Coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks’ front office made a statement about their immediate future by not spending a draft pick on a quarterback in 2022.
So when they spent their No. 41 overall pick on Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III, they brought a rookie running back into Seattle who won’t be joining a Russell Wilson-led offense for the first time in 11 years.
THE ROOKIE HYPE IS REAL
Walker is still coming off of dynasty rookie mock draft boards as the second running back, behind Breece Hall. This makes sense considering his undeniable talent.
A yards-after-contact machine, he was second in the FBS with 1,634 rushing yards, and the athleticism to solidify the production was no fluke:
With Chris Carson‘s 2022 status a big question mark due to a lingering neck injury, Walker has an opportunity for playing time out of the gate.
But after Rashaad Penny‘s epic 7.3 yards-per-carry stretch during the last five games of 2021, it won’t be easy to surpass Penny on the depth chart after he finally showed why he was a first-round draft choice in 2018.
But let’s not understate the impact of Wilson’s departure. Drew Lock is most likely to replace him, and with a career 59.3 completion percentage and 25:20 TD: INT ratio, it’s going to take a historic leap for Lock, in his fourth year, to put fear in defenses like Russ could.
Otherwise, opposing teams can be expected to make Lock beat them, meaning more stacked boxes against the run, and fewer opportunities like Penny had during his run late last season.
A LACK OF RECEIVING WORK
Walker only had 19 total receptions in his three-year college stint, but to Pete Carroll, that may have been one of his best qualities and he applauded the rookie’s pass-catching ability during the team’s rookie minicamp.
“Let me wait and see on that one, as far as making him a third-down guy,” Carroll said. “He has a ways to go pass-protection wise, that’s a real challenge for him, so we will see. I know that his attitude will be in it, he’s a terrific competitive kid. That really needs to be a priority, which it is, and we’ve already talked to him about it. [Running backs coach] Chad [Morton] will take him through it, so we will see how it goes. He looked really good today catching the ball and running routes, so I was really pleased to see that.”
Seattle’s 67 targets to running backs last season ranked dead last in the NFL. The Hawks averaged 87 targets over the previous five years, which would have only bumped that ranking up to 29th in 2021.
And in a much-referenced article by Scott Barrett, only standard leagues needn’t be too concerned about such a lack of RB targets, as a target is only 1.36 times more valuable than a carry. Contrast that with half-PPR (2.05) and full-PPR (2.74).
THE UNFORTUNATE LANDING SPOT IS ALSO REAL
Walker’s landing spot was enough to drop him from consideration at 1.02 in this year’s rookie draft, to currently being the 1.05 according to DLF.
For dynasty, it’s feasible that things could change quickly in Seattle after 2022. Lock could flop, and Carroll could be on the outs, considering he’s 70 years old and has admitted where his bread’s been buttered the last ten years:
However, a brighter horizon isn’t guaranteed just because things change. The ‘Hawks could be in for many negative game scripts this year, forcing Carroll to throw more than he wants to.
With Walker’s pass protection abilities needing improvement, expect him to work with minimal targets, on early downs, subbed out for either DeeJay Dallas or Travis Homer on passing downs, on a team that should see a lot of passing downs.
And prepare for that to be the case beyond this season. Even if Walker surpasses Penny on the depth chart and gets a large chunk of the early-down work, you can’t expect Seattle to be done bringing in running backs in future drafts.
Carson was a seventh-round pick in 2017. And even though Penny was a first-round pick that next season, Carson still out-touched Penny 267-to-94 in 2018.
Beware the question marks for dynasty’s rookie RB2 in 2022.