SEATTLE - NOVEMBER 27: Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks runs against the Washington Redskins on November 27, 2011 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Continuing on with this series, I'll take a look at the Seahawks' current roster members, the players the front office has shown interest in, have been connected to, or have had out to the VMAC for a visit, and then I'll give my take on some players I think the Seahawks should target, both in the early rounds and later on. Next up, running backs.
In my mind, the Seahawks have three 'locks' out of the six currently listed - Lynch, Washington and Robinson. With Washington and Robinson though, the 'running back' and 'fullback' designations are a bit ambiguous as Washington was primarily a kick/punt returner last year and Robinson a jack of all trades type football player, contributing on special teams quite a bit but carrying the ball very infrequently.
With that in mind, the situation in the backfield is very fluid. Will the Hawks look to add a running back in the draft? Will Lumpkin make the roster? Will Washington get any carries or just continue primarily as a returner? Will the Hawks look to move to a committee approach or just hope to get 300+ carries out of Lynch? The roles for pretty much everyone are ill-defined in my mind.
The Hawks ran with Lynch, Washington, and Justin Forsett at running back last year and had Robinson (and Eddie Williams for a short spell) at fullback. Fullback is a term I use loosely, as the Seahawks have favored, thus far, players that are 230-240 pounds at that position, muddling the lines between big running back and true fullback.
Michael Robinson plays at about 235, 240 pounds. Recently-signed Kregg Lumpkin is listed at 228 pounds, Vai Taua is anywhere from 215-220, and Tyrell Sutton is 215. The Hawks had apparent interest earlier in the offseason in Michael Bush (6'1, 245) and Jacob Hester (5'11, 235) so it's tough to guess exactly what they plan to do in the backfield, in general. In addition to this, they've shown quite a bit of interest in H-back types, a position that would steal a lot of snaps from Robinson or any other fullback on the roster, most likely.
Blah blah blah - in other words, I have no clue exactly what the Seahawks plan to do with their run game, but it is one of the most important things to watch in the coming weeks and months. Running is a huge part of the Seahawks' identity. They want to run the ball well. They have pledged to run a balanced offense, striving for 50-50 run/pass ratio. Their investment on the offensive line, with draft picks and in free agency, backs up the rhetoric.
At the running back position though, outside of trading for and re-signing Lynch and adding Washington as their kick returner, the Seahawks haven't done much. We saw how things quickly went south against Cleveland last year when Lynch went out as a late scratch, and my guess is they don't want a repeat of that, so finding a capable backup option for Marshawn Lynch is fairly key. Will it be Lumpkin, Taua, Sutton? I kind of doubt it, frankly, and that's why I've been beating the drum for a draft pick to be used on a talented young runner next week.
Final Roster Spot Prediction:
Marshawn Lynch RB1, Draft Pick RB2, Leon Washington RB3, Michael Robinson FB.
Seahawks' Draft Interest:
From our tracking, the Seahawks have only officially hosted one running back, a late round to UDFA prospect out of UCLA named Derrick Coleman. Other than that, they've been totally silent. This could very well mean that they're looking to draft one of the big names, or, obviously, it could mean they're content with what they have. I lean towards the former.
With the running back position falling in value with respect to the draft, it pushes some very talented players back into the 2nd and 3rd rounds, and this is where the Hawks could be looking to strike. David Wilson, Lamar Miller, Chris Polk in the 2nd or 3rd, LaMichael James, Robert Turbin, or Bernard Pierce in the 4th round range, and add in probably five or six other potential targets in around that range that we aren't even thinking of. PCJS haven't drafted a running back yet in their tenure here, and I could see them breaking that streak this year. Furthermore, if Trent Richardson falls to 12 by some miracle, I wouldn't be remotely surprised if they decided to take him with that pick.
Players to Watch:
I like Chris Polk, as I laid out in detail the other day. He would be my ideal pick in the 3rd round, but if that doesn't come to fruition, I like the Robert Turbin option quite a bit. Turbin resembles Marshawn Lynch in appearance as a big, dreadlock sporting power back, but also mimics his running style in many ways. He's also quite good catching passes out of the backfield so he could theoretically take over as the feature back if Lynch gets hurt. Turbin could be a value pick in the fourth round.
I can't really wrap my head around the LaMichael James pick at this point in time, though I'm certainly not against it. I just don't know how much I like the idea after seeing just how ineffective Leon Washington was as the starting running back last year in the aforementioned Cleveland game. If anything, I think the Seahawks want a player in this year's draft that can assume Marshawn Lynch's duties if he goes down, not complement him when he's healthy. Still, a playmaker like James is hard to dislike for this offense, and if he's anything like Darren Sproles, as he's often compared to, I definitely wouldn't complain at the pick.
Mid to late round guys to keep your eye on include Tennessee's Tauren Poole and Temple's Bernard Pierce, a couple of prospects that I could see as solid contributors at the next level, though not necessarily as feature backs.
Based on some of the free agent visits the Seahawks have had, I could see them gravitating to a guy like Terrance Ganaway in rookie free agency, and keep your eye on former K-State/Tennessee RB Bryce Brown, LSU's Lennon Creer, and South Florida's Darrell Scott later in the game as well.