On the last day of OTAs, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll gushed about UDFA Rookie RB Thomas Rawls. Carroll seems to think Rawls, who the Seahawks nabbed out of Central Michigan, will stand out even more when the pads came in during training camp. With that in mind, I wanted to compile some information Rawls to share here.
Rawls was highly recruited out of Flint Northern High School, in Flint, Michigan. He ran for an absurd 1,585 yards on only 150 carries and 19 TDS during his senior year, and was recruited in Coach Brady Hoke's initial recruiting class of 2011. As a true Freshman, he ran the ball for 79 yards on 13 attempts. As a Sophomore, he played in 8 games, and rushed for 242 yards on 57 carries and 4 TDS (4.2 ypc). He fell out of favor as Junior and received only 3 total rushing attempts in 2013.
Having already received his degree in three years and knowing that his career at Michigan was essentially over, Rawls was granted his release in January of 2014, and transferred to Central Michigan. He put up productive numbers there, but not without controversy. He played in 9 games, and received 210 carries (over 23 carries per game), and racked up 1103 yards and 10 TDs (5.3 ypc.)
Rawls began the 2014 season strong, with 283 total yards and 3 TDs in her first two games. However, he was suspended for the third game of the season against Syracuse, as Central Michigan became aware that week of an incident that had taken place in April of 2014. He was charged with stealing a purse belonging to an elderly woman at a casino, and would miss two weeks before getting eased back into action versus Toledo (17 carries for 65 yards and 2 touchdowns).
Rawls caught fire in October:
Oct 4 vs Ohio 40/229/5.7/2
Oct 11th vs NIU 40/270/6.8/2
Oct 18th vs Ball State 32/167/5.2/1
Rawls' single season with Central Michigan turned enough heads to earn an invite the February 2015 Combine. His numbers there were not great, but the running back class in general did not post great numbers. From watching the workout -- his hands looked a little suspect, and his movement skills looked solid, but not outstanding. After his Pro Day- Zach Whitman has his testing numbers as follows:
Height 5090, 215 lbs, 30.75 arm, 9.5 hand, 73.875 wingspan
4.43 Forty, 1.63 10 yard split, 4.37 shuttle, 7.10 cone, 15 bench, 35.5 vert, 9.67 broad jump
As an NFL tester at RB, Whitman has Rawls as a -0.6 sigma (27th percentile). For the overall 2015 Draft Eligible class of 160 Running Backs, Whitman has Rawls as the 54th best tester (almost top third). His shuttle times were about 70/73rd out of 160, but his Pro Day 40 yard dash (4.43) was a top-12 score in 2015. Rawls was not an awful tester, but not a great tester -- his best score coming from his 40 yard dash.
I thought Rawls had somewhat similar scores to a 4th Round RB -- Mike Davis out of South Carolina -- who was a VMAC visitor, and went to the 49ers. Davis had better short area and agility scores than Rawls, but Rawls was not that far off in other areas. Davis was a 0.0 Sigma tester, 51st percentile SPARQ per Whitman, and was the 28th best tester in 2015 (out of 160 RBs).
Height 5091, 217 lbs, 30.25 arm, 9.375 hand, 72.25 wingspan
4.51 Forty, 1.53 10 yard split, 4.18 shuttle, 7.00 cone, 17 bench, 35.5 vert, 9.67 broad jump
I have heard some experts bemoan the fact that Rawls was not drafted, but I don't think it's surprising that a player who never caught on at a big school, has one year of production at a small school, and had some character red flags went undrafted at running back. Perhaps some teams did have a draftable grade on Rawls -- in fact, I am sure some teams did -- but only 18 RBs were drafted and only three were drafted in Rounds 6-7 (Josh Robinson, Marcus Murphy, and Kenny Hilliard). Bigger named backs like David Cobb, Jay Ajayi, Karlos Williams and Cameron Artis-Payne went in the 5th Round. I studied the 2015 RB class closely , and I would not be quick to select Rawls over that particular group.
That being said, Mike Loyko of NEPatriotsDraft had Rawls signing (temporarily) with Dallas right after the Draft. As has been mentioned many times before, the Cowboys didn't draft a running back despite losing DeMarco Murray in free agency to the Eagles, and the buzz is that Dallas would claim Rawls if Seattle tried to slip him through to the practice squad.
I believe Rawls is more of a 2016 play for Seattle. If Lynch plays well in 2015, I expect him to be around in 2016, but Robert Turbin will be a Free Agent in 2016 and FB Derrick Coleman will be a restricted Free Agent. RB Christine Michael has yet to "click" into gear despite his high draft status and high SPARQ athleticism. Lynch has a huge cap number in 2016 ($11.5M) that would save $6.5M off the cap if he was cut.
I don't believe Seattle would cut Lynch unless his performance dropped significantly, but $11.5M is a very high cap number for a runner who will be 30 years old in 2016. That being said, Seattle is looking to create some options in the near future.
Despite that -- it is hard to carry five running backs on the roster, as it forces the Seahawks to shape the offense like this:
2 QB, 5 RB, 6 WR, 3 TE, 9 OL
Carrying four running backs allows Seattle to make room for the 10th OL (think Jesse Davis or Kristjan Sokoli) or perhaps the 4th TE (perhaps Anthony Mccoy or Cooper Helfet). In the end, an injury somewhere along the roster may force Seattle's hand in this situation, but either way -- Rawls will be an interesting bubble player to watch during the Seahawks 2015 training camp.