Pete Carroll: “The way that we want to play, you need somebody on your team carrying the football. Without an attack guy it doesn’t feel the same. And he (Marshawn Lynch) fits it just right, and he’s taken advantage of the emergence of these guys and the whole scheme, and he’s playing great football. We’re always going to continue to look for guys that add that to us.”
Those comments were made on December 14th, several weeks before Marshawn Lynch agreed a reported $31m four-year extension. Lynch ended the 2011 season running as well as any back in the league, but I still expect the Seahawks to spend one of their first three picks on the position. In February I wrote a piece detailing why I’d come to that conclusion, based on the team’s commitment to the run, needed insurance against Lynch missing time and the sheer depth of talent available at the position this year. Taking a running back in rounds 2-3 won’t be a luxury for Seattle, in fact it might be a necessity.
Lynch will turn 26 in just under three weeks time, but his physical running style has been punishing not just to the opposition but also to the man carrying the rock. The Seahawks clearly believe ‘Beast Mode’ can deal with a big work load and continue to be an x-factor for the offense, but they’ll almost certainly know they need a Plan B. It’s part insurance against injury, but it’s also about making sure the offense isn’t too reliant on Lynch being healthy. Here’s what I wrote nearly two months ago:
“Pete Carroll has made it clear that the run game will make or break this offense, at least until they find ‘the one’ at quarterback. There’s no grey area here, the Seahawks want to run the ball. Most of their investment – be it in the draft, coaches or free agency – has been focused on setting up an effective running game. They can’t move forward knowing they’re an injury to Marshawn Lynch away from losing that identity again. Although many people believed the tepid 6-3 defeat in Cleveland was a review of Tarvaris Jackson’s effectiveness and Charlie Whitehurst’s ineptitude, it was mainly an insight into Seattle’s offense minus-Lynch. The Seahawks cannot risk being caught short and with a lot of talent available at running back in rounds 1-3, it will be a target area.”
Kregg Lumpkin has been added as a free agent, but it appears Justin Forsett won’t be returning. There’s room for another running back. I also suspect the team won’t just be looking for a specialist third-down back or a change-of-pace, but possibly someone with similar characteristics to Lynch. Lumpkin is 5-11 and 228lbs after all, so maybe that’s an indicator.
Looking at the draft, what options do the Seahawks have? Plenty, as it happens. If they want to attack the position early, they could find real value with a Doug Martin or Lamar Miller – two players who could easily carry the load as a feature back at the next level. Martin in particular should not make it into round two – he would be a king steal if he makes it to Seattle’s second pick. Should the board gravitate towards the defense (it’s also a strong second round for linebackers), then the third and fourth rounds are also likely to provide potential impact runners. Below, you’ll find game tape for eleven different running backs. I suspect we could see two separate ‘runs’ on the position, early in round two and then in the middle of round three. The perception that backs can be found beyond round one will create a larger pool of talent after the initial 32 picks, but it could also cause a scramble in the middle rounds.