2013, what a great time to think back to, the year that both Orange is the New Black and House of Cards debuted, The Fast and the Furious was only on movie number 6, and Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson were top 10 fantasy running backs. Both were always taken within the top 5 of redraft fantasy league, and were depended upon to help their fantasy owners secure fantasy championships. Now it’s 2017, Star Wars is a hot movie franchise again, House is Cards is entering it’s fifth season, there’s still more Fast and Furious movies, and Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson are still names that fantasy players are wondering about. The questions are not the same, no more are you pondering top 5 ADP for either player, but now you’re wondering if either will have an impact on their new NFL team, or your fantasy team. Which should you choose first? Well let’s find out.
Both players will be in new uniforms this year, Peterson, formerly a Viking has signed a deal with the New Orleans Saints after his deal in Minnesota expired, meanwhile Lynch has come back out of retirement and was traded to the Oakland Raiders in order for the Seahawks to move up 1 round in the NFL draft.
So let’s take a look at those new teams. The Saints put up the most yards per game for any offense in the NFL last season (426.0 YPG) yet was dead middle of the pack in rushing yards per game at 16th (108.9). This stat doesn’t surprise many because what the Saints have been known for offensively is one big thing, the power of Drew Brees to throw insane amounts of yards. Running backs have existed in New Orleans (Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Tim Hightower, Khiry Robinson, Pierre Thomas and others) but none have truly been big names in a long time, back in 2010 was the last time Reggie Bush was a Saint, and as far as name value is concerned possibly the most notable RB in that system. The Raiders on the other hand, have had a big name RB, in the name of Latavius Murray, a back who only missed 3 regular season games in the past 2 years and ran for over 2,200 yards. Oakland had the 6th most rushing yards per games in the NFL in 2016, (120,1) and the 6th most overall YPG (373.3)
What can lead to those results? Well let’s look at the offensive lines, the Raiders were the 6th best O line in 2016 per Pro Football Focus, while the Saints were 12th. In the NFL Draft this year at the 32nd pick the Saints went and picked up a tackle by the name of Ryan Ramczyk in the hopes of having a better line to protect both Brees and AP. Ramczyk was the highest rated tackle prospect in the draft, a player who only played one season of FBS football, but is highly regarded for his talent. Oakland did draft a tackle as well, but theirs came in the 7th round by the way of Jylan Ware, a player from Alabama State who has some questions attached to his abilities and likely won’t have the same impact immediately.
So now that we’ve examined a couple pieces of the past of their new teams, let’s talk about the players themselves. Both have missed time in the past couple seasons (albeit for different reasons) and both at one point were the king of the mountain that was fantasy running backs. Lynch of course is coming out of retirement after “quietly” announcing his retirement during Super Bowl 50, while AP is coming off of a year plagued with another injury. Both will have an opportunity to perform, but signs currently point to AP sharing his RB duties with 2 other players, Mark Ingram and newly drafted RB Alvin Kamara. When asked, coach Payton said that he sees Kamara as a catching back. While a timeshare RB system may be great for NFL teams, it is something to truly avoid in fantasy football, simply because you never know which committee member will produce yardage and touchdowns on any given week. Lynch on the other hand will be by all accounts the RB1 on this team, as the Raiders previous RB1 Latavius Murray, is now a Minnesota Viking. So as long as Lynch can show during camp or preseason that he can produce, he will be the guy in Oakland compared to AP being in a committee.
The last part I’d want to look at, though, is their schedules. Based on 2016 Rushing Yards allowed per game, the Saints will play 4 games against teams who were amongst the top 10 in least rushing yards allowed per game, those opponents are the Patriots, Panthers (twice) and the Packers. As an offset they will also play the Dolphins and the Bills who respectively gave up the 3rd and 4th most rushing yards per game in 2016. That makes their schedule a little bit of good, and a little bit of bad as far as rushing defenses go. The Raiders however, play 7 games against teams who were amongst the top 10 in least rushing yards per game, those opponents are the Titans, Ravens, Chargers (twice), Patriots, Giants and the Cowboys. Also to note, The Cowboys and Titans were the teams who gave up the least rushing yards per game in 2016, and the Patriots and Giants tied for 3rd least in 2016. So of their 16 games, nearly half of them will be against top 10 teams against the rush. The Raiders also play the Bills and Dolphins, who we noted above as known for giving up rushing yards and will also play the Broncos twice, who give up the 5th most rushing yards per game in 2016.
When I began this article and this research, I had thought maybe this question was more of a toss up, that maybe this would be a tough choice for a fantasy player to decide which to choose if they had to pick one. In reality however, the Raiders offensive line is better, the opportunity in Oakland belongs to Lynch and doesn’t appear to be shared as it will be in New Orleans, and Oakland is a team who’s not a stranger to running backs being successful in their offense. As long as the Raiders can gameplan around these tough defenses they face, between the two, Marshawn Lynch is the choice, this isn’t saying AP won’t have a role on fantasy teams in 2017, but his value is the lesser of the two.