantasy football sleeper.