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2018 NFL Draft Preview: Can A Rookie Running Back Help Jump Start The Running Game?

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With the NFL Draft coming up, Seahawks.com is taking a position-by-position look at where things currently stand on the Seahawks’ roster, as well as the top prospects at each position. We’ll also look at Seattle’s draft history at each position under general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll.

The Seahawks currently hold 8 picks in the 2018 draft, which begins April 26 in Dallas.

Seattle’s 2018 Draft Picks: Round 1, Pick 18, No. 18 overall; Round 4, Pick 20, No. 120 overall; Round 5, Pick 4, No. 141 overall; Round 5, Pick 9, No. 146 overall; Round 5, Pick 19, No. 156 overall; Round 5, Pick 31, No. 168 overall; Round 7, Pick 8, No. 226 overall; Round 7, Pick 30, No. 248 overall.

So far we’ve covered the offensive line, the defensive linetight end, and linebacker, and today we take a look at running back. Tomorrow we’ll turn our attention to the cornerbacks.

Draft History Under Schneider and Carroll: Robert Turbin (No. 106 overall, 2012), Christine Michael (No. 62, 2013), Spencer Ware (No. 194, 2013), Keiro Small (No. 227, 2014), C.J. Prosise (No. 90, 2016), Alex Collins (No. 171, 2016), Zac Brooks (No. 247, 2016), Chris Carson (No. 249, 2017).

Where The Seahawks Stand

After two seasons of inconsistencies in the running game, it’s no secret that improving in that area is a top priority for the Seahawks. At their best, the Seahawks have had a balanced offense that features a physical running game, but over the past two seasons, they have struggled at times to run the ball, and for a number of reasons ranging from inconsistency on the offensive line to injuries at running back to, in 2016, injuries that limited Russell Wilson’s mobility.

“Our formula of the running game being an integral part of it is really the focus,” Carroll said last month at the annual league meetings. “We’ve got to get that done. Without that, then we’re still kind of in a mode where we don’t feel as comfortable as we want to be. So it’s hugely important. Somehow we’ve got to keep our running backs healthy. In the last few years it just has not been the factor for us, and it’s been a problem even going back two years when Russell was hurt the whole year. So that needs to emerge as a significant part of our program, and everything else I think will fall into place. We know what the formula is, we know what it takes, we just have to get ourselves back and feel that continuity. So that’ll be a big focus again, and the challenge begins. Here we go.”

As Carroll notes, running back health has been a big issue, which is part of why it’s hard to know going into the draft how big of a priority that position will be on draft weekend. On one hand, the Seahawks really like what they saw out of Chris Carson, who won the starting job as a rookie, and they love the versatility and big-play ability of C.J. Prosise, and Mike Davis looked good taking over late in the season after being promoted off the practice squad. But on the other hand, Carson went down with a season ending injury in the fourth game of the season, and Prosise has only managed to play in 11 games over two seasons due to various injuries, and Davis was a later addition to the 53-man roster, so none of those players have made it through a full 16-game season.

So even with Carson, Prosise, Davis and J.D. McKissic already on the team, it’s a pretty safe bet that the Seahawks will still look to add to that group, but it will be interesting to see how they address that. In what is considered to be a pretty strong running back draft class, the Seahawks could have chances to address that position in the early rounds, or in the early rounds—Carson was a seventh-rounder—or even in undrafted free agency.

NFL Media Draft Analyst Mike Mayock’s Top 5 Running Backs

1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State

Overview (via NFL.com): Every-down running back with the ability to alter the course of an offense and become a face of the franchise-type player. Barkley has the rare ability to create additional yardage through elusiveness, speed, vision and feel for space in the open field. While he has been tasked with carrying a heavy load at Penn State, their decision to limit his carries somewhat this season could help Barkley headed into his rookie season. Barkley is a buffet runner who thrives with the more plates you give him and he has a chance to become an early All-Pro no matter which team takes him.

2. Sony Michel, Georgia

Overview (via NFL.com): Michel is a well-built, no-nonsense runner who is able to combine vision, burst, and physicality. While he can make open field cuts to find additional yardage, his running style is more angular in nature and he thrives when playing north-south. He's not the most creative runner and he lacks some finesse, but his size, pass protection and ability to create yardage make him a natural fit as a future NFL starter.

3. Derrius Guice, LSU

Overview (via NFL.com): Evaluating Guice requires settling in for two full seasons of tape study as he was only healthy a fraction of the 2017 season. While Guice has some elusiveness and long speed, much of his success comes from his furious running style and ability to create yardage after contact. Guice's yards per touch was two yards higher over his first two seasons compared to last year. Like Leonard Fournette the year before, teams may be willing to lock in on his sophomore tape to create their evaluations and grades. Guice's running style could lead to a shorter career, but he has a chance to make a big splash early.

4. Nick Chubb, Georgia

Overview (via NFL.com): Has the size and mindset of a primary ball carrier, but lacks any one element of his game that jumps off the tape when evaluating. Chubb isn't overly elusive, but he does a good job of running through arm tackles and initial contact with lower body strength and contact balance. Chubb could become an average NFL starter, but his lack of third down value may end up hurting his draft stock.

T-5. Ronald Jones II, USC

Overview (via NFL.com): Jones is a classic slasher with the wiggle and explosiveness to elude open-field tacklers and then burst to chunks of yardage. Jones was a much more assertive runner in 2017 and improved upon areas of improvement from the 2016 season. Jones also has the ability to turn into a much more dangerous pass-catcher than we saw at USC. He should test well at the Combine, but there will still be teams concerned with how many carries he can handle and how that affects his draft value. He's a big play talent with a chance to thrive at a high level wherever he lands.

T-5. Rashaad Penny, San Diego State

Overview (via NFL.com): Volume-carry running back who plays with an active running style that rarely sees him slow his feet. Penny has the short-area foot quickness to create yardage for himself, but he doesn't really have the burst or long speed to be a homerun hitter. His motor gives him a chance to be a productive NFL starter, but he may lack the explosiveness to be a great back.

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