Seattle Seahawks rookie running back Kenneth Walker III provided plenty of excitement among fans with his play throughout the season, and he may just win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Walker became the first 1,000-yard rusher for the Seahawks since Chris Carson in 2019, and did so while playing sparingly as Rashaad Penny’s backup through Week 5, not to mention an ankle injury that caused him to essentially miss 1 1⁄2 games in December. It was a bit of a boom or bust situation for Walker, where the runs were huge but the unsuccessful runs were plentiful.
In the final four games of the season, Walker rushed for 417 yards on 93 carries and a touchdown. That San Francisco 49ers game may not have been flashy—15 carries for 63 yards and the aforementioned TD—but he was only the second running back all season to eclipse 60 yards on that vaunted 49ers defense. It was one of the best performances by an opposing running back, behind Josh Jacobs of the Las Vegas Raiders.
But by far the best statistic to me from his rookie year? Including the playoffs, Walker had 271 touches and did not fumble one time*. Only Ezekiel Elliott had more touches without a fumble.
*A bad exchange between Geno Smith and Walker in the Las Vegas Raiders game officially goes down as a fumble by Geno, since Walker never completed the handoff. In instances of a botched exchange, the QB will always be charged with the fumble regardless of whose fault it really was.
The Seahawks have had a semi-interesting history with running backs who put the ball on the ground from time to time. Christine Michael and Alex Collins had fumbling issues in college, yet the Seahawks took them and sure enough the bad habits stayed with them as pros. Chris Carson was benched in junior college for fumbles and in 2019 he coughed up the ball seven times, but was productive enough that Carroll never sat him. That was the only season Carson had any fumbling issues with Seattle.
Kenneth Walker? The rock stays glued to him (although Michigan disagrees) and that’s almost certainly one of the top reasons the Seahawks drafted him.
Best fumble rates among 2022 NFL Scouting Combine running backs.— Shawn Spencer (@Spencer_NFL) February 19, 2022
1. Hassan Haskins - 0.00%
2. Kennedy Brooks - 0.20%
3. Kevin Harris - 0.25%
4. Kenneth Walker III - 0.39%
5. Tyler Badie - 0.45%
6. Brian Robinson - 0.49%
7. Breece Hall - 0.50%
Walker once had a stretch of over 300 carries without fumbling, spanning his time both at Wake Forest and Michigan State.
This remains his most recent fumble on record, and it’s a bang-bang play.
Here's the Kenneth Walker fumble on Michigan State's opening drive. Was he down or no? pic.twitter.com/B197pXEZAU— Nolan Bianchi (@nolanbianchi) November 6, 2021
If you’re a running back who’s fast, physical, and protects the ball well? You’re in Pete’s good graces. The best is yet to come from K9, and if he stays healthy and the offensive line improves, we might be looking at one of the best running backs in the NFL.