2017 Offseason: The Marshawn Effect

I want to talk about Marshawn Lynch.

What I’m not going to talk about or recap is the “timeline” to this point, as it’s been a roller coaster of sorts. The long and the short of it, however, is that Marshawn Lynch appears set to join the Oakland Raiders for one, final ride.

We think.

Marshawn himself will let us know when, or how, though.

There is obviously a lot to unpack with this move again, assuming it all goes through in the end. Before I share some of my own thoughts, I figured we could listen to some poetry and get in the mood:

Thoughts and Expectations

So, the move for Beast Mode. I’m torn, you guys.

On one hand, I’m ecstatic.

I’m stoked for the city Oakland, and all those hometown fans who will be saying goodbye to their football team. They deserve this more than anything.

I’m excited for the hundreds of thousands of fans, regardless of team/fan affiliation, who will get to witness Marshawn interact with the media once more, and simply be the incredible personality that we all have grown to love and revere. I don’t know a single soul who doesn’t enjoy and respect everything about Beast Mode.

This is good for the city, the fans, and really, this is a move that will be good for the game of football. Seemingly, everybody wins.

Kinda.

On the other hand, I don’t know what to think. I’m skeptical.

Marshawn’s set to turn 31, averaged 3.8 yards per carry the last time we saw him on the field (in his defense, we know about that Seattle offensive line), and in general, looked like his body was breaking down. He’s been removed from the game, which I understand can be both viewed as both a positive (recovery-wise) just as much as a negative. I look at all those factors physically, that we as fans, narrative or otherwise, have always connected with running backs. We ran through the same checklist when evaluating a player like Adrian Peterson, who’s also looking for a new football team. These factors can’t be ignored.

Knowing what we know, on paper, I’m concerned with where this fan base appears to be setting the bar. The pandemonium is real. This is Oakland’s own son after all, of course the bar is going to be set silly-high. Anything less would be a disservice to Marshawn and what this means to The Town. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s fair to expect “vintage” Beast Mode. If that’s where your expectations lie, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

With all that said, I imagine the front office is only pursuing a deal like this because Marshawn is healthy enough to run at what we hope will be full speed. There’s also that aforementioned bar, and where the previous Raiders’ starting running back had set it — that’ll work in Lynch’s favor, but again, we as fans needs to be careful, and not get ahead of ourselves.

Marshawn’s addition could rock the draft board, as well. For some fans, that doesn’t quite matter. For other’s, like myself, there’s a handful of talented running backs in this 2017 class that I’d prefer to draft over Lynch at this point in time. They may not be an option with Lynch coming to town. More on that later; stay with me.

As far as expectations, I don’t believe Marshawn’s going to be “counted on” as a three-down runner. He’s carried the load for so long, and now walks into a situation in Oakland where there are two capable change-of-pace backs that this staff rather enjoys deploying. Oh, and the offensive line is pretty decent as well.

Expect Marshawn to get some early-down looks while mixing in for the short-yardage, and more importantly, goal line work. Under Derek Carr, this Oakland offense is clearly ascending. It’s fair to think that Lynch can walk in and at least match or come close to Latavius Murray’s touchdown total from last season. Will the yardage be there, and/or those vintage Beast Mode runs where he’s breaking a handful of tackles, embarrassing defenders? To be determined.

Little food for thought, as we move on:

The “Mixon” Theory

I blame this tweet. This tweet got me going again:

I’ve been connecting the Raiders-Mixon dots all offseason, ever since the first report of his visit to the East Bay surfaced.

Click the link. Scroll through that thread. There’s a lot going on.

The overwhelming “rumor” at the moment is that Joe Mixon will not make it past the Bengals at 41. We can take that for what it’s worth at the moment, as it is #lyingseason after all. I do believe that Cincinnati is one of the half-a-dozen (or more) teams that are serious contenders for Mixon’s service. For Oakland, that means you’re either pulling the trigger at 24, or hoping he slips past Mike Brown’s team at 41. If you’re truly invested, you can’t let him get past you in the first round. He won’t be there at 56. In general, I’m on record: Mixon does not make it out of the second round.

I had written about Joe Mixon, the football player, more in-depth here:

Now, I’m still not entirely sure where this franchise sits regarding Mixon. The pre-draft visit definitely raised some eyebrows. Mark Davis, and more importantly, Fred Biletnikoff, may have signed off at this point. It still feels unlikely, but I honestly haven’t the slightest clue. Times are changing for the Raiders.

Dealing for Marshawn Lynch could feasibly increase the likelihood that Mixon’s eventually drafted by Oakland, however. Mixon, much like Marshawn, is a Bay Area kid. Those ties run deep, evidence by Lynch’s appearance at Joe’s camp back home:

There’s obviously a bond here; another dot that’s being connected.

Could it amount to more? Maybe. For now, it’s an interesting tangent to follow off this ever-evolving storyline.

Draft Implications

The Raiders carried three backs last season. Four if you count Taiwan Jones. With the addition of Marshawn Lynch, Oakland maintains the same stable.

Given the nature of the Lynch signing (as of this writing, he’s still not a Raider) – which we can safely assume will be for only a year, two at max – Oakland should still be active throughout the draft, looking to tack on another running back. Richard and Washington aren’t three-down options, so youth is a must once Lynch steps away.

We’ve discussed Joe Mixon above. While I’m still holding out hope for a player like Christian McCaffrey, in reality, Reggie McKenzie probably opts to add a runner in the mid-late rounds, if at all.

This running back class is notably deep.

Who are some of the names we should be keeping an eye on? Who may fit what the Raiders are trying to do?

1) D’Onta Foreman, Texas

NFL Draft Scout projected round: fourth

I have a late-third round grade on Foreman at the moment, favoring a handful of other runners before him. Fourth round would be solid value. The “hype” for Foreman is real, especially after his pro day performance. He can definitely move for a player his size, and his work in 2016 was obviously really strong. But every time I go back to the tape, even against those atrocious Big 12 defense, I’m a little bored.

2) Jamaal Williams, Brigham Young

NFL Draft Scout projected round: fourth

One of the “big backs” I (still) prefer over Foreman. Combine performance was, in fact, not good. Wrote about him though:

3) Brian Hill, Wyoming

NFL Draft Scout projected round: fourth or fifth

A late-riser. Hill can play. If he was anywhere other than Wyoming, I imagine he’d be getting a little more shine. I flip-flop between him and Jamaal Williams as my favorite “fit” for this team. Solid value in the fourth or fifth round. Big back who runs hard, has one of the better stiff-arms, and some above average vision. He’s a Ted Thompson (and as such, I assume a Reggie McKenzie) back:

4) James Conner, Pittsburgh

NFL Draft Scout projected round: fourth or fifth

You won’t find a better story in this year’s draft class. Along those same lines, if you’re looking for a player with all the intangibles, look no further than James. He’s not a speedster, but he certainly has some burst. He’s going to do his best work in the red area, and is a true short-yardage back. For Oakland specifically, he’s the type of compliment you want to a player like Jalen Richard. He’s a bully who’s going to run through blockers, and not necessarily make them miss in the open field.

5) Aaron Jones, Texas, El Paso

NFL Draft Scout projected round: sixth or seventh

One of my favorite runners in this class not named Christian, Aaron Jones really does it all. Three-down back. He’s a problem, and a wheel route monster. Hands are great, balance is even better. Looks “stout”, but had one of the better Combine performances of any running back – athletic as hell. The only box he doesn’t check is playing at a more notable school, I think. I’m targeting Jones on Day 2. If you land him in the sixth or seventh, that’s stealing.

Final Thoughts

To keep it simple:

We (the fans) might have to come to terms with Marshawn not being “that” Marshawn anymore.

However, Lynch can still contribute (be mindful of expectations), especially behind Oakland’s offensive line.

Adding Lynch becomes “even better” if Oakland still lands a back in the draft.

Sidestepping a running back, in whatever round, because of the addition of Marshawn Lynch, feels like a mistake.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive

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