DANNY ONEIL

Seahawks’ draft was next step in Marshawn Lynch succession plan

May 3, 2016, 10:43 AM
Fifth-round pick Alex Collins is one of three running backs the Seahawks drafted this year. (AP)...
Fifth-round pick Alex Collins is one of three running backs the Seahawks drafted this year. (AP)
(AP)

Thomas Rawls gave the Seahawks a running start in replacing Marshawn Lynch.

Seattle took the next step during this year’s draft.

Well, actually Seattle took a number of steps by selecting three running backs along with three offensive linemen and a tight end who’s more of a conventional end-line blocker than anyone else on the roster. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and for Seattle, it took more than half a draft to try and make sure the ground game doesn’t falter without Lynch.

NFL Draft page: Stories, analysis and more on the Seahawks’ selections

That’s the single biggest challenge in front of Seattle this season – not making sure quarterback Russell Wilson picks up where he left off or worrying about how tight end Jimmy Graham will fit into the offense when he’s healthy.

For the past six seasons, Lynch was the pulse of this team’s offense, the player who provided a clenched-jaw toughness and absolute refusal to concede a play let alone a game.

The Seahawks want to run the ball. We knew that before they drafted running backs C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins and Zac Brooks, but their selections showed that Seattle won’t ask just one player to replace Lynch even if that one player is as good as Rawls was a year ago.

“We’re hoping that the other guys can complement what we’re already getting from Thomas,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Each guy has his stuff.”

Compare this to the last time Seattle had to swap out a Pro Bowl runner. That was 2008, when the Seahawks released Shaun Alexander and were utterly unprepared to find his successor, not just because free agents Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett didn’t work out as planned.

In the five drafts that former general manager Tim Ruskell presided over from 2005 to 2009, Seattle drafted more fullbacks (three) than tailbacks (one). The Seahawks drafted a punter in that time, a long-snapper who never played a down and a kicker who was kept on the roster for a full season without ever being active, and yet Justin Forsett was the only tailback Seattle chose in those five years. He was a seventh-round pick.

Seattle has now chosen six tailbacks in John Schneider’s seven years in charge of the draft. The Seahawks also traded for Leon Washington, LenDale White and Lynch.

The Seahawks don’t just say they want to run the ball. They show it.

As a rookie last season, Rawls showed everything Seattle wanted in terms of a hard-ball running style and an explosiveness the Seahawks hadn’t seen. He rushed for 169 yards in Cincinnati in Week 5 and gained a franchise rookie-record 209 at home against San Francisco.

Schneider was the first to point out that the draft didn’t reflect a lack of faith in either Rawls or Christine Michael. Rather, it was the result of the talent available in this year’s draft and the fact that it coincides with exactly what Seattle wants to do.

“These are just darn good players,” he said.

And you can be darn certain that Seattle is intent on running the ball even with Lynch gone.

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