Seahawks, who need RB depth, could consider 2 impactful draft options

Apr 18, 2022, 9:50 AM | Updated: Jul 12, 2022, 3:20 pm

Seahawks draft Kenneth Walker...

Kenneth Walker of Michigan State runs against Rutgers on Oct. 9, 2021. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Most of the talk about the Seahawks this offseason has been centered around what they will do at quarterback and who they will take with the No. 9 overall pick in the NFL Draft later this month.

Should Seahawks take Kayvon Thibodeaux if he’s there at 9?

The prevailing thought that this draft class is weak at quarterback has led to speculation that the Seahawks could stick with Drew Lock and Geno Smith, however, while using their eight total draft picks to solidify other positions of need on the roster. Mock drafts have the Seahawks improving the pass rush, strengthening the offensive line, adding one of the extremely talented cornerbacks available early, or taking a chance on one of the quarterbacks.

Those are the most likely options at No. 9, but there is another area of need that the Seahawks could look to fill early in the draft: running back.

The Seahawks have two fantastic running backs with rushing styles that complement each other in Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny, but they have both struggled to keep themselves on the field.

Penny has had issues with staying healthy since he was drafted in 2018, and last year was no exception – he missed seven games, and had another four where he was still not quite right and only saw single-digit carries. But when Penny got healthy at the end of the season, he was spectacular. He went for over 130 rushing yards in four of his last five games and had eight runs of 25 yards or more. The big question now is whether he will be able to stay healthy enough to do that for a full season.

Injuries haven’t cost Carson as much playing time as Penny, but he has dealt with some serious enough to miss multiple games in each of his seasons since he was drafted in 2017. The concern with Carson right now is that he’s recovering from a tricky neck injury that kept him out from Week 4 through the remainder of the year. Carson had surgery this offseason and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll spoke about his recovery from the NFL owner’s meetings last month.

“He wasn’t confident that he felt good enough, that’s really what it got down to,” Carroll said about Carson missing most of 2021. “He didn’t have the feeling like he could go ahead and take on hits like he needed to at the time. There were some sensations that he felt that cued him that he shouldn’t go. It’s going to take a long time, unless the activity gives him some indicator.”

The Seahawks won’t be able to get a better picture of Carson’s recovery until they get him into camp, but Carroll told reporters they are “looking optimistically at it.”

“If we can get Rashaad and Chris back there battling, that one-two punch is all I could hope for,” Carroll said. “It’s what we’ve envisioned, we just haven’t been able to see it as much.”

A healthy Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny tandem is all any of us could hope for, but there is too much uncertainty in that equation to head into training camp without more options. So, where could the Seahawks look to add to this rushing attack?

If they wanted to go the veteran route, the best free agent options available are Sony Michel and Melvin Gordon.

Michel, 27, was taken four spots after Penny in the 2017 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. He spent last season with the Los Angeles Rams as part of a running back committee. He ended up emerging as their lead rusher from Week 12, gaining more responsibility due to injuries to the other Rams backs. In 2021, he tallied 845 yards on 208 carries, had 21 receptions for 128 yards and scored five touchdowns.

Gordon, 29, has been with the Denver Broncos the last two seasons. He split carries with rookie Javonte Williams last year, rushing for 918 yards on 203 carries, catching 28 passes for 213 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns.

Spotrac lists the average market value for both Gordon and Michel at about $5 million per year. But if the Seahawks aren’t looking to spend that much on older veterans, there are some really great options in the draft.

FOX Sports college football analyst Brock Huard joins The Mike Salk Show at 7:45 a.m. each weekday, and last Thursday he reflected on the players he saw with his own eyes that were most impactful in college football last year.

“I got to see (Michigan defensive end) Aidan Hutchinson in person and (Oregon defensive end) Kayvon Thibodeaux in person,” Huard said. “But just flat-out the most impactful, like ‘Wow, this guy totally changes the temperature of the buildings, the stadiums, the campuses, the games and ultimately the production,’ it would be (Michigan State running back) Kenneth Walker and (Iowa State running back) Breece Hall. Those two guys remind me to a degree of Jonathan Taylor at Wisconsin, who I saw in college and I’m like ‘This guy’s great.’”

Walker is a 5-foot-10, 210-pound junior that ran a 4.38 second 40-yard dash at the combine. He racked up 1,636 rushing yards on 263 attempts, averaging 6.2 yards per carry and scoring 18 touchdowns in 2021. He also finished sixth in Heisman Trophy voting and won the Doak Walker Award, which is given to the top running back in college football.

Hall is a 6-1, 220-pound junior who ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine. In 2021, he rushed for 1,472 yards on 253 attempts, averaging 5.8 yards a carry and scoring 20 touchdowns. Hall was the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and was a finalist one of the finalists for the Doak Walker Award.

Right now, both backs are projected to go somewhere in the second round. Is that too early to take a running back? Not if you ask Huard.

“I don’t get it, I don’t understand,” he said. “I know that everybody says you can’t take a running back early, but if the running back is that good… look at what Jonathan Taylor has done for the Colts. Breece Hall is elite, Kenneth Walker is elite, those guys in the next few years are going to do what Jonathan Taylor has done. They will run over people, run through people and run around people. If they are sitting there still (when the Seahawks have back-to-back picks at) 40 or 41, or you trade down from one of those second-round picks and you’re sitting at 50 and Walker or Hall are still on the board, color me as one that would be thrilled if that move were to happen.”

We won’t have to wait much longer to find out if that is a possibility. The three-day 2022 NFL Draft begins Thursday, April 28. Rounds two and three, where Brock thinks Hall and Walker should be going, will take place Friday, April 29.

Listen to Brock Huard’s full comments on the Seahawks’ running back position and their options in the NFL Draft in the final segment of the podcast here.

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Seahawks, who need RB depth, could consider 2 impactful draft options