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2022 NFL Draft Preview: With Rashaad Penny Back, Do The Seahawks Still Need To Add A Running Back?

A look at where the Seahawks stand at running back heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, as well as Rob Rang’s top-ranked prospects at that position.

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Georgia running back Zamir White (3) tries to get around South Carolina defensive end Aaron Sterling (15) as he carries the ball during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

The 2022 NFL Draft kicks off next week, and due to the trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver, the Seahawks are loaded with the most draft capital they've had in the last decade, including the ninth overall pick, their first Top 10 pick since 2010, John Schneider and Pete Carroll's first draft in Seattle.

With eight total picks, including three in the top 41 and four in the top 72, the Seahawks are looking to use this year's draft to help reach Carroll's stated goal of building "the most competitive roster in the NFL."

"This is an extraordinary opportunity for us to help our franchise, which is what we're here to do," Carroll said of the 2022 and 2023 draft capital acquired in the Wilson trade. "We're doing everything we can to make it as good as we can possibly make it.

"We've got to make this the most competitive roster in the NFL, that's what we're out to do, and that means all the way through the ranks. That means you're going to get young, but we're going to mix it with a group of experienced players as well. That's the chemistry we have to create."

With the draft coming up soon, Seahawks.com is taking a position-by-position look at where things currently stand for the Seahawks, as well as the top draft prospects at each position. We'll also look at Seattle's draft history at each position over the past 12 drafts under Schneider and Carroll.

So far, we've covered quarterback, safety, receiver, cornerback, tight end and linebacker, and today we turn our attention to running back. Check back tomorrow when we take a look at where things stand at defensive line.

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Seattle's 2022 Draft Picks: Round 1, No. 9 overall; Round 2, No. 40 overall; Round 2, No. 41 overall; Round 3, No. 72 overall; Round 4, No. 109 overall; Round 5, No. 145 overall; Round 5, No. 153 overall; Round 7, No. 229 overall.

Running Back Draft History Under Carroll & Schneider: Robert Turbin (No. 106 overall, 2012); Christine Michael (No. 62, 2013); Spencer Ware (No. 194, 2013); Kiero 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); Rashaad Penny (No. 27, 2018); Travis Homer, (No. 204, 2019); DeeJay Dallas (No. 114, 2020).

Where The Seahawks Stand

The Seahawks answered a big question about this position earlier in the offseason when they re-signed free-agent running back Rashaad Penny, who was coming off of a phenomenal finish to his 2021 season.

The hope is that Penny can combine with Chris Carson to form a formidable 1-2 punch out of the backfield, but as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll noted last month at the NFL annual meeting, the status of Carson, who is coming off of neck surgery, won't likely be known until the pads go on in training camp and he can see how he responds to some contact.

"Chris is feeling pretty good," Carroll said. "He's making progress, he's looking forward to playing. He thinks he's going to be able to pull it off, so we're looking optimistically at it. He won't know until he gets back and really gets going. Physically, he'll be able to run around and all that kind of stuff, it's whether or not he can take the hits and all that kind of stuff. We'll have to wait and see, but he's planning on it."

With a healthy Penny and Carson, the Seahawks would feel great about their talent at running back, and they also have depth pieces they like in DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer and Josh Johnson, even if everyone is available, adding more depth heading into training camp could make sense for Seattle. For starters, running back is a particularly physical position, and while rare exceptions exist, including Marshawn Lynch for most of his Seattle career—he missed just one game from his 2010 arrival in Seattle through the 2014 season—it's hard to find running backs who are able to stay healthy for every game of a season, making depth incredibly important. Additionally, even if Carson and Penny are at their best this year, both would become free agents in 2023 without an extension prior to next offseason, as would Homer, meaning drafting for long-term depth is also a consideration.

But whether or not the Seahawks add a running back in the draft, the Seahawks will head into the 2022 season excited about that position group's prospects, in no small part due to the re-signing of Penny.

"I'm really excited about Rashaad coming back," Carroll said last month. "The way he played at the end of the football season last year just jumped off the film. I don't know how we were able to get him back—maybe because of his history—but he was one of the best players in league last year finishing up that football season. The explosiveness that he generated, and the toughness and the consistency that just was so dead obvious at the end of the year, it just made it like a huge element for us to get that. We had to get him back on our club. So that was one of the negotiations that I was most concerned about and tuned into, because I did not want to lose this opportunity that he had finally really kind of put it all together in a way that was so obvious. He was one of the best guys in the league. The guy we had drafted, that's what we had looked for."

Carroll in particular pointed out Penny's explosiveness when he has been healthy, with the veteran back averaging 5.6 yards per carry in his career, including a league-best 6.3 per carry last season.

"It's crazy that he's got those kinds of numbers, but that shows us that he's always been explosive throughout his years; he just hasn't been able to find the consistency," Carroll said. "So the fact that now that it looks as though we've had that accomplished, and he's had this offseason underway where he's in great shape and he's working out and he's mentally in a great place and building towards this season, I'm as excited about that element of our football team as anything that we have coming back.

"He's going to come back, he's going to get the first shots—he deserves it, he's earned it—and if we can get him and Chris (Carson) back there battling, that 1-2 punch is all I can hope for. It's what we've envisioned; we just haven't been able to see it as much. He's been frustrated about it, but that frustration has put the chip on his shoulder that is exactly the kind of chip that you like. So we're really, really pumped up about this one."

Rob Rang's Top 5 Running Backs

At least one running back has been selected in the first round of the past seven consecutive NFL drafts, including the Seahawks notably investing the 27th overall selection in Rashaad Penny in 2018. With Penny currently an unrestricted free agent and fellow bell-cow Chris Carson's availability in question due to a neck injury, the Seahawks may be in the market for a back this spring. Fortunately, this class is loaded with them. The depth is so good, in fact, that teams may opt to wait on the position and allow talented runners to fall into the second round, as was the case with recent NFL rushing leaders Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans, 2016) and Jonathan Taylor (Indianapolis Colts, 2020), among others.

1. Breece Hall, Iowa State, 5-11, 217, 4.39, First/Second Round

At a time in which virtually everything in our society seems topsy-turvy, Hall has proven the epitome of consistency, scoring at least one touchdown in every game the past two seasons for the Iowa State Cyclones – a remarkable stretch of 24 consecutive contests, ultimately leaving with an eye-popping 3,941 yards and 50 rushing touchdowns in just three seasons of college football. Built like a freight-train and just as fast, Hall is a proven workhorse who should be challenging for Pro Bowl honors early in his career.

2. Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State, 5-09, 211, 4.38, First/Second Round

Walker was already on scouts' radar at Wake Forest but when he exploded for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns after transferring to the Spartans prior to the 2021 season, he vaulted up the board with many scouts ranking Walker as the top back in this class. Cat-quick laterally, as well as vertically, Walker can leave his own shadow guessing at his next move and his stumpy frame gives him great balance off contact.

3. Zamir White, Georgia, 6-0, 214, 4.40, Second/Third Round

White was often asked to play the bruiser role in Georgia's Thunder and Lightning running game, but he showed in precisely 4.40 seconds at the Combine that he's much more than just a sledgehammer. White doesn't have much wiggle to his game – choosing to run through defenders rather than around them – but he's a tone-setter.

4. Brian Robinson, Jr., Alabama, 6-2, 225, 4.53, Second/Third Round

It isn't often that a skill-position player from Alabama can reasonably be described as underrated but Robinson can make a claim. Similarly built and talented as his immediate predecessor, Pittsburgh Steelers' star rookie Najee Harris, Robinson offers an exciting blend of size, power and maneuverability with the experience in the passing game to contribute immediately as a receiver and blocker.

5. Pierre Strong, South Dakota State, 5-11, 207, 4.37, Third Round

It was speed, not power that propelled Strong up the board, with the former Jackrabbit turning in one of the fastest 40-yard dash times at this year's Combine after dominating at the lower level, rushing for 1,686 yards and 18 touchdowns to cap a brilliant career. Strong is a classic slasher, getting to top speed quickly and turning on the jets to run away from defenders.

One of the most recognized names in the industry, Rob Rang has been covering the NFL Draft for more than 20 years, with work at FOX, Sports Illustrated, CBSSports.com, USA Today, Yahoo, NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com, among others. Rang's opinions and evaluations are his own and do not reflect those of the Seahawks.

NFL Draft expert Rob Rang identifies running back prospects the Seahawks could target in the 2022 NFL Draft.

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