SEATTLE: THE NEXT RB SMASH SPOT?
If Pete Carroll has made one thing clear this off-season, it's that he wants to run the football in 2021. In January, Carroll told reporters, "We have to run the ball better. Not even run the ball better, run it more."
Carroll has also let his actions speak louder than his words by firing his offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, citing “philosophical differences.”
So, despite Russell Wilson posting career highs in completions, attempts, and touchdowns, it's now clearer than ever Carroll wants Russ to get out of the kitchen and stop cooking.
Over the final eight games, Seattle averaged 23.1 points per game after averaging 34.3 through the first eight games. As for Wilson, he averaged less than 200 yards passing in those final eight games, and DK Metcalf averaged just five catches and 64 yards in that stretch. They got figured out.
The Seattle offense is now looking for a makeover and may return to more of a 2019 look. Seattle ranked third in the NFL in 2019 by running the ball on 30.1% of their plays. In 2020 that percentage dropped to 25.7%, which was 17th in the league.
In that 2019 offensive scheme, Chris Carson finished as the RB12 in fantasy with 15.5 PPR points per game. Carson flourished with career highs in attempts, rushing yards, and receptions.
Going back even further in the Carroll regime, running the ball was their forte with Marshawn Lynch. In 2012 & 2013, Wilson recorded career lows in pass attempts while Lynch surpassed 300 carries. Lynch was the only RB to do that in both those seasons.
As we know in fantasy: Opportunity is key.
Carroll is dead set on giving his RB all the opportunity necessary in 2021. Both Lynch & Carson are power backs that can catch, which is what Pete likes in his backfield. Now that Carson is reportedly 'unlikely' to resign with Seattle, it's time for the next man up in a potential smash scenario.
FREE AGENT PROSPECTS
The Seahawks don’t have a ton of cap space, so it’s tough to see them spending a lot on a running back here. However, there are two backs that they could grab for pretty cheap.
Playoff Lenny is just 26 years old, so he likely has a handful of solid years left. In 2020, he was stuck behind Ronald Jones Jr. and recorded career lows in attempts and yards, but was still able to come out with six touchdowns.
Overall, Fournette’s 2020 regular season was a bust, but if he can get back to some of his 2019 form, he could have a bounce-back season. In 2019 Fournette ranked Top-10 in multiple categories:
- Red zone touches (4th)
- Rec. Yards (5th)
- Rush yards (6th)
- Big Runs (8th)
- Yards created (8th)
- Fantasy pts/game (9th)
Fournette was able to get all those numbers while the Jags ranked 23rd in run plays per game and their O-line was ranked 26th in the league, according to PFF. He could be rejuvenated in Seattle.
Could there be a reunion in Seattle? It’s possible. Mike Davis was a fantasy darling for a number of weeks in 2020 while filling in for Christian McCaffrey. Before Davis made his way to Carolina, he appeared in 21 games for the Seahawks in 2017 and 2018. While in Seattle, he set career marks before his big year in Carolina. Davis can catch and be the power runner Carroll likes. In 2020, Davis ranked 4th among running backs with 59 receptions, and he only had one drop. While running the football Davis was 3rd in the league with a 32.1% juke rate, and also finished 7th with 3.5 yards per carry against a stacked front. That’s power. If the Seahawks feel neither Davis or Fournette are able to carry a heavy workload through a 17* game season, they may want to take the ‘youth’ route at the position.
That leads me to my next point...
Seattle has just four draft picks in 2021, so they’ll want to use them wisely. They have a lot of needs. But it’s very likely they target a running back with one of their picks because Carroll has selected a running back in every draft since 2016.
Seattle’s first 2021 pick comes in the 2nd round at #56, and their next pick is in the late 4th round. The Seahawks’ RB selection slot is all over the place. The team selected DeeJay Dallas in the 4th round in 2020, Rashaad Penny in the 1st round in 2018, and Carson in the 7th round in 2017.
Let’s look at possible options in the 2nd round and 4th round for 2021.
2nd Round Option
Javonte Williams - North Carolina
This would be a home run for Seattle. Javonte Williams is big (5-10/220), explosive and is not afraid of contact. In December PFF had Williams as the highest graded back in the country (94.7).
Williams is NFL ready and jumps off the tape. He excels at ‘yards after contact,’ and his bread and butter is breaking tackles. I’d expect Carroll to use him a lot like Carson given Williams’ ability to catch the football. He set career highs in receptions & yards in 2020 with very few drops. If for some reason Williams drops to Seattle at #56 this would be a no doubt, no brainer, slam dunk for fantasy. Williams would have a real shot at finishing as a Top-15 back in PPR formats.
4th Round Options
Kylin Hill - Mississippi State
Hill is another big back (5-11/210) who doesn’t mind taking a hit. See a theme here? It’s what Carroll likes.
Hill only appeared in two games in 2020 before opting out and declaring for the draft. In those two games, he caught a career high 23 passes. Hill proved he’s a playmaker in 2019. There are two big stats that stand out:
- Only SEC running back to average better than 100 rushing yards per game (103.8)
- Ranked No. 4 in the SEC in all-purpose yards per game (117.7)
Hill is so much fun to watch. He has phenomenal hands and plays every aspect of the position with so much intelligence. My favorite part about him: He has quick feet that seem to never stop moving until after the whistle.
Trey Sermon - Ohio State
You guessed it...Trey Sermon follows our trend - he’s a big back at 6’1″ and 215 pounds. Sermon also doesn’t have as much mileage as several other backs, which can be appealing to NFL teams. The most carries he’s recorded in a season is 164, and that came when he was at Oklahoma with Kyler Murray.
On tape, Sermon doesn’t exactly jump off the screen like Williams and Hill. He also has an average burst and takes longer strides. Plus, his receiving ability is lacking compared to the others.
However, Sermon appears not to be fully filled out. It is still possible he could add some weight and use it to overpower defenders. He reminds me a lot of LeGarrette Blount, which would be perfect for Carroll’s system.
One of Sermon’s most glowing reviews came from Jim Nagy, a former NFL scout and director of the Senior Bowl. Nagy compared Sermon to the current Raiders’ running back saying, “Josh Jacobs was a backup in college and is a stud in the NFL. Trey Sermon has been a backup in college and WILL be a stud in the NFL.”
Since the days of a feature-back and a workhorse are slipping away each year, you have to value usage in fantasy. When the top tier running backs are taken in your draft – prioritize the Seattle backfield. Carroll will make sure the opportunity is there for whoever is taking handoffs from Russell Wilson.
You can follow me on Twitter @CharlieFriar