Since Seattle doesn’t have a first round pick this year, we can perhaps avoid the question of whether or not NFL teams should use R1s on running backs.
The Seahawks’ track record with running backs that they have selected in the first round of the NFL Draft is pretty good. Even with Rashaad Penny factored in.
Selected #3 overall, out of Penn State, in the 1983 NFL Draft, Warner hit the ground running and led the AFC in rushing while helping the Seahawks reach their first-ever Conference Championship game.
During Warner’s 7 seasons in Seattle, he amassed 6,705 yards which made him the franchise record-holder at the time (by a lot) and still ranks as the 3rd-most rushing yards in team history (a mere 1 yard behind Chris Warren, who appeared in 30 more games than Warner did).
Curt Warner was inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor in 1994.
Selected #19 overall in the 2000 NFL Draft, Shaun Alexander rewrote the Seahawks record books, finishing his career as the team leader in both yards (9,429) and touchdowns (100).
For some perspective on the touchdown total:
- It’s 42 more than Marshawn Lynch scored with the Seahawks, and Lynch is #2 in team history. (Curt Warner is #3.)
- It’s one more than Barry Sanders had in his career.
- It’s enough to have Shaun tied for the 8th-most rushing touchdowns in NFL history.
Amazingly, 4 of those 100 touchdowns came in a Sunday Night Football game against the Minnesota Vikings on September 29th, 2002 when Alexander set an NFL-record by scoring five touchdowns in the first half (his other TD was an 80-yard catch-and-run).
VIDEO: NFL Throwback: Shaun Alexander Scores Five TDs in a Half (Seahawks.com)
And let’s not forget that the Seahawks reached their first Super Bowl in large part because of Alexander’s NFL MVP performance during the 2005 season.
(Credit to his O-line, of course.)
Sadly, Shaun may not get a bronze bust in Canton, Ohio, but I would put money on him being added to the Seahawks Ring of Honor in the (very) near future.
Selected #27 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, Mr. Penny finally put it all together in the last half dozen games of his 4th season.
Kidding ... but also not.
Fun Fact: Rashaad Penny has the 11th-most rushing yards in team history. (Not kidding.)
Alright, putting Seahawks history in the rear view, let’s look at some of the running backs that are available in the 2022 NFL Draft and debate whether or not any of them should end up in a Seahawks uniform next season.
The good news is that, unlike last year when two backs went in the first round (Najee Harris at #24 and Travis Etienne at #25) and another one came off the board before Day 2 was even 30 minutes old (Javonte Williams, #35), this year’s entire crop of running backs should be available when the Seahawks get their first chance to make a pick.
With maybe one exception.
The better news is that Seattle can probably pick up some of the backs in this article on Day 3 if they choose to use their Day 2 picks on other positions with higher needs.
Note: As with my Draft Primer on Quarterbacks, I am limiting the scope of this article by only focusing on players who are listed in the PFF 2022 NFL Draft Guide, v2, and most of the stats and analysis will come from that.
The nine running backs we will be looking at are:
- Kenneth Walker III (Michigan State)
- Breece Hall (Iowa State)
- Dameon Pierce (Florida)
- Kyren Williams (Notre Dame)
- Tyler Allgeier (BYU)
- Isaiah Spiller (Texas A&M)
- James Cook (Georgia)
- Brian Robinson Jr. (Alabama)
- Rachaad White (Arizona State)
And we’ll be looking at them in that order (which is the order that PFF currently ranks them on their Big Board).
Kenneth Walker III
Many will label Walker as a one-year wonder, but that would be a mistake. Here are his rushing numbers for the past 3 seasons:
- 2019: 98 carries for 579 yards (5.9 average) with 4 touchdowns
- 2020: 119 carries for 579 yards (4.9 average) with 13 TDs
- 2021: 262 carries for 1,634 yards (6.2 average) with 18 trips to the end zone
PFF has Walker ranked as their #1 running back and has him at #51 on their Big Board. PFF projects him as a 2nd round pick and I’ve verified that via their Mock Draft Simulator with Walker having been available when Seattle went on the clock 94 out of 102 times (so far).
PFF’s comparable for Walker is DeAngelo Williams.
“He can lower a shoulder one play, outrun a defender on another and shake one on the next. All-around dynamic player.”
FTR’s take: Strictly as a ball carrier, I’m more than a bit enamored with Walker. But he caught a total of 18 passes for 129 yards over 3 seasons at Michigan State and “wants no part of pass protection” (per PFF). That combination makes it hard for me to endorse the idea of the Seahawks using their first pick on him, even with Walker having led the NCAA in broken tackles (89) and yards after contact (1,168) in 2021.
Hall is PFF’s #2 RB and #73 overall prospect. PFF compares him to Kevin Smith and projects him as a 3rd round pick.
In 2021, Hall had 251 carries for 1,460 yards (5.8 average) with 20 touchdowns, and added another 310 yards on 37 receptions.
“Hall can quite obviously fill the bell-cow role in an offense: He’s touched the ball more than any running back in the country the past two seasons (590 times).”
FTR’s take: Dude broke 10+ tackles in 3 straight games in 2021 and had the most broken tackles in the FBS over the past 3 seasons with a total of 194. That makes me think of Marshawn Lynch.
But then I looked on Pro Football Reference to see who Kevin Smith was (cuz I was pretty sure it wasn’t the guy who wrote, produced, directed, and co-starred in “Clerks”) and now I’m picturing a better version of C.J. Prosise.
Apparently Pierce is “215 pounds of almost pure muscle” and is “built like an armored truck.”
PFF lists him as their #3 running back and has him as the #79 prospect on their Big Board. And yet ... PFF projects Pierce as a 4th round pick, despite calling him a “Slimmer C.J. Anderson.”
“Why?” you ask.
My guess is that it has something to do with him having only 260 total rushing attempts in 3 seasons at Florida. (Note: Three of the backs in this article had more than that many carries in 2021 alone.)
“Just because Pierce split time at Florida doesn’t mean he’s not a bell-cow candidate in the NFL. He’s a consistent tackle breaker with real deal juice.”
FTR’s take: I’m sort of over the “timeshare” experiment the Seahawks have tried the past few seasons with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny and I don’t have a whole lot of interest in drafting a guy who has had a timeshare role for basically his entire collegiate career.
Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams had 990 yards on 204 carries and scored 14 touchdowns in 2021. He added another 359 yards on 42 receptions.
In 2020, Williams had 1,124 yards on 211 carries with 13 touchdowns and added 35 receptions for 311 yards.
PFF has him as their #4 RB and ranks him at #83 on their Big Board. They project him as a 4th round pick and compare him to former Saints’ RB Pierre Thomas.
“Williams wins in the passing game. Whether it’s his work in pass protection or his natural hands, he makes an impact on passing downs.”
“At the very worst, he is a third-down back. He can be more than that, but he’s a shoe-in to add value in that regard.”
FTR’s take: I wouldn’t be opposed to the Seahawks selecting Kyren Williams on Day 3. He might not unseat Chris Carson (if healthy) or Rashaad Penny (if re-signed) in 2022 but, unlike players like DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer, I could see Williams settling into a long-term RB2 role. Especially given his bona fides in the passing game.
Oh, and 76.5% of Williams’ rushing yards in 2021 came after contact - which is the highwater mark among the backs we’re looking at today.
PFF’s 5th-ranked running back and #89 overall prospect finished the 2021 season just a few yards behind Kenneth Walker III (1,611 vs. 1,634) and was nipping at Walker’s heels in yards after contact as well (1,143 vs. 1,168). And it was Allgeier, not Walker, who led this group of running backs with 23 touchdowns in 2021.
PFF compares him to Devontae Booker and projects him as a 5th round pick.
“Allgeier wins by consistently maximizing his run blocking. He’s not going to pass up open holes searching for big plays. He’ll get you what’s blocked and a little extra.”
FTR’s take: I’m more enamored with Kenneth Walker than with Tyler Allgeier, but ... if PFF’s projections are correct, I would much prefer to see the Seahawks spend an R5 on Allgeier rather than an R2 on Walker. And I won’t be at all surprised if Allgeier ends up having the better career.
Side note: If there were an award for not giving up on a play, this would be my nominee from the 2021 college football season:
RB6, according to PFF, and #96 on their Big Board, Isaiah Spiller reminds their analysts of Damien Harris (selected in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL Draft, #87 overall, by the New England Patriots).
Here are Spiller’s numbers for the last 3 seasons:
- 2019: 173 carries for 957 yards with 10 touchdowns + 203 yards on 29 receptions
- 2020: 188 carries for 1,032 yards with 9 touchdowns + 193 yards on 20 receptions
- 2021: 178 carries for 1,016 yards with 6 touchdowns + 189 yards on 25 receptions
Pretty consistent, no?
PFF thinks Spiller will be a Day 3 pick (Round 4).
“Spiller wins with by being able to execute any role asked of him. Whether it’s taking 30 carries in a game, seeing a half-dozen targets, or being assignment sound in pass protection, Spiller won’t look out of place.”
FTR’s take: 18 of Spiller’s 178 carries were for 15+ yards. The knock on him is that he has an “overly patient” running style and “stops his feet” too often while “dancing around.” I’d have to watch a lot more tape (and not just highlights) to truly decide how I feel about him, but ... I’m leaning toward being pro-Spiller.
The Georgia Bulldogs are going to have a lot of players selected in the 2022 NFL Draft - and not just because they won the national championship.
In the title game, James Cook had 77 yards on a mere 6 carries - which sounds impressive and is impressive ... even if 67 of them came on one very long run.
For the season, Cook recorded 728 yards on 113 carries and scored 7 touchdowns. He added another 274 yards on 27 receptions.
PFF thinks he’ll get taken off the board in the 5th round of the draft and compares him to Nyheim Hines (drafted in the 4th round of the 2018 NFL Draft, #104 overall, by the Indianapolis Colts).
“Cook is the change-of-pace back who teams can get creative with. He can split wide and run routes or get vertical from the backfield”
“Cook is a mismatch in the passing game because he’s far too nimble even for NFL linebackers. Anytime Georgia schemed up one-on-ones for Cook, they were throwing his way.”
FTR’s take: We’re all familiar with Dalvin Cook, right? James Cook is Dalvin’s brother. That fact alone is enough for me to endorse the idea of the Seahawks using one of their two 4th-round picks on him. And, if Seattle doesn’t select him, I sort of hope the Vikings do.
Brian Robinson Jr.
Mr. Robinson played in the national championship game this season (22 carries for 68 yards) ... and the one last year as well (10 carries for 69 yards, long of 21).
During the 2021 season, Robinson ran for 1,343 yards on 271 carries with 14 touchdowns and caught 35 passes for 296 yards. PFF compares him to Karlos Williams and projects him as a 5th-round pick.
“This is a short-yardage back who can also get opposing defenses out of two-high shells. He’ll give a middle finger to your light boxes like he did against Cincinnati in the College Football Playoff semifinals.”
FTR’s take: PFF’s take sounds like just what the Seahawks need. But, if you dig deeper, the knocks on him are that he’s “high cut for a pure power back”, is “surprisingly rough around the edges in pass protection”, and isn’t “a big-play threat or home-run hitter”.
If Robinson and Cook were both on the board and the Seahawks were going to take a running back (in the front half of Day 3), I would opt for Cook. But I wouldn’t cry (too much) if John and Pete overruled me and went with Robinson.
PFF compares White to a “Slower Kenyan Drake” which might not be a bad thing given that Kenyan Drake ran a 4.45 forty-yard dash at the 2016 combine (and was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft at #73 overall by the Miami Dolphins). The question, of course, is “How much slower is Rachaad White?”
Interestingly, despite being the lowest-ranked running back in the 2nd version of PFF’s 2022 NFL Draft Guide, Rachaad White is projected to be a 4th-round pick (whereas 3 of the RBs ranked higher than him are projected as 5th-rounders).
White had exactly 1,000 yards rushing in 2021 on 183 carries and scored 15 touchdowns. He also had 456 receiving yards on 43 receptions.
“White wins with the ball in space. The good news is it’s very easy to get it to him there because he has some of the best receiving ability in the draft class.”
FTR’s take: I have something of a soft spot for players from (non-Oregon) Pac-12 schools so it’s hard to say that I wouldn’t want the Seahawks to draft him. But ... if Seattle re-signs Rashaad Penny, would it be a good idea to then also draft Rachaad White?
Tables, tables, and more tables. And some highlight videos. Enjoy!
Size and (approximate) age:
Rankings and projections:
Rushing and receiving stats: