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2023 Draft Preview: Could The Seahawks Again Use An Early Pick On A Running Back?

A look at where the Seahawks stand at running back heading into the 2023 NFL Draft, as well as draft analyst Rob Rang’s top-ranked prospects at that position.

Oklahoma running back Eric Gray, left, Texas running back Bijan Robinson, Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs and Texas A&M running back Devon Achane pose for a photo after completing their drills at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, March 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)
Oklahoma running back Eric Gray, left, Texas running back Bijan Robinson, Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs and Texas A&M running back Devon Achane pose for a photo after completing their drills at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, March 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)

The 2023 NFL Draft kicks off next week, and for the Seahawks, this year's draft represents a big opportunity to improve upon a team that reached the playoffs last season. After hitting a home run in the 2022 draft, the Seahawks have even more draft capital this year, including extra first and second-round picks (No. 5 and 37 overall) that were part of the trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver last year.

The fifth overall pick is the highest the Seahawks have had since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over in 2010, and this is just the second time in the Carroll-Schneider era that Seattle has had a pair of first-rounders in one draft, having selected Russell Okung and Earl Thomas in 2010.

"This is really an exciting opportunity for us," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at the NFL Scouting combine. "We have not been in this situation, we have not felt like this ever. So all of the build up to it has been exciting, and we're hoping to obviously max out everything we can with it… We know that the opportunity is something special, so we're looking forward to it and we'll see how it goes."

With the draft coming up soon, 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 13 drafts under Schneider and Carroll.

So far we’ve covered quarterback, the defensive line/outside linebacker, the offensive line and off-ball linebacker and tight end, and today we turn our attention to running back. Check back tomorrow for a look at where things stand at safety.

Seattle's 2023 Draft Picks: Round 1, No. 5 overall (from Denver); Round 1, No. 20 overall; Round 2, No. 37 overall (from Denver); Round 2, No. 52 overall; Round 3, No. 83 overall; Round 4, No. 123 overall; Round 5, No. 151 overall (from Pittsburgh); Round 5, No. 154 overall; Round 6, No. 198 overall; Round 7, No. 237 overall.

Running back draft History Under John Schneider and Pete Carroll: 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); Kenneth Walker III (No. 41, 2022).

Where the Seahawks Stand

The Seahawks drafted a running back in the second round last year, and Kenneth Walker III turned out to be a great pick, rushing for a rookie-best 1,050 yards and nine touchdowns after taking over the starting job following Rashaad Penny's Week 5 injury.

But just because the Seahawks drafted a running back with a high pick last year, that doesn't mean they won't again target that position in the draft, perhaps even in the earlier rounds. As great as Walker was last season, the physical nature of that position, along with Seattle's commitment to the running game, means the Seahawks need talented depth at that position, and as of now there isn't much in the way of depth behind Walker and DeeJay Dallas. Having those two players is a great place to start when building a running back group, but the Seahawks know they need to bolster that position after losing both Penny and Travis Homer in free agency.

"That's an area we need to keep addressing," Schneider said last month and the NFL Annual Meeting.

Schneider noted that one player Seattle would like to bring back is free-agent Godwin Ingwebuike, who shined as a kick returner late last season, but even if he is signed, the Seahawks will need to continue adding to that position, and they very well could do so in next week's draft.

Rob Rang's Top 5 Running Backs

Overview: Even with Ken Walker III joining Seahawks legend Curt Warner as the only rookie running backs to ever rush for over 1,000 yards for this franchise, Seattle will once again be searching for help at the position with veterans Rashaad Penny (Philadelphia) and Travis Homer (Chicago) no longer on the roster. Given Walker's success (and the obvious need to fill other holes in the roster), it seems unlikely that Seattle would strongly consider the top-rated back, Bijan Robinson, from Texas but he is a special talent, and the Seahawks prioritize the running game like few others in the NFL. This year's running back class is deeper than Elliott Bay, though, with burly backs who might complement Walker's speed and elusiveness likely to be available deep into Day Three. There are so many good backs in this draft, in fact, that no one should be surprised if the Seahawks select a couple of them. Some of my favorites for Seattle not on the list below include Auburn's Tank Bigsby, Georgia's Kenny McIntosh and Illinois' Chase Brown, whose twin brother, Sydney is also among my favorite fits for the Seahawks, but at safety.

1. Bijan Robinson, Texas, 5-11, 215, Top 10

While perhaps lacking elite breakaway speed, Robinson is the complete package otherwise, a true bell-cow back with the vision, agility and contact balance to be an immediate difference-maker in the NFL. Robinson's career numbers are impressive – 4,215 all-purpose yards and 42 TDs in 31 career games – but even they don't truly reflect his impact. Robinson's tape is full of carries that should have netted two or three yards, but instead he gained five or more.

2. Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama, 5-9, 199, First-Second Round

My favorite "air back" in this class, Gibbs offers an Alvin Kamara-like type of threat as a runner and receiver out of the backfield, leading the Tide last year in both rushing (926 yards) and receptions (44) last season, his first in Tuscaloosa after previously starting at Georgia Tech. While virtually everyone's statistics pale in comparison to the aforementioned Robinson, Gibbs' 3,344 all-purpose yards and 23 touchdowns – which include 103 receptions – demonstrate his playmaking ability.

3. Zach Charbonnet, UCLA, 6-0, 222, Second Round

Like the aforementioned Gibbs, Charbonnet (pronounced Shar-bo-naye) began his college career elsewhere (Michigan), flashing early before dominating the past two years at UCLA, racking up just under 4,000 all-purpose yards and 40 touchdowns while playing with the grit and physicality the Seahawks demand the position.

4. Devon Achane, Texas A&M, 5-9, 188, Second Round

If the Seahawks wanted to add speed on top of speed to complement Walker, Achane (pronounced "Aye-chain") certainly provides that with the 4.32 second 40-yard dash time he clocked at the Combine even faster than the Seahawks star's 4.39 a year earlier. Achane may run like the wind, but he's tough too and another excellent receiver out of the backfield.

5. Israel Abanikanda, Pittsburgh, 5-10, 216, Second-Third Round

Overshadowed by the award-winning combination of Kenny Pickett and wide receiver Jordan Addison in 2021, "Izzy" took over as Pitt's star this past season, leading the ACC with 1,431 rushing yards and all the FBS with 20 touchdowns on the ground. He possesses the bowling ball-like frame, big play potential and finishing mentality the Seahawks have prioritized in the past.

NFL Draft expert Rob Rang identifies the top running back prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.

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