A Look at the Early-Round Running Backs for the Seahawks
As I promised in my article Friday just gone, I’d like to take a look at the early round running backs Seattle may consider with an early pick. Pete Carroll seemed committed to fixing the running game this offseason, and although adding an early round running back won’t solve the issue on its own, it’s undoubtedly a key moving part to addressing the problem. The six players selected to breakdown are all selections that can be made in the first or second round (possible trade down targets).
Seattle typically targets backs who are around 5-10” to 6-0” and weigh around 210 to 230 pounds. All but one of the below backs fit that mould except for my personal favourite, Ronald Jones II. He is slightly lighter at 200 pounds however doesn’t play like it, as you’ll read below.
Derrius Guice – LSU – 5-11” 218 pounds
Guice is probably the second best running back in this class behind only Saquon Barkley (who I haven’t listed here as he will be gone long before Seattle picks). He was a two-year starter at LSU and was teammates with Leonard Fournette. He had injury problems in 2017 however that shouldn’t put teams off too much, he has amassed enough tape on record to justify being labelled the second-best RB in this year’s class.
He makes explosive cuts with the ball and can give linebackers and safeties real issues getting their hands on him. He runs with anger and punishers hitters with his power, he also has a mean competitive edge that I love in a running back. He has a similar anger to Thomas Rawls which does bring up injury concerns, too often Rawls would run into players for the sake of it, Guice plays with a similar style. His overall play may well benefit from toning it down a little in order to keep his body healthy over the course of a longer NFL season.
His carry to fumble ratio is average at 100:1, I wouldn’t expect this to put Pete Carroll and company off.
Prediction - Mid to late first round
Ronald Jones II – USC – 6-0” 200 pounds
My personal favourite amongst the options, he was named in the 2017 All Pac-12 First Team. USC has provided a consistant stable of running backs into the NFL over the years and Jones II is going to further that list. His 6.1 yards average per carry is impressive and has been the starter for the past 2 seasons. His best trait is the ability to make defenders miss. Although he is a bit smaller than a protyical Seahawks RB, he uses his size well and has managed to stay healthy, a hard thing to do at this position given the constant contact multiple times a game.
His acceleration and stop-start ability is also impressive and one of the ways he makes defenders miss. He can stop and go again in the blink of an eye. He also loves the end zone, recording at least one touchdown in eighteen of his last nineteen games with USC. Seattle could certainly use some of that!
He wasn’t used much in the passing game which will knock him down boards with some teams. It’s unclear why USC didn’t use him more in the pass game, it may well not be a case that he can’t but teams will certainly look into it more often given how often running backs are used as pass catchers these days in the league. As Rob at SeahawksDraftBlog.com righty points out, he is an exact mould, in every way, of Jamaal Charles. If Seattle wants a Marshawn Lynch like player on the roster, Ronald Jones II is deserving.
He also had the lowest carry to fumble ratio in all of college football, too, averaging 207 carries per fumble. That alone will get the attention of Pete Carroll and John Schneider.
Prediction – Mid to late first round
Kerryon Johnson – Aubern – 5-11” 212 pounds
Johnson decided in early January to skip his senior year at Aubern and announce for the NFL draft. 2017 saw him run for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns for the team as their primary back. Considering he missed 2 games to injury, those numbers are attention grabbing. He was also voted into the All-SEC First Team.
Absolutely a patient runner, he doesn’t have electric like speed but does wait for blocks to occur and lanes to open for him. The speed of the NFL may be, initially, a shock to him, but I’m confident he will adapt and be a 3-down back for most teams. He does have injury concerns which will hamper his stock somewhat, however this isn’t exactly a rare thing for running backs so it shouldn’t worry teams too much.
Also, another very rare fumbler of the ball, he averaged 191:1 carries per fumble.
Prediction – Early second round
Sony Michel – Georgia – 5-11” 215 pounds
Sony played with real talent around him, he ran alongside Nick Chubb and previously, Todd Gurley. Having those two names in your positional group would damage most backs stock but not Michel. He has proved to be half of the two-pack punch that Georgia put out on the field, rushing for 1,227 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2017 with an average of 7.9 yards per carry. His biggest knock, however, and the reason I believe Seattle won’t draft him, is his fumbles. He averaged 54 carries per fumble which is pretty bad. Teams may feel they can teach him ball security, but I don’t believe that team will be Seattle.
Nick Chubb – Georgia – 5-10” 225 pounds
The other half of the two-pack punch mentioned above, Nick Chubb was the other main running back for Georgia last year and has proven himself since 2014 as being a legit threat in the run game. He was a 4 star recruit out of high school and backed that up with impressive stats between 2014 and 2017. He has the perfect running back build for the NFL and is great after contact, one of those backs that understands the importance of yargage in football and always fights, even if it’s for minimal reward.
He doesn’t realty have a second gear, though. He’s very much a ‘get up to speed and stay there till hit’ type guy. Which is fine if that’s what you’re after. But I think Seattle will be looking for more of a mover and a shaker at running back, plus, he also has a woefully bad fumble record. For exactly the same reason as Sony Michel, I don’t see the Seahawks drafting him but believe he can and will have a successful career in the NFL if he can minimize his fumbles.
Prediction – Mid second round
Rashaad Penny – San Diego State – 5-11” 224 pounds
You only have to have a quick glance at Penny’s stats to see why he’s in the conversation of early round running backs, he led the nation in 2017 with a staggering 2,248 rushing yards and 23 (twenty-three!!) touchdowns.
He has superb vision and acceleration as well as legitimate speed. I’m expecting him to have an impressive 40-yard dash at the combine. He is also not bad in pass protection, something any RB in the NFL needs to succeed in. No doubt there’s room for improvement in his pass blocking, but it’s a good start for a rookie. He is also pretty good at ball security with a carry to fumble ratio of 106:1. I’m sure the Seahawks would prefer it higher (who wouldn’t) but it is clear he possesses the ability to be coached up in the importance of ball security.
He is also a kick and punt returner, something that adds real value to his draft stock.
Prediction - Mid second round
That sums it up for the players that will no doubt be on Seattle’s radar in the run game. Whether they decide to go RB early depends on a number of factors. Ultimately, if the team doesn’t make some trades to gain more capital I believe they would prefer to fix the run game in other ways with early draft investment, but as free agency hasn’t started yet, it’s unclear where Seattle stand with the running game.