April 24, 2024

Backfield Breakdown: Seattle Seahawks

4 min read

Stop me if you've heard this before. The Seattle Seahawks have added a running back to their already robust rushing attack. Just one year ago Kenneth Walker ascended to fantasy prominence as a rookie. That the Seahawks drafted Walker in the second round last year, didn't stop the front office from drafting two new rushers in this year's draft. Like Walker one year ago, UCLA's Zach Charbonnet was taken in the second round while Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh was selected in round 7. Now it is up to us to figure out how Head Coach Pete Carroll plans to employ these three talented rushers.

First up, the incumbent. Walker arrived last year and immediately took a backseat to former first round pick Rashaad Penny, seeing just 23 carries in the season's first four weeks. However, as it has so often, the injury bug would eventually claim Penny, clearing the way for Walker, who went on to lead all rookies in carries (228), rushing yards (1,050) and rushing touchdowns (nine), nearly galloping to the Offensive rookie of the year trophy. Indeed, Walker made the most of his touches and delivered the kinds of fantasy performances that boosted his managers to a few victories over the season's final ten weeks.

Why then did the Seahawks elect to dip into this year's player pool for not one but two more running backs? One reason might be Walker's lack of production in the passing game and his subsequent struggles in pass protection. Enter Zach Charbonnet, who joins the fray as a seemingly perfect compliment to Walker, giving Offensive Coordinator Shane Waldron a dynamic duo that is capable of attacking defenses with contrasting skill sets. Walker, the home run hitting big-play threat and Charbonnet who can not only grind out the tough yardage but brings versatility to the Seattle offense as a receiver. During his two seasons at UCLA, the talented back demonstrated an ability to track the ball well and displayed the balance which allowed him to adjust to poorly thrown passes, which was evidenced by the 97.0 rating Quarterbacks boasted when targeting the talented back.

Head Coach Pete Carroll has made it clear that Charbonnet will be battling for time immediately:

"He's so versatile, he will fit in and be a great addition, and really, we're gonna find out how far he can take it in terms of the receiving part of it. We know he's really good at it, so those guys will be battling. And we also went all the way down to get Kenny McIntosh because of his versatility. There's so many positives about these guys."

 

It sounds like he recognized a deficiency in his offense which he aimed to correct. Which is part of the reason he doubled down and selected Georgia's Kenny McIntosh. McIntosh gives the Seahawks another versatile running back with pass-catching ability. The seventh-round selection caught 43 passes for 504 yards while starting 14 games for the national champion Bulldogs.

The day of the workhorse back is all but dead. When this writer started playing fantasy football the phrase running back by committee was enough to send someone screaming from a draft room. But now, it's hard to find a back that not only gets most of the work but one who can hold up to the physical demands an NFL running back must live up to. So when handicapping this backfield it's easy to envision a role for both of these talented backs. And it isn't quite clear from Carroll's comments if the two will be competing for playing time in general or specifically on passing downs. But Carroll has always cultivated competition among his teams. The impressive job Walker did last season would seemingly make him a favorite to keep the starting job, but Charbonnet caught 61 passes in his two seasons at UCLA and his skill set makes him the favorite to play, not only on passing downs but in short yardage situations.

So the question becomes, just how much usage will these guys glean from Seattle's passing attack? The Seahawks targeted the running back position just 84 times last season, but in his three years as the LA Rams passing game coordinator the teams lead rusher averaged 54 targets per season, with Todd Gurley earning a high of 81 in 2018. Did the Seahawks not target the running back position because they didn't feel confident in their 2022 personnel or, is it an offensive philosophy? Given Carroll's comments and Waldron's willingness to incorporate talented pass catching backs in the past, it's probably safe to say we will see a spike in 2023 production.

A split between these two could prove problematic for fantasy managers, especially if the Seahawks incorporate Kenny McIntosh on third down, but Charbonnet brings a skillset that Walker simply hasn't shown us making him a bargain when comparing their current ADP. Per Fantasy Pros, Walker is RB 15 off the board while Charbonnet falls all the way to RB 31.

This backfield oozes production from its running backs, making it highly attractive for fantasy managers. But when you consider his skillset and depressed price, Charbonnet is the horse to back in this race.

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