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Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks pre-draft position overview: Running backs set, depth is possibility

Kenneth Walker III bounces off tacklers in a 2023 Seahawks game against Carolina at Lumen Field in Seattle.   (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

No, the Seattle Seahawks don’t really draft a running back every year.

The Seahawks have not taken a running back in two of the last 12 drafts of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider regime.

OK, so they usually have.

But 2024 may break from precedent as the Seahawks head into the draft with about as set of a 1-2 punch at running back as they’ve had in years in Kenneth Walker III and Zach Charbonnet — each second-round picks the last two seasons.

Throw in 2023 seventh-rounder Kenny McIntosh — who appears poised to take over the third running back role after DeeJay Dallas signed with Arizona — and the Seahawks have a top three of backs all taken in the drafts of the last two seasons, and all on rookie contracts lasting through at least the 2025 season.

Which means the Seahawks can probably fill out depth at running back with veteran free agents or undrafted rookie free agents.

The Seahawks appear to have one intriguing name in mind — former first-round pick Rashaad Penny.

NFL transactions showed that the Seahawks had Penny in for a free-agent visit last week. There was no further indication that a signing is imminent — each side could wait to see what happens in the draft.

A reunion could make some sense as Penny — who is still just 28 — played little last season with the Eagles, with just 33 yards on 11 carries, and might like to return to the city where he played his first five seasons.

The Seahawks would surely bring Penny in with the idea he’d be a reserve and complementary back and sign him to a low-risk deal. Potential win-win all-around.

The Seahawks currently have just three running backs on their roster — Walker, Charbonnet and McIntosh — and will add another two or three as the roster fills out to 90.

The Seahawks may be able to do so without spending much, if any, draft capital.

As we continue our pre-draft preview of the Seahawks’ position groups, let’s look further at the running back position.

Current projected depth chart

Starter: Kenneth Walker III. Walker, who is already 11th in team history in career rushing at 1,955 yards and rushing touchdowns with 17, enters the offseason entrenched as the team’s starter.

Backups: Zach Charbonnet, Kenny McIntosh. Charbonnet was fourth among rookies in rushing yards last season with 462 yards on 108 carries, serving as the backup to Walker while also often filling the third-down/two-minute role. He also had 33 receptions, which ranked fourth on the team, for 209 yards. McIntosh played only on special teams in three games last year after suffering a knee injury in the preseason.

Draft need, 1-10: 1.5.

Schneider/Carroll draft history

Running backs drafted (listed by draft order): 14. Rashaad Penny (27, 2018); Kenneth Walker III (41st overall pick, 2022); Zach Charbonnet (52, 2023); Christine Michael (62, 2013); C.J. Prosise (90, 2016); Robert Turbin (106, 2012); DeeJay Dallas (144, 2020); Alex Collins (171, 2016); Spencer Ware (194, 2013); Travis Homer (204, 2019); fullback Kiero Small (227, 2014); Kenny McIntosh (237, 2023); Zac Brooks (247, 2016); Chris Carson (249, 2017).

Best pick: The last 14 years it was usually portrayed that Schneider had final say on all draft picks. But Carroll said publicly on draft day in 2017 he pushed for Carson. That turned out to be a good call as Carson quickly emerged as their best running back as a rookie and was on his way to going down as one of the best in franchise history before a neck injury ended his career in 2021. Still, Carson ranks eighth on the team’s all-time rushing list with 3,502 yards and has the best yards-per-carry average at 4.6 of any running back in the top 10.

One regret: The Christine Michael pick in 2013 was questionable at the time. Marshawn Lynch was 27 and had just signed a four-year contract the year before — and it doesn’t look a ton better in retrospect as Michael gained just 915 yards on 208 carries in his Seattle career. The pick came in a year when Seattle had few obvious needs, and the Seahawks felt they could take a flyer on an unquestionably talented player. It never really worked out. The Penny pick raised eyebrows at the time and his injury-riddled career allow some to question it further. In the Seahawks’ defense, Penny had no college history of injuries, and he was productive when he played — his average yards per carry of 5.7 is the best in team history.

Draft overview

Known visitors: The Seahawks reportedly had just one running back in for a private pre-draft visit — George Holani of Boise State. The 5-foot-11, 210-pounder ran a 4.52 40 at the combine and is considered a late-round pick, or possibly falling into the UDFA ranks. He is the fifth-leading rusher in Boise State history with 3,596 rushing yards.

Local ties: UW’s Dillon Johnson is sure to be on some draft boards after a gutty 2023 season in which he fought through some late-season injuries to help the Huskies get to the national title game. Seahawks offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb obviously knows all about him. Johnson, who ran a 4.68 40 at the combine, is a likely late-round pick or an UDFA.

Pro Football Focus lists Johnson 209th on its big board and 21st among running backs, writing: “Johnson is a decent all-around athlete but lacks a difference-making trait for him to stand out at the NFL level. His most likely projection is as a third-down back.’’

Others to watch: The good news for the Seahawks not having an urgent need for a running back is that there is not thought to be any backs worthy of going in the first round unlike last season when Bijan Robinson (eighth to Atlanta) and Jahmyr Gibbs (12th, Detroit) each went in the top 12.

There are some decent second- and third-day options.

As at seemingly every position, there is a player from Michigan in the pool — Blake Corum, who could be the first running back drafted but could also potentially slip to the third round.

Two Pac-12 players of note are also good mid-round options — Bucky Irving of Oregon and MarShawn Lloyd of USC.

The final analysis: With only Walker, Charbonnet and McIntosh on the roster, the Seahawks will add a few RBs over the next week. But they could be content to do that via the free-agent route.