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Seahawks’ backfield is an embarrassment of riches

Rookie Christine Michael is part of a crowded backfield that includes an All-Pro and a promising backup. (AP)

By Danny O’Neil

Running back was the last position people expected the Seahawks to address this offseason yet that was where Seattle started in the draft, choosing Christine Michael out of Texas A&M in the second round.

Consider that just the latest surprise at the top of the Seahawks’ draft board, and one more piece of evidence about how much general manager John Schneider values running backs as he not only traded for – then re-signed – Marshawn Lynch, picked Robert Turbin in the fourth round in 2012 and then Michael this year.

Seattle has kept five running backs at the 53-man cut in nine of the past 11 seasons.

2012: 5
2011: 4
2010: 5
2009: 5
2008: 6
2007: 5
2006: 5
2005: 5
2004: 5
2003: 6
2002: 4

Compare that to Tim Ruskell’s five years as president when the team drafted more fullbacks (three) than tailbacks (one) and that one tailback the Seahawks did pick was Justin Forsett, a seventh-round selection.

Now, Seattle has so much depth at running back that the biggest question is whether the team will choose to keep a second fullback having chosen Spencer Ware out of LSU in the sixth round. You can expect both to make the team. Only twice in the past 11 seasons has Seattle entered the season with fewer than five backs on the 53-man roster.

Locks to make the roster: Lynch, Turbin, Michael.

Lynch rushed for 1,590 yards in 2012, the most in any single season by any Seahawk not named Shaun Alexander. He has scored 25 touchdowns in the past two seasons, which is more than the 24 he totaled over the first four seasons of his NFL career. He is entering the second year of a four-year contract and just turned 27.

Turbin had a year to get his feet wet as a rookie last season as he adjusts to a zone-rushing system as opposed to the college scheme he played in at Utah State in which he looked to get wide before turning the corner upfield. Leon Washington’s release will open up a role as a third-down back, but Turbin will have to show he has the hands to be a receiving threat out of the backfield.

Just where Michael will fit in to the backfield rotation remains to be seen. His senior season for the Aggies was the least productive of his college career, and injuries were a bit of concern over the offseason conditioning as he was held out with a tight hamstring.

Table for two: Michael Robinson, Ware.

When Seattle selected Ware in the sixth round, many wondered if that was a sign that Robinson’s spot on the roster might be tenuous. Robinson has played three seasons in Seattle, he turned 30 in February and he’s scheduled to make $2.5 million in 2013. Still, it’s hard to imagine the Seahawks would choose to part ways with the blocker who not only has Lynch’s complete trust, but is a special-teams captain.

Not only that, but Ware is switching position after playing tailback at LSU. Seattle evaluated Ware as the most physical running back available in this year’s draft, and he continued to get carries throughout the offseason conditioning program.

The Seahawks very well could keep five running backs to start the season. After all, they did so last year, keeping Kregg Lumpkin through the first two games.

Derrick Coleman, who’s in his second year out of UCLA, is the only other running back currently on the roster, giving you an idea of just how set the depth is in Seattle’s backfield.