Here's to hoping we get better lanes than this in 2011.
In my armchair GM series of posts I gave you my take on what I think the Hawks should or could do at the running back position. As it stands now it's a pretty deep group and the main guys they'll run with in 2011 are most likely already under contract. The fullback position is a little different; the Hawks currently have no fullbacks signed through 2011.
In my article I suggested the Hawks retain Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington, Justin Forsett and Chris Henry to start training camp. Auburn's Mario Fannin would make an attractive UDFA signing because he's got good size and speed (6'0 230, 4.4 40), has low miles on the treads after being used in a committee at Auburn, and possesses good hands and ability to catch passes out of the backfield so could contribute on third downs and provide depth on the practice squad, theoretically.
As for the fullback position, I really don't know what to think. I'm a proponent of having a big, bruising fullback but am unsure as to what Pete Carroll thinks about it. He barely even had a fullback on last year's roster; instead using versatile special teams ace Michael Robinson in certain sets when a fullback was needed. However, I believe that Tom Cable and Darrell Bevell may be more inclined to use a conventional fullback in 2011. Cable regularly incorporated bruising fullbacks/running backs Michael Bush and Marcel Reece in his offense last season and Bevell had been known to use 6'3, 272 pound FB Jim Kleinsasser or 6'0 252 pound Naufahu Tahi as a lead back for Adrian Peterson or as dumpoff pass threats in his offense with the Vikings last season.
The Hawks used an H-back type player a little last year as well with Jon Carlson and Cameron Morrah but the bottom line is that the Hawks were terrible in their short yardage and goal line situations last season and it hurt not having a big fullback to clear out linebackers for our running backs. That is why I've suggested the Hawks sign Le'Ron McClain in free agency. I also included DT/FB Matangi Tonga as a training camp invitee because he's a big, athletic, and versatile player that could compete at DT but also showed pretty impressive skills and quickness out of the backfield as a pass catching FB option pre draft. The Seahawks are one of several teams that requested he do fullback positional drills at his pro day, and he really intrigues me as a 6'2, 290 pound guy that can run a 4.7 40 and catch passes with soft hands out of the backfield. We know the Hawks have shown interest in guys with unique physical abilities and specific skillsets in the past and I could see this happening with Tonga as well.
On the Roster:
You can only keep so many running backs on your roster. With the Seahawks most probably keeping Lynch, Forsett and Washington on the active roster you'd probably only see one more player, a fullback or a 4th running back, making the team. If it were me, I'd choose Le'Ron McClain as a versatile, big bruising running back that can also function quite well as a fullback. The Hawks are terrible in short yardage situations and while a lot of that is due to the line play, it never hurts to have 260 pounds of brute force carrying the football or taking out targets in front of your ball carrier. I think McClain said it best when he tweeted a few days ago, "Man any LB this year that want to see me in the hole blocking or when I'm Running the ball, you better have sum More people."
I think for the most part that Lynch, Forsett and Washington's jobs are safe; Chris Henry is an intriguing prospect as well and I touched on that a few weeks ago; what they do at fullback remains to be seen. Michael Robinson is a special teams stud and served well at the fullback position in 2010 but at 6'1 225 seems a bit small to be used as a lead blocker effectively. He may be brought back because he's so effective elsewhere but he's a free agent at the moment and the Hawks haven't been very verbal in their interest to re-sign him.
There are some very good free agent options out there at both running back and fullback. Michael Bush and Marcel Reece both played for Tom Cable last season so could be on the Hawks' radars. John Kuhn has a history with John Schneider so could be an option. Naufahu Tahi played for Darrell Bevell last season so could be a guy they pursue.
The UDFA list is rather short: Darren Evans is a very good prospect and could be signed. Henry Hynoski doesn't really strike me as a Seahawk type of guy in his skillset, but who knows. I already talked about Mario Fannin and Matangi Tonga but Tonga intrigues me the most out of this group because of his possible value at DT as well - a spot of HUGE need for the Seahawks.
I would run with Lynch, Forsett and Washington on the 53 man roster. I would sign Le'Ron McClain as my starting fullback and barring that, look at Michael Bush or Marcel Reece for that role. Both of those players could serve as a running back or fullback and would give the Hawks versatility in play calling in short yardage situations. All three seem to fit the profile of Tom Cable "nasty guys".
I would bring in Tonga to try out at fullback and see how he does at DT. If he sticks at DT he could conceivably make the roster and play FB when called upon to do so in the Hawks offense. I don't see this as outside the realm of possibility as a roster-spot free-up move by Carroll - a coach that I don't think likes to use FB all that much. We'll see.