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2024 Draft Preview: Will The Seahawks Add More Depth At Running Back

A look at where the Seahawks stand running back heading into the 2024 NFL Draft, as well as draft analyst Rob Rang’s top-ranked prospects at that positions.

Draft Preview Thumbnail - RBs

The NFL Draft kicks off later this month in Detroit, and while it will be the 15th in Seattle for general manager and president of football operations John Schneider, it will be his first with new head coach Mike Macdonald.

But while there are some adjustments to be made for Schneider and the player personnel department in terms of learning what Macdonald and his coaching staff look for in players, Schneider doesn't see this draft process playing out a whole lot differently than the previous 14 did with Pete Carroll as the head coach.

"There's so much preparation that goes into it, it's going to be the same," Schneider said last month at the NFL Annual Meeting. "The preparation is—really, think of it like a game; you're putting together a game-plan sheet. That's basically what your board looks like. So you're like, 'OK, well that happened, now we're going here. That happened. Now we're going here.' So that's really your preparation, and I don't see it being any different.

"Pete, he was a blast to work with throughout the preparation, and Mike and his staff are the same. It's going to be fun."

Unlike the past two drafts in which Seattle had multiple first and second-round picks thanks to the Russell Wilson trade, the Seahawks have a little less draft capital in 2024, though the 16thoverall pick is still a valuable asset, either to be used on an elite player or perhaps to be traded for a pick later in the first round along with additional picks. The Seahawks have seven total picks heading into the draft, but do not have a second-rounder having sent that to the Giants in last year's trade for Leonard Williams.

So 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 14 drafts under Schneider.

So far we've covered quarterback, linebacker, offensive line, defensive line and outside linebacker, and running back. Check back Monday when we focus on safety.

Seattle's 2024 Draft Picks: Round 1, No. 16 overall; Round 3, No. 81 overall (from New Orleans via Denver); Round 4, No. 102 overall (from Washington); Round 4, No. 118 overall; Round 6, No. 179 overall (from Washington); Round 6, No. 192 overall; Round 7, No. 235 overall.

Running Back Draft History Under John 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); Kenneth Walker III (No. 41, 2022).; Zach Charbonnet (No. 52, 2023), Kenny McIntosh, (No. 237, 2023).

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Where the Seahawks Stand

Having selected running backs in the second round of each of the past two drafts, the Seahawks have a strong one-two punch in Kenneth Walker III and Zach Charbonnet, so running back hardly feels like a position of need heading into the draft.

Even so, depth is always important at a position as physical as running back, and losing DeeJay Dallas, a versatile back and special teams standout, in free agency, means the Seahawks likely need to add to that spot behind Walker, Charbonnet and 2023 draft pick Kenny McIntosh, who saw limited playing time as a rookie, in part due to a knee injury suffered in camp, and who is likely to take on a bigger role after Dallas' departure.

And don't think the offseason hiring of former Huskies offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb will dimmish the importance of the running game and the need for quality backs. Yes, the Huskies have been pass-heavy in recent years, but as Grubb explained, that had a lot to do with playing to the strengths of those offenses, led by 2023 Heisman runner up Michael Penix Jr. and a trio of receivers likely to be selected in this month's draft, and Grubb understands that having a strong rushing attack will be important in the NFL.

"I think over the course of my career, we've done both certainly," Grubb said. "I think when you look at what we did, probably more specifically at UW over the last two seasons, we were accentuating the positives and there's three receivers that are probably going to get drafted this year, and so I think moving the football through the air was a logical choice and we are going to be a physical team in Seattle. And over the years, that's something that we've certainly done. When the components all matched up, we ran the ball very effectively and I look forward to it. I think that when you have an established run game, it makes calling those other plays, the auxiliary plays off of it a lot easier honestly. It's when you don't have the presence of a run game that things can get really tricky."

A strong running game will also help Grubb and his offense excel in the play-action passing game.

"I think that play-action pass in the NFL is honestly where we got a lot of our concepts, and so when we would base some of the things that we did, it was off of the NFL model," he said. "And so I think that some of those high-read plays and flood concepts and things like that that most people run certainly translate really well to the NFL."

Again, the presence of Charbonnet and Walker on the roster means the Seahawks likely don't need to look for another running back early, but adding depth, particularly if it's a player who also can have a role on special teams, seems like a very possible move in the later rounds of this year's draft.

Rob Rang's Top 5 Running Backs

Overview: Perhaps anticipating one of the worst running back classes in decades, the Seahawks wisely invested a year ago in two talented runners, adding Zach Charbonnet and Kenny McIntosh to a roster that already boasted young star Kenneth Walker III. McIntosh, who essentially took a redshirt season a year ago, seems primed to take over for Deejay Dallas as Seattle's primary third down back and perhaps as a returner on the punt and kickoff units, leaving little room on the roster for more players at the position. Of course, given the relatively short shelf-life of running backs in the NFL, smart teams are constantly refreshing the position. With the exception of the 2021 draft (when Seattle had just three draft picks), John Schneider and Co. have selected at least one running back each year since 2015. This class has plenty of intriguing middle and late round candidates who could push for a roster spot but few headliners. In fact, I anticipate that the first running back won't be selected until deep into the second round, perhaps joining 2014 as the only years in NFL history in which a single runner wasn't among the top 50 picks. This year's running back class is so odd that the first one selected could be a player not listed below – Texas' redshirt sophomore Jonathan Brooks – who could miss extensive time as a rookie after tearing his ACL in November.

1. Audric Estime', Notre Dame, 5-11, 221, Second-Third Round

A slow 40-yard dash time (4.71 seconds) and terrific offensive line in South Bend has apparently caused some in the media to underestimate the burly Irish running back (who last name is pronounced Ess-tuh-may), but that might be a mistake. No runner was better down the stretch last year than Estime', who ran for 11 of his 18 touchdowns in Notre Dame's final five games. He's quicker to the hole than the 40 suggests and bulldozes through defenders, boasting the bulk and mentality of a true bell cow.

2. Jaylen Wright, Tennessee, 5-11, 210, Second-Third Round

While teams looking for a 20-carry back may prefer some of the others on this list, those seeking pure speed will love Wright, who was clocked at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Combine and was just as speedy on the field against SEC competition, averaging an eye-popping 7.38 yards per carry in 2023, the best in the entire country. He's lighter and swifter than the others, eluding would-be tacklers and dashing past them regularly but isn't a true tackle-dragger and can get a bit loose with his ball-handling, fumbling four times in 2023.

3. Trey Benson, Florida State, 6-0, 216, Second-Third Round

Perhaps the best combination of size, speed and production in this draft class is Benson, who flew south to Tallahassee after beginning his college career at Oregon. In size and style, Benson profiles similarly as Najee Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers, offering a potential workhorse combination of size, speed, power and pro-readiness. He's instinctive, powerful and ran surprisingly fast at the Combine, clocking in at 4.39 seconds. This speed isn't always obvious on the field, however, with Benson projecting as a more of a quality jack-of-all-trades like Pittsburgh's Najee Harris, rather than future NFL rushing champion.

4. MarShawn Lloyd, Southern Cal, 5-09, 220, Third Round

Speaking of college transfers, Lloyd began his college career at South Carolina before transferring to the "other" USC to join head coach Lincoln Riley and presumptive No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams. Boasting a bowling ball-like frame and excellent contact balance to bounce off of would-be tacklers, Lloyd runs with the physicality to warrant a first name like MarShawn. Don't overthink Lloyd's relatively pedestrian statistics – he ran for a career-high 820 yards and nine touchdowns in 2023 – he'll stick in the league for a long time.

5. Blake Corum, Michigan, 5-08, 205, Third Round

The heart and soul of the best team in college football last year, Corum has the frame of a jitterbug but plows ahead like an F-150, barreling to and through would-be tacklers while showing impressive lateral agility to shake them, as well. While his small-ish frame is probably the root of frequent comparisons to longtime NFL standout Austin Ekeler, Corum also possesses the vision, contact balance, soft hands and willingness to step up in pass protection to also "surprise" at the next level.

NFL Draft analyst Rob Rang ranked his top running backs for the 2024 NFL Draft.

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