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C.J. Prosise could be the breakout NFL player of 2017

NFL: Seattle Seahawks-Minicamp Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Reports out of Seahawks OTAs were highly complimentary of running back/receiver C.J. Prosise. Pete Carroll noted that the extra, non-injured time for Prosise could have a huge impact on his development for next season:

"It was incredibly beneficial for us to see C.J. make it through the whole time," Carroll said. "He has a great scope that he fills for us. He can come out of the backfield, and he can run routes as a receiver, and he looked really good running the ball behind the line of scrimmage.

"So he goes into this six weeks hugely ahead of where he's been in years past, and we have really high hopes."

Coming out of Notre Dame last year, Prosise had 1,029 rushing yards, 6.6 YPC, 11 touchdowns, 26 receptions, 308 yards, and one receiving touchdown as a junior. However, it would be unfair to say that Prosise was really in his third (fourth really, because of a redshirt in 2012) college season. In 2013 and 2014, he was primarily a receiver, recording just 10 carries prior to taking over as the starting running back in 2015.

He averaged 12.6 YPC on those 10 carries.

In that sense, there’s some comparison to be made to Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, who didn’t become a cornerback until his fourth year at Stanford. Sherman slipped in the draft in some part due to his lack of experience at the position he’d be playing in the NFL, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have All-Pro talent stashed in there that could be mined by the right coaches. Of course, Carroll and the Seahawks staff have extensive experience in doing just that.

Prosise may have gone 90th overall, but he was the fourth running back off the board in 2016 after Ezekiel Elliott (4th), Derrick Henry (45th), and Kenyan Drake (73rd). In today’s league, a running back going in the third round is practically equal to being a fringe first rounder in the mid-2000s.

That despite the fact that we only got to see 10 collegiate games of him at running back doing this:

At the 2016 combine, Prosise came in at 6’, 220 lbs, 32+” arms, 4.48 in the forty, 35.5” vertical, 10’1 broad jump. At his pro day, he had a 4.48 in the short shuttle and 7.32 in the three-cone. As a human being, Prosise is an incredible athlete, but as an NFL prospect, he may be above-average, but not spectacular. His SPARQ was right down the middle of the road. (But still a shade ahead of Elliott.)

What Prosise is instead is a unique RB-WR tweener who gives Carroll an offensive weapon that most defenses may have no answer for next season. Who knows what 2018 and beyond will bring, but small glimpses of him as a rookie showed that Seattle may have a player who could be unstoppable when healthy.

Prosise had 30 carries for 172 yards (5.7 YPC), and 17 receptions for 208 yards (12.2 YPC, 11.5 Y/Target) in limited action over six games. The issue, as mentioned before and always mentioned in connection with Prosise, is how often he’ll be available and how often he’ll be on the trainer’s table. Since 2015 at Notre Dame, Prosise has suffered a high ankle sprain, a concussion, plus hamstring, shoulder, and wrist injuries, missing a total of three games in his last season for the Irish and 12 games (including postseason) for the Seahawks.

As of now, Prosise appears to be completely healthy. The biggest concern is how much of his recent injury history is just bad luck and timing, and how much of it is his body+playing style and whether or not that is contributing to his inability to play a full season so far. If he can play the majority of 2017, there’s a solid chance that he won’t just be the breakout player on Seattle’s offense, but around the league as a whole.

By adding Eddie Lacy in free agency, the Seahawks have alleviated pressure on Thomas Rawls and Prosise to carry the load out of the backfield. A healthy Lacy is a proven number one running back, as is Rawls, leaving Prosise to do what he does best as a third down back and receiving threat. If Prosise was left to his own devices, as the main running back for example, he may not be as effective as compared to when he’s the “gadget” player. Darren Sproles has never had 100 carries in a season, but he is a three-time Pro Bowler and one of the best backs in the NFL over the last decade. Danny Woodhead has a similar story.

And yet those guys are 5’6 and 5’9, respectively, while Prosise actually could pass for a legit wide receiver in his 6’, 220 lb frame, and can still sell himself as an up-the-middle running back at the same time.

It doesn’t matter if he’s limited to eight touches per game next season — and it might actually better if he doesn’t do much more than that — Prosise is Carroll’s explosive dream (phrasing?) and as we’ve seen many times over the last seven years, it only takes a single play to tilt the field. Prosise has proven to have a game-changing play in him at any point he touches the ball, so he should definitely be the player to keep your closest eye on over the next few months.

Not just in the northwest, but anywhere in the league.