With the 144th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft the Seahawks, for a second time in the weekend, went in a direction expected ahead of the draft. With Chris Carson recovering from a hip injury and Rashaad Penny still rehabbing a serious knee injury, Seattle selected former Miami Hurricane DeeJay Dallas.
Dallas will, in all likelihood, immediately enter the tailback rotation and earn touches as a rookie, but he’ll have the chance to grow his role considerably in time.
As it stands, it seems more likely than not that Penny will begin the season on the PUP list, forcing him out of the first six weeks of the season at a minimum. Should that happen, Dallas will have the pathway to collect Penny’s 5-10 touches a game, with Carson leading the charge.
Dallas’s former, and now current, teammate Travis Homer made a strong claim for the third down role to close out 2019, but he’ll again be pushed by Dallas. The fourth-round pick was a former receiver and proclaimed his love of pass protection during a conference call with media members after being drafted. While Dallas’s traditional production wasn’t there in the passing game (just 28 catches in three seasons) in college, evaluating the traits is more important than the production when projecting forward. In that regard, Dallas has a strong awareness of the football when releasing into the flats or underneath, and is a natural pass catcher. His production as a receiver can increase in the pros.
As a bonus: Dallas’s experience as a return man should allow the Seahawks to relieve Tyler Lockett, an irreplaceable part of their offense, of his duties there.
Carson is entering the final season of his rookie contract and should command a large contract next spring. With the selection of Dallas, however, Seattle appears to be planning ahead—for a future without Carson. While he is one of the best pure runners in the sport, he has also struggled with ball security and has never been able to finish a full season—then there’s the question of what value comes with rewarding a tailback with a second contract.
Should Carson be allowed to walk next year, Dallas’s long-term role can be as the Seahawks’ starting running back. He possesses the size, physicality, and vision to handle every-down duties. Still relatively new to the position, Dallas should be expected to continue to develop and be ready to lead the way in 2021.
Dallas’s rapid development upon transitioning to running back suggests his vision and feel for space can continue to develop. If it doesn’t, Dallas likely won’t be able to be an every-down runner. However, his blocking and receiving ability is already at a place that will make him a reliable third down back. Without any further development, Dallas can still get on the field regularly. As a fourth-round pick, the former Hurricane’s floor is relatively safe.
It was touched on above, but Dallas’s ceiling is that of a running back who can aid the offense on every down. On early downs, he can carry inside and outside the tackles, with contact balance and a strong lower-half helping him to churn out extra yardage in the manner Seattle values so highly. As he proved in college, Dallas also brings the extra gear Carson lacks—he has the same burst as the line of scrimmage and second-level but has the long speed to break runs all the way to the endzone.
With soft hands and experience in a route tree, Dallas could also allow the Seahawks to play versatile and exploit mismatches, by lining up with Dallas in the backfield before splitting him out wide against a linebacker.
Seattle has well-defined perimeters for their running backs, and Dallas falls right into it. The typical profile of a Seahawks’ tailback is between 5-foot-10 and 6-foot-1, 215-230 pounds, a broad jump of 10’ and a vertical of 35” while breaking 4.65 in the forty-yard dash. At the Scouting Combine, Dallas registered the following: 5-foot-10, 217 pounds, 9-foot-11 broad jump, 33 1/2” vertical jump and ran a 4.58.
Seattle entered draft weekend with a need at running back, both in 2020 and in the long-term. They left with an immediate impact player, and someone with the potential to provide great value over the next four years. With the importance they place on tailbacks, it’s hard not to be pleased with Dallas’s selection.