The Bijan Robinson hype train is gaining riders at an accelerated pace as the 2023 NFL Draft approaches, but this article isn’t about that. It’s also not about Jahmyr Gibbs, Zach Charbonnet, or any other running back in this year’s class.
Not specifically anyway.
This article is about the running backs that the Seattle Seahawks have drafted since John Schneider and Pete Carroll took over the team in 2010.
All 12 of them.
This article is also about why, barring a high-profile trade or free agent signing, it is IMPERATIVE that Seattle select a running back in one of the first two rounds of this year’s draft, rather than waiting until Round 3 and/or Day Three.
The Seattle Dozen
Here are all of the running backs that John Schneider and Pete Carroll have drafted since 2010, and when they were selected, starting with the most recent:
- 2022: Kenneth Walker III, R2.41
- 2020: DeeJay Dallas, R4.144
- 2019: Travis Homer, R6.204
- 2018: Rashaad Penny, R1.27
- 2017: Chris Carson, R7.249
- 2016: C.J. Prosise, R3.90
- 2016: Alex Collins, R5.171
- 2016: Zac Brooks, R7.247
- 2014: Kiero Small, R7.227
- 2013: Christine Michael, R2.62
- 2013: Spencer Ware, R6.194
- 2012: Robert Turbin, R4.106
Without even listing their stats, I think almost every 12 would agree that Chris Carson was/is the best of the Seattle dozen.
We’ll give K9 an Honorable Mention.
The rest? Mostly meh.
Three ‘groups’ of running backs
Now that we know who the players are, let’s break them into “groups” (in quotes because one of the groups is just one player).
- Group 1: The three running backs selected in Round 1 or Round 2
- Group 2: The eight RBs selected in Rounds 3 through 7, except for Chris Carson
- Group 3: Chris Carson
Group 1’s players, tenures, and stats:
These are the players selected in Round 1 or Round 2 since 2010.
- Rashaad Penny: Fiveyears in Seattle, 42 games (11 starts), 337 carries for 1,918 yards with 13 TDs, plus 27 receptions for 222 yards and 1 TD
- Christine Michael: Two full years in Seattle (initially) + parts of two other years, 26 games (9 starts), 208 carries for 915 yards with 6 TDs, plus 23 receptions for 122 yards with 1 TD
- Kenneth Walker III: One year in Seattle, 15 games (11 starts), 228 carries for 1,050 yards and 9 TDs, plus 27 receptions for 165 yards and 0 TDs . . . plus a 2nd place finish in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting
Note: Players are organized by games played and rushing yards. Stats are from Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Group 2’s players, tenures, and stats:
These are the players selected in Rounds 3 through 7 since 2010.
- Robert Turbin: Three years in Seattle (plus his 2019 return for the playoffs), 49 games (3 starts), 231 carries for 928 yards with 0 TDs, plus 43 receptions for 427 yards and 2 TDs
- Travis Homer: Four years in Seattle, 49 games (2 starts), 83 carries for 453 yards and 1 TD, plus 52 receptions for 464 yards and 2 TDs
- DeeJay Dallas: Four years in Seattle, 44 games (2 starts), 102 carries for 432 yards and 4 TDs, plus 55 receptions for 370 yards, and 1 TD
- Alex Collins: Three years in Seattle, 25 games (7 starts), 157 carries for 613 yards with 5 TDs, plus 21 receptions for 175 yards with 0 TDs
- C.J. Prosise: Four years in Seattle, 25 games (2 starts), 65 carries for 264 yards with 2 TDs, plus 36 receptions for 393 yards and 0 TDs
- Spencer Ware: One year in Seattle, 2 games (0 starts), 3 carries for 10 yards and 0 TDs
- Zac Brooks: N/A
- Kiero Small: N/A
Group 3’s player, tenure, and stats:
Our “group” of one.
- Chris Carson: Five years in Seattle, 49 games (48 starts), 769 carries for 3,502 yards and 24 TDs, plus 107 receptions for 804 yards and 7 TDs
Combined totals and per-game averages
The three running backs selected in Rounds 1 and 2 combined for eight years in Seattle (plus parts of two other years), appeared in 83 games, and made 31 starts. In those 83 games, Michael, Penny, and Walker combined to carry the ball 773 times for 3,883 yards and 28 TDs, and added 77 receptions for 509 yards and 2 TDs.
On a per-game basis, Group 1 has averaged 9.3 carries, 46.8 yards, and 0.34 touchdowns on the ground, plus 0.9 receptions, 6.1 yards, and 0.024 TDs through the air.
Not exactly inspiring, but . . .
The eight running backs selected in Rounds 3 through 7 who weren’t named Chris Carson combined to play 18+ seasons in Seattle and appeared in 192 games with 16 starts. In those 192 games, Group 2’s running backs amassed 641 carries for 2,700 yards and 12 TDs, plus 186 receptions for 1,829 yards and 5 TDs.
On a per-game basis, Group 2 has averaged 3.34 carries, 14.06 yards, and 0.063 touchdowns on the ground, plus 0.97 receptions, 9.53 yards, and 0.026 TDs through the air.
Interestingly, Group 2 has better receiving numbers than Group 1, but as running backs, Group 2 has been downright putrid.
Group 3 (aka Chris Carson):
Unsurprisingly, Group 3 has the best per game averages - by A LOT:
- 15.7 carries, 71.5 yards, and 0.49 TDs on the ground, plus
- 2.2 receptions, 16.4 yards, and 0.14 TDs through the air
Now that we’ve looked at the players, the individual stats, the combined totals, and the per-game averages for each group, let’s compare the groups head-to-head.
Group 1 vs. Group 3
The running backs selected in Rounds 1 and 2 vs. Chris Carson.
Carson handily tops Group 1.
In 34 fewer games, Carson has 18 more starts, and despite 4 fewer carries, Carson has 381 more rushing yards and 4 more TDs on the ground, plus 30 more receptions, 295 more receiving yards, and 5 more receiving touchdowns.
Clearly Chris Carson wasn’t John and Pete’s “average” drafted running back.
Group 2 vs. Group 3
The running backs selected in Rounds 3 through 7 vs. Chris Carson.
Laughable . . . utterly laughable.
Which just proves how much of an outlier Chris Carson is.
Carson has 13 fewer seasons and 143 fewer games than all of the RBs in Group 2, yet Carson has 158 more carries and 802 more rushing yards. Plus, double their rushing TDs and more receiving TDs as well.
Group 1 vs. Group 2
Comparing the early-round RBs (Group 1) to the later-round RBs (excluding Carson), the early-round RBs have 10 fewer seasons and 109 fewer appearances, but almost double the starts (31 vs. 16), 132 more carries, 1,183 more rushing yards, and 16 more rushing TDs.
One last comparison
A lot of times when I start an article like this, I don’t really know where the data is going to take me.
That said, lest I be accused of excluding Chris Carson to push my own narrative, here is a comparison of all of Seattle’s “later round” RBs vs. those taken in Rounds 1 and 2.
Spoiler: It doesn’t really change things all that much.
All Round 1 and Round 2 running backs:
- 3 players
- 8+ seasons in Seattle
- 83 games with 31 starts
- 773 carries for 3,883 yards and 28 TDs
- 77 receptions for 509 yards and 2 TDs
AVERAGE Seattle back selected in Round 1 or Round 2:
- 2.67 seasons
- 27.7 games with 10.3 starts
- 257.7 carries for 1,294.3 yards and 9.3 TDs
- 25.7 receptions for 169.7 yards and 0.67 TDs
All RBs selected in Rounds 3 through 7, including Chris Carson
- 9 players
- 23+ seasons in Seattle
- 241 games with 64 starts
- 1,410 carries for 6,202 yards and 36 TDs
- 293 receptions for 2,633 yards and 12 TDs
AVERAGE Seattle back selected in Rounds 3 through 7:
- 2.56 seasons
- 26.8 games with 7.1 starts
- 156.7 carries for 689.1 yards and 4 TDs
- 32.6 receptions for 292.6 yards and 1.33 TDs
Heading into the 2023 NFL Draft, the Seahawks have exactly one starter-level running back on their roster (Kenneth Walker III), one replacement-level running back on their roster (DeeJay Dallas), and one running back on a ‘Future’ contract (Darwin Thompson) who’s probably little more than a training camp body.
At a minimum, Seattle needs another starter-level running back and another replacement-level running back.
Given the slim-pickings left on the free agent market, the starter-level running back almost certainly has to come out of the draft.
And, as the data in this article has shown, unless Chris Carson-style lightning happens to strike twice and exactly when we need it to, the running back we draft to pair with K9 should be (and almost has to be) an R1 or R2-level running back.
Opinions will vary, but in my view, there are only two or three running backs that qualify as R1s or R2s in this year’s draft.
Spoiler: They’re mentioned in the intro to this article.