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ESPN projects modest rookie season for Kenneth Walker III (with a caveat)

Michigan State v Ohio State Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

ESPN’s Mike Clay released his early projections for rookie productivity at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive back, and edge rusher. For the Seattle Seahawks, the only involvement in this particular article was running back Kenneth Walker III, taken with the 41st overall pick. Walker was considered the best runner in college football last season and was the second RB off the board behind Breece Hall, but he is not projected to be the most productive rookie rusher in year one.

Here’s what Clay broke down:

Rushing yards

1. Breece Hall, New York Jets: 1,004

2. Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans: 591

3. Ken Walker III, Seattle Seahawks: 551

4. Isaiah Spiller, Los Angeles Chargers: 533

5. Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta Falcons: 421

[...]

Walker is a wild card here considering durability concerns surrounding Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson in Seattle. For now, this assumes both veterans appear in 13 games. If Carson is unable to return, Walker would easily leap to second on this list.

It should be noted that Clay’s projections are “compiled through a thorough process that is both quantitative (league, team, coaching and player trends) and qualitative (projected depth-chart placement and role).”

For reference, Rashaad Penny had 419 rushing yards as a rookie on just 85 carries, and that included a couple of games missed due to injury. At 551 yards and if we assume just a hypothetical 4 yards per carry then he’d be averaging fewer than 10 attempts per game, but Carson’s unfortunately uncertain future with his health means a whole lot could change from now until September. Walker could range anywhere from RB3 to RB1 throughout the season.

Walker is also projected for 154 receiving yards (also 3rd among rookie RBs), and honestly I wouldn’t be shocked if he hit the under on that — he didn’t even have 150 total receiving yards in three collegiate seasons.

If we isolated just to Round 2 backs over the past 10 seasons (2012-2021), 551 rushing yards wouldn’t land Walker in the top-15. When you reduce it to the past five seasons, Walker would be in between Cam Akers and D’Andre Swift. Nothing mindblowing but again, a lot of Walker’s future will be tied to the health of the running backs ahead of him on the depth chart, as well as how run-heavy the Seahawks plan to be (which is probably a lot).

In case you’re wondering, Boye Mafe and Tyreke Smith were predictably not mentioned for top-5 in sacks, ditto Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen for interceptions among defensive backs.