By Brady Henderson
Seahawks rookie Christine Michael doesn’t figure to have a significant role this season as he plays behind starter Marshawn Lynch and shares backup duties with Robert Turbin.
But by his fourth season, one analyst thinks he’ll be among the NFL’s best running backs.
ESPN analyst Matt Williamson thinks the Seahawks’ Christine Michael will be the NFL’s fifth-best running back by 2016. (AP)
Matt Williamson, a former Cleveland Browns scout who now works for ESPN, ranked Michael No. 5 in his recent forecast of the league’s 10 best ballcarriers in 2016. When he joined “Bob and Groz” on Tuesday to discuss that projection, Williamson said questions about Michael’s attitude – not his talent – caused him to fall to Seattle at end of the second round, by which point four other running backs had already been selected.
“I do know that’s why he wasn’t the first or second back taken overall, is because of those issues,” Williamson said. “On the field, I think he’s extremely impressive. I think he’s very gifted in terms of power, explosion, lateral agility. He runs with a lot of aggressiveness, high knees, he’s no fun to tackle and he can also run away from you, he can get to the edge on the outside, I think he has upside as a receiver.
“The term every-down back is thrown around probably too much in the NFL, but I think he’s one of those guys that could fit the bill.”
A few things to keep in mind when projecting Michael to be among the league’s best running backs:
Pass protection. Coach Pete Carroll said after the draft that Michael’s pass protection needs work, and the non-contact practices this offseason haven’t made for much of a testing ground for improvement in that department. Williamson noted his projections aren’t based strictly on stats, so what Michael does without the ball in his hands will matter as well.
Seahawks’ approach. The Seahawks ran the ball more than any NFL team last season, and Carroll has said the addition of wide receiver Percy Harvin doesn’t signal an immediate sea change in Seattle’s run-first approach. But will their offense transform as quarterback Russell Wilson continues to develop and the Seahawks try to maximize their investment in Harvin? De-emphasizing the running game would give Michael fewer chances to shine.
Running back plan. The Seahawks’ decision to use a second-round pick on Michael was a reflection of the fact that they had an opening at running back after releasing Leon Washington and the reality that Lynch is 27 years old and plays with a relentless style that isn’t conducive to longevity. It wasn’t an indictment of Robert Turbin, a 2012 fourth-round pick who showed promise as a rookie. If Turbin continues to develop, perhaps the Seahawks will go with more of a timeshare in their backfield, an approach that Carroll employed at USC and one that would likely preclude either back from being considered among the best at the position.
Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby share additional thoughts on Michael in the video below.
You can listen to Tuesday’s show here.