In the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Seahawks added to their deep stable of running backs when they selected Travis Homer. Homer was headed to Seattle after a three-year stint at the University of Miami, where he totaled 1,995 yards and 37 touchdowns on the ground.
Though the Seahawks had just seen Mike Davis sign with the Bears in free agency, it was a curious selection. Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, C.J. Prosise and J.D. McKissic were already on the roster and fulfilled all the roles needed from the position.
Even more curious was that the selection of Homer was Seattle deviating from their tendency in drafting the position; while he did have the explosiveness they seek in tailbacks, he was joining 2016 seventh round selection Zac Brooks as the only sub-205 pound backs drafted by Pete Carroll and John Schneider.
Davis’ departure to Chicago did vacate the 3rd down back role, but presumably, Prosise and McKissic were set to compete for that job. Homer’s usage with the Hurricanes didn’t suggest he was coming in to be a factor there: 90 percent of his touches, 83 percent of his yardage and 12 of 13 touchdowns in college came on the ground. However, in evaluating the explosive back’s traits in the passing game, it was clear he could develop into that role. He was a natural pass catcher and reliable on check downs—both in when to leave the quarterback’s side and after the catch.
Homer’s rookie season was largely anonymous for the first 15 weeks. First, he was regularly inactive, then took Prosise’s spot on the game-day roster and contributed on special teams. However, his most notable moment prior to Week 13, and an onslaught of injuries to the Seahawks’ running backs, was a fake punt—though he did look explosive in taking it 29 yards. But then, injuries struck Penny, Carson and Prosise down within a span of 10 quarters and Homer got an opportunity.
As he proved capable of doing with every touch, he made the most of that opportunity, showing Seattle they have a highly capable 3rd down back who can contribute as a blocker, pass catcher and on the ground.
Despite being listed at just 202 pounds, the Seahawks’ rookie tailback was a tough and willing blocker in pass protection. Though he was capable of anchoring against a rusher and holding up, his best moments came when he chipped.
The awareness Homer showed against the Eagles—turning back to Russell Wilson to give his quarterback an outlet, recognizing Wilson has broken up field and turning back around to find work—appears when he is catching passes out of the backfield, too.
One of the most encouraging moments of Homer’s rookie season came against the 49ers. Lined up next to Wilson in the shotgun, Homer is preparing for the blitz, with both 49er linebackers sugaring the A-gaps. When the ball is snapped, instead of rushing, they both drop into coverage. As a result, it’s five offensive linemen against four pass rushers, so Homer is free to leak out into the flat which he does, giving Wilson an easy completion.
Another crucial bit of awareness Homer has in the passing game is that of his role. He’s an outlet and a check down for Wilson, rarely anything else; he is there to maximize the yardage available when he receives the ball. It sounds simple, but too often a check down back tries to play hero ball. Homer consistently would haul in the catch, turn up field and get all the yards he could.
Though he was used as such when Wilson would drop back, Homer wasn’t strictly a last resort in the offense. Seattle’s coaching staff seemed to have a firm grasp on his strengths as soon as he entered the lineup and maximized him as a result. They did an excellent job of getting him into space, whether that was with a clever design and a shovel pass:
Or with misdirection on a pitch:
Even when Wilson would just turn and hand the ball off to Homer, it was in ways that enabled him to succeed. In the regular season, 11 of Homer’s 18 carries were either off tackle or to the perimeter, and he averaged 7.3 yards per carry on those touches. (Similarly, they tried to get him involved via outside zone against the Eagles, but Fletcher Cox simply dominated.) He finished his runs like a Seahawk tailback, too.
The circumstances which led to Homer getting pressed into the lineup as a rookie could not have been less ideal. However, Seattle has to be thrilled with the way he played in all three phases that are crucial to getting on the field as a 3rd down back. In that regard, the Seahawks seem to have done well with pick 204 a year ago. Homer’s ability on 3rd down will pair well with a talented, balanced 1-2 punch of Carson and Penny, and provide Seattle with a deep and complete backfield for the next several seasons.