Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Playing in a contract year, Marshawn Lynch broke out last season rushing for 1,204 yards with 12 TD’s. Usually labeled by fantasy owners as a “bum”, Lynch turned it on midway through the season by running for a TD in 11 straight games and finished with six 100-yard performances in his last 9 games. Lynch’s performance last season earned him a four-year, 31 million dollar contract this offseason, but also this offseason Lynch let his team down by being arrested and charged with a DUI, now likely facing a multi-game suspension. Lynch ran splendidly last season finally seeming to put it altogether, but this arrest not only begs the question of how many games he will miss, but if we will see that same ferocious running out of Lynch that we saw last season.
After years of disappointment averaging under 4.0 ypc, it appears the 26 year-old Lynch finally has arrived. The Seahawks still maintain a strong run-blocking offensive line and added Matt Flynn and Kellen Winslow to improve their offense. However, owners can no longer truly rely on Lynch to be a RB1 from the get go because of the possible suspension and the DUI arrest raises some concerns about Lynch’s mentality coming into 2012.
With all that said, Lynch will have solid value in drafts and auctions because a lot of owners will be weary of him and let him slide. At the end of the day he still is a cowbell back who averaged a league-high 23 carries per game in the second-half of last season and produced nicely for owners. If you target Lynch just be prepared to build depth at the RB and Flex positions so if and when Lynch serves his suspension, you can plug in other reliable starters.
Shane Vereen, New England Patriots
News coming out of Patriots camp is Vereen is now closing in on Steven Ridley for the starting gig. A few weeks ago Ridley was the man and the favorite to lead the Pats in carries in 2012, but Ridley’s fumbling issues have popped up again and Vereen is on the radar.
Ridley is still probably the most talented back in New England and the best suited for goal-line work, but you never know what Bill Belichick is going to do. I wrote about this while covering Steven Ridley back in July, you can read it here. The likely scenario is that it will be a pure committee with the different backs having to prove themselves over time. Joseph Addai is out of the picture now as he was cut last month, but Ridley, Woodhead and Vereen will all be battling for snaps and roles.
Vereen’s value rises for now while Ridley’s drops, but it’s really hard to pinpoint which back will be the most productive. The strategy right now should be to acquire both Ridley and Vereen, and be patient with both while their roles are developed during the year. While these backs aren’t two of the most talented in the league, the offense they play in is. Being able to grab the right back in this situation will be of huge benefit to your fantasy teams.
Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers
The multi-dimensional and shifty Kendall Hunter enjoyed a fairly solid rookie year last season averaging a respectable 5.2 yards on 128 touches. Many thought that the 49ers would start to limit Frank Gore’s workload last season, but Jim Harbaugh was content on giving Gore 70% of the touches while Hunter received just 28%. But reports are Hunter is having a tremendous camp and will earn a bigger role this season. The 49ers did sign Brandon Jacobs and draft the Oregon product LaMichael James, but it’s pretty safe to say that Hunter is still the 2nd most talented back on the team behind Frank Gore.
Look for the 49ers to keep Gore fresh for the latter part of the season and work Hunter, James and Jacobs in, with Hunter being the favorite for the most touches behind Gore. Expect more touches from Hunter this year and if Gore goes down with an injury, Hunter will become an excellent RB2. Being the talented back that he is, Hunter is a must handcuff if you acquire Gore and a quality Dynasty league selection.