Seahawks’ pre-draft positions of need: Running back(?)

Feb 27, 2015, 11:45 AM | Updated: Apr 8, 2016, 10:50 am
Running back is a potential need for Seattle given the uncertainty over Marshawn Lynch’s futu...
Running back is a potential need for Seattle given the uncertainty over Marshawn Lynch's future. (AP)

The first position Seattle drafted for two years ago was the last position anyone thought the Seahawks needed: running back. And while the choice of Christine Michael came as a huge surprise given Marshawn Lynch’s presence, it showed Seattle’s willingness to stock for the future.

Don’t expect that to change this year in a draft considered deep with running backs and the Seahawks not yet completely sure whether Lynch will be back next season.

Where Seattle stands

No back in the NFL has gained more yards over the past four seasons than Lynch. Behind him, Robert Turbin has continued to develop and had a critical run at the end of the first half in the Super Bowl. Then there’s Michael. He has played sparingly in his two seasons, carrying only 18 times as a rookie and 34 in 2015. On those carries he has gotten, though, Michael averaged more yards per rush than Lynch, and while that doesn’t mean he would be as effective as the workhorse back, it does mean that it’s way too soon to dismiss his viability in that role. Seattle is also one of the few teams in the league that uses a conventional fullback, which meant the Seahawks had to improvise after losing Derrick Coleman to a broken bone in his foot suffered in warmups before the sixth game of the season.

Seattle’s draft history

In Tim Ruskell’s five years as Seattle’s general manager, the Seahawks drafted more fullbacks (three) than running backs (one). And that one running back was Justin Forsett, a seventh-round pick. Compare that to Schneider, who used draft picks to acquired three different backs via trade in his first year on the job: Leon Washington from the Jets, LenDale White from Tennessee and finally Lynch from Buffalo. Since then, Seattle has not only drafted Turbin and Michael, but also Spencer Ware in 2013 and fullback Kiero Small a year ago. No running back has been chosen by any team in the first round of either of the past two drafts, a fact expected to change this year with a group that is considered very deep.

Names to remember

Danny O’Neil and Brady Henderson are taking stock of the Seahawks’ roster with an eye toward the areas they could address in the draft.

CB | WR | TE | LB | RB

Todd Gurley, Georgia. He’s considered the one player in this draft who’s closest to Lynch in terms of a physical running style. That’s an impossible comparison to make, but Gurley (6-1, 222) is a bruising back. He’s also coming off a torn knee ligament suffered in October, and he didn’t agree to undergo a medical evaluation at the scouting combine, instead referring questions to his doctor. Seattle has not shied away from players who suffered knee injuries in college, choosing Michael, receiver Paul Richardson and notably cornerback Walter Thurmond, who was at a similar point in his recovery as Gurley is now. Still, it’s a longshot Gurley will be on the board when Seattle picks in the first round.

David Johnson, Northern Iowa. Another trait that distinguishes Schneider’s approach from that of Ruskell is the willingness to consider prospects from schools outside of college football’s traditional power conferences. In Ruskell’s five years, the only player from outside what would now be termed the Power Five conferences was Tyler Schmitt, a long-snapper from San Diego State who never played a down for Seattle. Under Schneider, Seattle has frequently looked in the nooks and crannies of college football whether it was Bobby Wagner and Turbin from Utah State or Jeremy Lane from Northwestern State in Louisiana. Johnson (6-1, 224) is a power runner who was timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, which very well may vault him into the second round of this draft.

Josh Robinson, Mississippi State. He’s a late-round candidate, a fireplug of a running back who entered the draft with a year of eligibility remaining. Is Robinson (5-8, 217) a good enough blocker for the Seahawks to take with an eye toward special teams?

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