Want to see something spooky?
In his final college season, Running Back A carried the ball 263 times for 1,636 yards (6.2 average), scored 13 rushing touchdowns (plus 1 receiving TD), was named to the Consensus All-America team, and won the Doak Walker award.
In his final college season, Running Back B carried the ball 258 times for 1,580 yards (6.1 average), scored 18 rushing touchdowns (plus 2 receiving TDs), was named to the Consensus All-America team, and won the Doak Walker award.
Both running backs played in 12 games. Running Back A had 5 more carries and 56 more yards. Running Back B had 5 more rushing touchdowns + an extra receiving TD. Their yards per carry were 1/10th of a yard apart. Both running backs were named to the Consensus All-America team. Both running backs won the Doak Walker award.
Running Back A was the runner-up for the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award last season. Running Back B should be considered the frontrunner to win it this year.
Running Back A is obviously Kenneth Walker III, who the Seahawks selected with the 41st pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Running Back B is Bijan Robinson.
Lest I be accused of being anti-Walker and/or not appreciating what he accomplished last season, let me assure you that is not the case. I am a huge K9 fan, loved hearing his name called on Draft Day last year, and look forward to seeing him pile up yards in an action green uniform for years to come.
But I am a greedy, greedy 12.
And if one Doak Walker award winner lining up behind Geno Smith is good then TWO is even better.
Especially if those two are K9 and Bijan Robinson.
For those that are interested in them, the above scouting reports are very educational. What I would like to highlight from them are the consensus scores and projected values for Seattle’s potential running back duo:
- Kenneth Walker III: 81.83 out of 100 (second round value)
- Bijan Robinson: 90.00 out of 100 (Top-10 overall value)
As we know, K9 was selected in the 2nd round. Kudos to the Draft Network for nailing that one. If they’re right about Robinson though . . .
How do the 12s feel about using the 2023 R1 we got from the Denver Broncos to select a running back at #5 overall? How about if we traded back a few spots and took Robinson at #8 or #9?
My guess is that it would cause a bit of an uproar.
That’s not what I’m suggesting though.
What I am suggesting is that if the Texas running back is still on the board when the Seahawks go on the clock with their native 1st-round pick, John and Pete should look at each other and smile, maybe do a fist bump, and then call Bijan Robinson and tell him he’s a Seahawk.
Arguments against drafting Bijan Robinson at #20
The first argument against drafting Bijan Robinson at #20 is “positional value.” This is actually an argument that I mostly agree with . . . except when I don’t . . . like with Bijan Robinson.
NFL teams, by and large, support the positional value argument when it comes to running backs. Or do they?
- 2022: Breece Hall was the first running back selected at #36 overall; Kenneth Walker III and James Cook were also selected in the 2nd round.
- 2021: Najee Harris + Travis Etienne were selected at #24 + #25, respectively; Javonte Williams was selected with the 3rd pick in the 2nd round, #35 overall.
- 2020: Clyde Edwards-Helaire was selected with the final pick in the first round (#32), and 5 RBs were selected in the 2nd round.
- 2019: Josh Jacobs was selected at #24; Miles Sanders went off the board at #53.
- 2018: Saquon Barkley was the 2nd overall pick; 2 other RBs went in the 1st round, and 4 were selected in Round 2.
By my count, that’s 7 R1 running backs and 14 R2 running backs over the last 5 drafts, and most of the ones that I listed by name (and some of the ones I didn’t) played prominent roles for their teams last season.
For what it’s worth, several draft analysts have said that Bijan Robinson is the best running back prospect to enter the draft since Saquon Barkley and, as shown above, Barkley was the #2 pick in 2018.
The second argument against drafting Bijan Robinson at #20 is “need”. This argument can be framed two different ways. The first is: “The Seahawks don’t need a running back.” The second is: “The Seahawks have bigger needs at other positions.”
Let’s take these one at a time.
The Seahawks don’t need a running back.
In full transparency, I’m being a little misleading with this one because the full argument is that the Seahawks don’t need a running back because that running back will take carries away from Kenneth Walker III.
The reason I’m being misleading is because my response to the full argument is a blank stare, the word “So”, and a question mark.
Potentially taking carries away from a player who dealt with some injuries and had more “bust” plays than “boom” plays last season isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Some might even argue that keeping a running back “fresh” for the stretch run and the playoffs by balancing their load with another, similarly talented running back might actually be a good thing.
But if we limit ourselves to just the original argument - i.e., if we indulge my misleading-ness, what we’re left with is this:
Seattle currently has three running backs under contract.
One is the runner-up for the 2022 Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
The other two are 4th-year player DeeJay Dallas and the Kansas City Chiefs’ 6th-round pick in the 2019 draft, Darwin Thompson.
Both Dallas and Thompson have more special teams snaps than offensive snaps over the course of their careers, and, between them, they have 166 carries for 657 yards and 6 touchdowns across 5 NFL seasons.
Not exactly inspiring, is it?
The Seahawks have bigger needs at other positions.
Yes, indeed, they absolutely do.
No misleading on this one.
Same response though.
Blank stare + the word “So” + a question mark.
Drafting a running back at #20 doesn’t preclude John and Pete from addressing the other / “bigger” needs via the draft and/or free agency - or even via trade.
Heck, the Seahawks could take a quarterback and a running back on Day One and they would still be able to address every other “need” via the draft.
Defensive Tackle, check! EDGE, check! Linebacker, check! Center, check! Guard, check! Wideout, check!
Want a Tight End or a Defensive Back or to double-up at one of the positions we’ve already checked off? Can do; we’ve still got 1 of our 9 picks left, and that’s before John Schneider moves us around the draft board and adds a pick or three.
Right about now is where some of us will want to circle back to the positional value argument which we will break down like this:
- The Seahawks (and NFL teams in general) can get “just as good” a running back on Day Three as they can on Day One.
- The same doesn’t hold true with other positions, like EDGE rushers and Defensive Tackles.
- Logic therefore dictates that we should take a defensive player at #20 and take a running back later.
It’s worth noting that I used the words “us” and “we” because I would be circling back right now and making this argument if we were talking about any running back not named Bijan Robinson.
What’s more, if we weren’t talking about Bijan Robinson, I’d trot out the cap numbers for the 20th pick in this year’s draft and point out that a $4,841,096 cap hit in 2026 for an EDGE rusher who’s looking to secure a second contract is a whole lot more palatable than absorbing that same cap hit for a running back who may or may not be nearing the end of his career.
Honestly though, I believe that we will view a sub-$5M cap hit in Bijan Robinson’s 4th season as a freaking steal if he’s even half as good as I expect he will be.
Arguments for drafting Bijan Robinson at #20
I think I’ve already, not so subtly, laid out a pretty good case for using the #20 pick on Bijan Robinson, but here are a few more things to think about . . .
Question: How many years has it been since a Seahawks running back started every game in a season?
Yep, it’s been a full decade since Marshawn Lynch started all 16 games during Seattle’s 2013 Championship season.
The last full season (16 games, 16 starts) for a Seattle running back before that was Shaun Alexander’s NFL MVP season in 2005.
Is it a coincidence that the last 2 full seasons from a Seahawks RB1 resulted in an MVP award and a Lombardi Trophy? Yeah, probably.
But it does underscore the point that injuries happen and even the best running backs seldom start every game.
Pairing Rashaad Penny with K9 isn’t a viable option.
The Seahawks entered last season with Rashaad Penny as RB1 and Walker as RB2. Unfortunately, Penny only appeared in 5 games, carrying the ball 57 times for 346 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
For that production, Penny earned $5.63M.
And, yes, that works out to over $1M per game and just under $100k per carry.
I like Penny, I really do. I still believe he’s a quality running back and I think selecting him with the 27th overall pick in the 2018 draft was the right move (given the fact that Russell Wilson was our leading rusher, by a wide margin, the previous season).
Penny has been snake-bit by injuries though, appearing in just 42 of 82 possible regular season games.
At this point in time, I don’t see how the Seahawks could justify rolling the dice on him again . . . unless it was for close to the veteran minimum - and even then, I’d want to head into camp with him penciled in at RB3 behind Kenneth Walker III and Bijan Robinson.
Geno Smith was the Seahawks 2nd-leading rusher last year.
Geno gained 366 yards on the ground across 17 games last year. As a team, Seattle had 2,042 rushing yards (120.1 per game). That was their 2nd-lowest total in the last 5 years.
Moral of this story: K9 alone isn’t enough to make opponents respect Seattle’s rushing attack.
Free agency is sort of lacking in the running back department.
Josh Jacobs is PFF’s #1 free agent running back but the Las Vegas Raiders used the franchise tag on him.
Ditto Saquon Barkley, PFF’s #2 running back - the Giants tagged him on Tuesday.
PFF’s #3 running back?
You guessed it - Dallas tagged Tony Pollard on Monday.
PFF’s #4 and #5 running backs are Miles Sanders and David Montgomery.
PFF projects that Sanders will sign a 3-year contract worth $7.5M per year ($22.5M total) with $14.5M guaranteed. Montgomery’s projection is 3 years, $19.5M ($6.5M average) with guarantees that total $12.25M.
Raise your hand if you think John and Pete are even remotely interested in signing either Sanders or Montgomery (and that they would do so in the first wave of free agency).
Yeah, I think not.
Other available free agent running backs include Kareem Hunt, Jamaal Williams, Raheem Mostert, D’Onta Foreman, Samaje Perine, and Jerick McKinnon.
I won’t lie; there’s a couple names on that list that I’d like the Seahawks to sign - specifically, Jamaal Williams and Jerick McKinnon.
Williams became a touchdown machine in 2022 and would increase our scoring percentage in the red zone. McKinnon is a demon in the passing game (56 receptions, 512 yards, and 9 TDs in 2022) which is something the Seahawks could use.
Unfortunately, McKinnon turns 31 in May, and while Williams is only 27 (28 in April), both are likely to cost more than Penny did last year.
Note: Robinson’s cap hit in 2023, if selected 20th overall, would be $2,766,341 (aka about half of what Penny cost in 2022).
Plug-and-play RBs may be plentiful, but difference makers aren’t.
The starting running backs for our division rivals for the majority of last season (i.e., at least 9 of the 17 games) were Christian McCaffrey (10 starts), Cam Akers (9 starts), and James Conner (13 starts).
Of those, I would label Christian McCaffrey (R1.08, 2017) as a difference maker. Cam Akers (R2.52, 2020) and James Conner (R3.105, 2017), not so much.
Stats-wise, Akers (188-786-7 rushing, 13-117-0 receiving) and Conner (183-782-7 rushing, 46-300-1 receiving) were alright last year.
In fact, rushing-wise, they were darn near identical.
But neither one affects a game the way Christian McCaffrey does.
And McCaffrey’s raw stats, which are outstanding, only tell part of the story: 244 carries for 1,139 yards with 8 TDs rushing + 85 receptions for 741 yards with 5 TDs receiving.
Here’s another piece of the story: 707 of McCaffrey’s 1,139 rushing yards (62%) came after first contact and his yards after catch were 95% of his total receiving yards (706 YAC, 741 total).
And before we chalk that up to Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme, here are McCaffrey’s splits between Carolina and Santa Clara:
- Carolina: 292 of McCaffrey’s 393 rushing yards came after contact (74%) and he actually had more yards after catch (299) than he had receiving yards (277) with the Panthers.
- Santa Clara: 415 of McCaffrey’s 746 rushing yards came after contact (56%) and his YAC were 88% of his receiving yards (407 of 464).
This isn’t to say that Bijan Robinson is going to be the next Christian McCaffrey.
But . . .
Bijan Robinson forced 104 missed tackles last season and 64% of his rushing yards (1,107 of 1,580) came after contact.
Seems pretty McCaffrey-like to me.
While I think there’s only about a 50% chance that he’s available at #20, if Bijan Robinson is on the board when the Seahawks get on the clock with their native 1st-round pick, John and Pete should absolutely consider drafting him.
Robinson will likely be the proverbial Best Player Available at #20.
He plays a position of need.
Drafting Robinson would give the Seahawks a second Doak Walker award winner (which would be pretty cool) and add another offensive weapon to Geno Smith’s arsenal.
And . . .
Contrary to popular belief, NFL teams do use first round picks on running backs - especially when they are as crazy-good as Bijan Robinson.