Seattle Seahawks

How convenient: Deep draft for running backs as Seahawks vow to fix run game

Royce Freeman, Oregon's all-time leading rusher and 234 pounds, has the size Seahawks coach Pete Carroll loves. He's likely to be available in the later rounds. Seven of Seattle's eight picks this week are in rounds four, five and seven. And this draft is deep in running backs.
Royce Freeman, Oregon's all-time leading rusher and 234 pounds, has the size Seahawks coach Pete Carroll loves. He's likely to be available in the later rounds. Seven of Seattle's eight picks this week are in rounds four, five and seven. And this draft is deep in running backs. AP

So much for that old belief drafting running backs is as passe in the NFL as the "Ickey Shuffle."

No fewer than 30 running backs got drafted into this supposedly all-passing league across seven rounds last year. Two backs went in the first eight picks, and the success Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt had showed all those backs still have big-time value in the NFL.

This week's draft is deep in running backs, just as coach Pete Carroll makes improving the rushing offense his Seahawks' top priority in 2018. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is so good he may be the first- or- second-overall pick Thursday.

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 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 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. The team 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 2016.

Seattle's running backs produced the fewest yards in the NFL in 2017 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.

Here are the top ones in this year's class, and later-round options for the Seahawks. Six of Seattle's eight scheduled picks are in rounds five (four selections) and seven on Saturday.

RUNNING BACK

1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State: The only Nittany Lion with 3,000 rushing yards and 1,000 yards receiving was a complete stud at the combine. It cemented his status as a do-it-all pick at the top of this draft.

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2. Derrius Guice, LSU: Says he wants to emulate "Beast Mode," and runs with the power and punishment of Marshawn Lynch. Has endured his father being murdered when he was a child. Will Lynch's old team take Guice in round one?

3. Sony Michel, Georgia: Many have USC's Ronald Jones and Auburn's Kerryon Johnson going higher. But 279 yards in the national semifinal and championship a few months ago show how good Michel is big games. Skilled receiver for every-down NFL work.

Possible later-round options for Seahawks:

1. Royce Freeman, Oregon: Has the power and size (5-11, 234) Carroll loves. Oregon's all-time rushing leader got a ton of carries in college. Question will be whether he's around when Seahawks pick in round four.

2. Kalen Ballage, Arizona State: Huge (6-2, 227), but didn't always run that way at ASU. Then again, there was that eight—8!—touchdown day as a junior against Texas Tech.

3. Lavon Coleman, Washington: Overshadowed at UW by Myles Gaskin. Another bigger back (223 pounds) the Seahawks know well.

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Washington’s Lavon Coleman (22) runs a 31-yard touchdown in the third quarter of the University of Washington vs. University of Oregon Pac-12 football game at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. David Montesino dmontesino@thenewstribune.com


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