Pete Carroll has vowed the Seahawks will return to his run-first roots.
In part to get that done, Seattle’s head man has sent away eight assistant coaches, including his top four and both the offensive and defensive coordinators, from last season.
But will Carroll’s quest to get the Seahawks back to running the ball in 2018 mean the team will do what it’s yet to do in his eight years running the team: draft a running back in the first round?
Rob Rang thinks so.
The NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com NFL draft expert from Tacoma has Seattle selecting LSU’s Derrius Guice in his mock draft two weeks before the league’s annual scouting combine begins in Indianapolis.
Rang has Guice as the No. 2-rated running back in this draft class. He’s behind only Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, whom Rang thinks will go third overall to the Colts.
Rang writes of Seattle’s selection currently scheduled to be 18th overall in round one: “The Seahawks already spent their second- and third-round picks of the 2018 draft, landing defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (Jets) and offensive tackle Duane Brown (Texans) in trades, leaving general manager John Schneider with essentially two choices here — either trade back to recoup picks or directly address the club’s anemic running game. The 5-11, 218-pound Guice possesses the combination of burst, balance through contact and toughness Seattle has lacked since Marshawn Lynch left town.”
That was following the 2015 season. Since then, the Seahawks’ rushing offense has fallen from among the top five in the NFL in 2012, ‘13, ‘14 and ‘15 to 25th in 2016 and 23rd last season.
But saying Seattle was 23rd running the ball in 2017 is as hollow as celebrating the team’s 18th-overall pick in April over being in the playoffs again. Russell Wilson was just the third NFL quarterback in the last 26 years to be his team’s leading rusher. Cam Newton did it for Carolina in 2012, and in 2000 Donovan McNabb led Philadelphia in rushing.
Add Randall Cunningham for the Eagles from 1987-90 and Bobby Douglass for the Chicago Bears in 1972, and Wilson was the fifth quarterback since not only the 1970 NFL-AFL merger but back to 1960 to lead his team in rushing, according to footballperspective.com. Wide receiver Lenny Moore of the NFL’s Baltimore Colts, on his way to being converted at running back and being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and quarterback Al Dorow of the AFL’s expansion New York Titans led their teams in rushing in 1960.
Of Wilson’s 586 yards rushing, 440 yards--75.1 percent--came on scrambles away from swarming defenders on pass plays, according to the league’s official statistical database. Take away Wilson’s scramble yards he got avoiding sacks on plays that weren’t supposed to be runs and the Seahawks would have been 32nd, dead last, in rushing.
That’s a long way to say no team in recently NFL history got less from its running backs than Seattle got from its in 2017. All of the Seahawks’ running-to-nowhere backs combined gained 994 yards, just 62 yards per game.
Mike Davis rushed for the most yards, 240 yards. The waiver pickup from San Francisco in the spring was on the practice squad for the first 10 games. Rookie seventh-round pick Chris Carson was second among Seattle’s running backs with 208 yards rushing. He played in four games before he broke his leg and tore ankle ligaments, ending his debut season. Seattle’s third-leading running back was a converted wide receiver picked up off waivers in 2016, from Atlanta, J.D. McKissic.
Supposed lead back Thomas Rawls? Just 157 yards all season. He’s now on his way out of Seattle with his undrafted rookie contract ending. Eddie Lacy will be following him out of town. The Seahawks’ splashiest acquisition last spring, for $2,865,000 guaranteed, gained just 179 yards in his only Seattle season. He will leave as an unrestricted free agent next month.
What’s more--I mean, less: The Seahawks had one touchdown rushing by a running back all last season.
Hence Rang’s presumption Carroll and general manager John Schneider will use their top pick on a top running back, for a (desperately needed) change.
The only time in the Carroll-Schenider era (which began in 2010) the Seahawks have used its top choice of a draft on a running back was 2013. That was Christine Michael, in the second round out of Texas A&M, after Seattle traded its first-round pick that year to Minnesota to acquire Percy Harvin.
No need to remind how Michael turned out for the Seahawks. Or is there?
Yet there is no way in the name of Curt Warner that Carroll is content with the returning Davis, Carson (coming back from injury) and C.J. Prosise (who has had seven injuries in two years on the team and has been active for only 11 games in his two NFL seasons for Seattle) as his backs for 2018. Indeed, Carroll said last month, two days after this past season ended, he intended to add competition at the position this offseason.
Still, even with all that evidence the Seahawks may go running back at the top of their draft, this may not be the year to finally do that.
Because of the win-now trades to get Richardson and Brown last season, there is a strong likelihood Seattle will trade down as usual from their first-round pick, to recoup the selections they’ve lost.
Schneider and Carroll have traded their first-round choice seven times in the last six drafts. That includes twice last spring: down from 26 to 31, then again from 31 to 34th overall in the second round. That netted the Seahawks second-, third-, fourth- and seventh-round picks. The deals took them from having just seven selections--what would have been the fewest of the Carroll-Schneider era--to 11, tied for the most in the NFL last year.
Now again the Seahawks are again scheduled to have just seven picks. The best chip they have to play in any trade to gain more choices in April’s draft is, obviously, their first-round one, at 18. It’s Seattle’s highest since it had the 12th pick in the 2012 draft. The Seahawks traded that to Philadelphia for the 15th pick in the draft then used it on linebacker Bruce Irvin. That year began their run of five straight playoff appearances that ended last month.
Plus, this draft is regarded as deep in running backs. Rang sees as many as 11 of them possibly getting taken in rounds 1-3.
And that doesn’t include Royce Freeman of Oregon. At 5 feet 11, 238 pounds with 4.5-second time in the 40-yard dash, Freeman has the power and speed Carroll loves in his runners. Rang has Freeman projected as a fourth-round pick.
By then, the Seahawks could make many other additions to fuel their undeniable transition this offseason.
To fix the broken running game, the Seahawks are going to need more than just a rookie running back. They need more and better offensive linemen to block better lanes through which to run. They need new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to install the run-first mentality that had his New York Jets the league’s best and record-setting rushing offense a decade ago.
They may not need a running back in April’s first round. Not more than they need additional draft choices.