Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks vow to fix the run game. So will they draft Derrius Guice first?

Tacoma’s national NFL draft expert Rob Rang has predicted the Seahawks will select LSU running back Derrius Guice in the first round of April’s draft. There are many reasons why they should, the primary one being to fix their broken rushing offense.
Tacoma’s national NFL draft expert Rob Rang has predicted the Seahawks will select LSU running back Derrius Guice in the first round of April’s draft. There are many reasons why they should, the primary one being to fix their broken rushing offense. AP

Time to measure what Pete Carroll's vow to fix the Seahawks' running game means for the team's 2018 draft.

The most fundamental ways to fix a broken rushing offense are to get better rushers, plus better blockers for those runners.

So do the Seahawks draft a running back first next week, with their 18th-overall choice in Thursday's first round? Do they use their highest selection since 2012 on to finally find the dependable, healthy, every-down runner the Seahawks have lacked since before Marshawn Lynch got hurt then left after 2015?

Do they draft LSU's Derrius Guice?

Rob Rang thinks so. The Tacoma-based draft guru for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and has been projecting the powerful Guice to the Seahawks at 18 for months.

Get the inside skinny on draft prospects at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis from one of the nation's leading experts.

"He'll hit the ground running," Rang told me at the league's scouting combine last month.

Which is exactly what the Seahawks need to be doing this year. That is, if they want to get back to playoffs in the NFC West, a division the Los Angeles Rams seized in 2017 with dynamic runner Todd Gurley.

Guice, one of a record number of early entrants in this draft, sounds like the free-spirited Carroll's kind of guy. On and off the field.

"How y'all doin'?" Guice asked those of us asking him questions at the combine in Indianapolis last month. "You good? Chillin'?"

On the field, though, Guice doesn't do chillin'.

The 20-year-old is a stacked 5 feet 11, 212 pounds with 4.49-second speed in the 40-yard dash. He has a violent, do-you-really-want-to-tackle-me running style. Yes, a tad reminiscent of Lynch.

He runs with conviction. He seeks to punish anyone in his way.

Whose style does Guice like to try to emulate?

"Beast Mode. Skittle Man," he said, almost on Seahawks cue.

"I see anger, man. I see somebody who refuses to go down. When I run, I really think about him every time. And when I go back and watch him, I'm like, 'Man, I really run like this dude, man. It's crazy.' Growing up, my favorite running back was Reggie Bush. And as I got older and started really studying running backs, I was like, 'Man, Beast Mode reminds me a lot of myself.'

"As a runner in between the tackles, in my opinion, there's no one better than me in that area, point blank," he said. "I run hard. I hardly ever get tackled by one person. And I'm very powerful. I get a lot of hidden yardage."

Carroll likes that. The coach also likes to stack his Seahawks roster with players who have overcome adversity, who carry chips on their shoulder.

Gurice knows adversity.

His father was murdered when Guice was a child. His mother raised him in a disadvantaged part of Baton Rouge, La.

"I pretty much bring all of it with me as a player. I think about the struggles I encountered early in life, and how my mom struggled as a single parent raising me and my older brother," Guice said at the combine.

"And I just want better for her and myself, and I run with that passion on the field, because I don't want my mom to struggle anymore."

Guice used this sport to overcome his past and his present in Baton Rouge.

"Just made myself busy with football all day, so I stayed out the streets," he said. "I was inside most of the time, or at practice. Football really changed my life. It brought me in a different direction.

"So instead of the bad guys in the 'hood trying to drag me along with them, I was more like the little brother that was on the good side. So they protected me, because they knew I was doing something good. They never tried to drag me along to do bad stuff."

He stayed home at LSU. He was a backup there to Leonard Fournette, the Jacksonville Jaguars' 2017 top pick, in 2016, yet led the Southeastern Conference that year with 1,387 yards rushing and 15 rushing touchdowns. Guice did that while starting just six of 12 games.

Last summer he injured his knee in preseason practice, then again in a mid-September game against Mississippi State. He finished with 1,153 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns after missing a game. He said he played through pain much of the year.

"I mean, it happens. It's football. I had to get adjusted to that role last year because of injuries, so I got pretty adjusted to that role last year," he said. "This past season, injuries sucked. But you have to fight through it and keep going."

Carroll and general manager John Schneider have not drafted a running back in the first round in any of their eight drafts leading Seattle. Actually, they've haven't used their initial first-round pick on anybody since 2011. The Seahawks have traded it in six consecutive drafts.

This could be the seventh consecutive year for a first-round trade. Seattle doesn't have a second- nor a third-round choice, the result of trading for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and for one of those better blockers, left tackle Duane Brown, during last season. Trading down from 18 in round one could get back that second- and/or third-round selection.

The highest running back Carroll and Schneider have drafted is Christine Michael, in the second round in 2013 at 62nd overall. That didn't work out so well. The Seahawks gave up on Michael two years later when they traded him to Dallas in September 2015. Seattle brought him back because of multiple injuries at running back the following year, then waived him weeks later. Michael didn't appear in a game last season, though he is on the roster of the Indianapolis Colts.

The Seahawks have Chris Carson, their surprise lead back to begin last season until the rookie broke his leg on Oct. 1. Carson's returning to Carroll's ongoing raves about him. They re-signed Mike Davis, who started at the end of last season. Carroll said last month Davis and Carson will enter the preseason competing for the top running-back job.

But Carson has four games of NFL experience, and part of two injury-affected seasons at the major-college level before that at Oklahoma State. Davis was stuck on Seattle's practice squad for the first 10 weeks of last season, after a two-win San Francisco team waived him following the 2016 season.

Seattle's running backs produced the fewest yards in the NFL last season. The days of quarterback Russell Wilson leading the team in rushing by hundreds of yards need to end. So it stands to reason the Seahawks would draft new running backs to accelerate that change.

This draft is deep in quality backs well past round one. And, again, the Seahawks are perhaps more likely to trade back from 18th in the first round to recoup their missing second- or third-round picks than they are to draft a runner there.

If Seattle indeed trades its first-round pick again, Rang mentioned Alabama's bruising Bo Scarborough or 6-1, 227-pound Kalen Ballage from Arizona State (who tied a major-college record by scoring eight touchdowns in a game as a junior) as powerful options in middle rounds.

Another is Royce Freeman from Oregon. He's another running back with the size and power Carroll likes, at 5-11 and 234 pounds. The leading rusher in Ducks history may not last until Seattle's next scheduled pick in round four, though he could be an option in the third round if the Seahawks trade down again.

Whether it's Guice, Freeman or later-round options, expect the Seahawks to draft a running back or two.

If it's not Guice, well, he has a message for Seattle—and for every other NFL team that skips him.

"If you don't draft me," he said, "I'm going to give your defense hell."