The retirement of Marshawn Lynch could have the Seahawks looking to add to their backfield in the 2016 NFL Draft.
As we continue our pre-draft position previews of what look like the main areas of need for the Seahawks, it’s time to look at the running back spot, which looms as one of the biggest areas of intrigue for Seattle heading into the 2016 season.
PLAYERS CURRENTLY ON ROSTER
Projected starter: TB Thomas Rawls.
Key off-season losses: TB Marshawn Lynch (retired).
Others on roster: TB Christine Michael, TB Cameron Marshall.
OVERVIEW: Lynch — the team’s main ballcarrier and heart and soul of the offense since 2010 — has announced his retirement (though the team has yet to put him on the official reserve/retired list, apparently keeping options open on how it wants to take the salary cap hit).
Second-year running back Rawls is in line to take over after averaging 5.6 yards per carry last season and gaining 830 overall. But he’s also coming off a broken left ankle and until he shows the durability that Lynch did — granted, a really high bar for any back at any level — the team has to assure it has as much depth and competition as possible.
The Seahawks also re-signed Michael in the off-season, meaning the one-time heir apparent to Lynch can compete with the apparent heir apparent to Lynch to become the true heir apparent to Lynch.
Most likely is that both will have significant roles in 2016. Rawls, if there are no setbacks in his recovery (and so far, none have been reported or are expected) is likely the starter, with Michael seeming set to serve as a complementary back, assuming he can continue his career revival of last December and January.
Marshall, a former Arizona State standout who spent the last two seasons with Winnipeg in the Canadian Football League. projects more as a third-down type back similar to Fred Jackson’s role last season.
But as the Seahawks enter the draft, that’s the entirety of the roster at running back as the team has not yet re-signed — and at this point probably isn’t expected to — free agents Jackson, Will Tukuafu and Derrick Coleman.
DRAFT NEED (on scale of 1-10): 8.
The Seahawks certainly aren’t entering training camp with just three running backs — and no fullbacks — on the roster. Consider that they had eight running backs on the roster for training camp last season.
So either via the draft or by signing free agents (undrafted rookies or otherwise) the Seahawks will be adding to the backfield in the coming weeks.
Seattle has drafted just three tailbacks in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era (meaning, since 2010) — Robert Turbin in 2012 and Michael and Spencer Ware in 2013. Seattle has drafted just one fullback in that time, Kiero Small in 2014.
But given some intriguing names who could be available for the Seahawks and their current lack of depth at the spot, the odds seem pretty good of Seattle taking a tailback.
The Seahawks might prefer to just go the free agent route at fullback. Also, it’s worth noting that Brandon Cottom, listed as a tight end on the roster, played fullback in college and could be used in that role going forward.
Seattle last year was one of the few teams that had two fullbacks on its roster in Tukuafu and Coleman, though, so expect another fullback or two signed before camp.
POSSIBLE DRAFT FITS: Much was understandably made of the news that Alabama Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry had a pre-draft visit with the Seahawks. Henry obviously showed he could produce in college at a high level and at 6-3, 247 pounds offers a unique blend of size and athleticism for a tailback. Seattle also pulled a surprise when it went for Michael in the second round in 2013, so the Seahawks don’t appear averse to spending resources on the position.
Draft analysts have widely varying expectations of where Henry will be selected, however, with the recent uneven NFL success of Alabama running backs such as Trent Richardson potentially giving teams some pause, and it’s possible Henry could still be available when Seattle has picks at 90 and 97 in the third round.
Another running back often mocked to Seattle somewhere in the draft is San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin, known to have met with Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell at his Pro Day. Ervin projects as more of a third-down back in the Turbin mold.
A couple of other intriguing names include:
- D.J. Foster, Arizona State: Foster is also often listed as a receiver after playing more of that role as a senior in 2015. He’s one of five players in NCAA history to have both 2,000 yards rushing and receiving in his career and could help fill a third-down back type role. Is known to have talked to the Seahawks at combine and could be an enticing late-round pick.
- Glenn Gronkowski, Kansas State: Yep, Glenn is Rob’s younger brother, and can play fullback as well as H-back and tight end roles. Is a likely late-round pick.
- Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech: Dixon is regarded as one of the best receiving backs available in the draft and would be a good fit as a change-of-pace third-down back.