This week I mocked Boise State’s senior running back Doug Martin to the Seahawks in round two. The pick raised a few eye brows, with people questioning why the team would spend such a high choice on the position with Marshawn Lynch likely to be re-signed or at least franchise tagged before hitting the open market. I suppose it all comes down to the importance of the running game for this offense. Pete Carroll made it a priority upon his arrival in Seattle and it’s why he appointed Alex Gibbs and then Tom Cable to coach his offensive line and coordinate the running game. Carroll wants to run the ball, and run the ball with authority.
The Lynch trade was an inspired move, collecting a legitimate first round talent at a bargain price. Baltimore coach John Harbaugh wasn’t being cute when he referred to Lynch as, “definitely a Top 2 or 3 running back in the National Football League.” He went on to collect 167 total yards against the Ravens after that glowing review. Yet consistent physical punishment comes with the position and it’s why so many backs lose their edge when they hit 30. We saw what the Seahawks offense looked like without Marshawn Lynch in Cleveland, and this front office is well aware that even the best laid plans can be spoilt. Re-signing Lynch is a must, but so is making sure their investment is protected.
Doug Martin might not be quite ‘Beast Mode’ but he has a similar physical running style and a knack of gaining extra yards after the initial contact. You’ll see in the tape below that he’s also no slouch, with the ability to weave through tackles and break off big gains. He’s a compact 5-9 and 215lbs and enjoyed a productive career with the Broncos, scoring 47 total touchdowns in three seasons. A determined runner with good vision and a patient running style, Tony Pauline this week suggested he could be a first round pick, stating, “We continue to hear nothing but good things about Boise State running back Doug Martin. Several scouts have stamped Martin with a first round grade. And though a first round grade does not necessarily mean Martin ends up a top 32 pick, he won’t be far off.” There’s a very real possibility Martin could be drafted on day one.
The Seahawks have so far used a change of pace back to spell Lynch and offer more flexibility on third down. Justin Forsett is a free agent, while Leon Washington’s role as a ball-carrier hasn’t truly progressed even if he still has a lot of value as a kick return specialist. It may be that if Seattle’s front office is indeed looking at running back’s early, they’d prefer a Lamar Miller or David Wilson to offer a different skill set to Marshawn Lynch. At the same time, the Seahawks had so much success pounding the ball last year and the concept of a Lynch-Martin one-two punch does appeal. It also gives the Seahawks options for the future, especially if they only re-sign Lynch to a one-year franchise tag contract. Miller and Wilson may only ever be supplemental backs, while Martin appears to primed for a greater workload.
Of course, it could be a moot point on April 26th if Trent Richardson falls to the #11 or #12 pick. Depending on which defensive players remain on the board, Seattle could end up with the most dynamic running back combo the league has ever witnessed. ESPN’s Todd McShay updated his mock draft yesterday and had the Seahawks taking Richardson in the first round. McShay: “Richardson is a top-five talent but will likely slip a bit because of positional value considerations. Falling this far would be a surprise, but none of the teams in the top 10 have a pressing need at running back. If none of them ignore need to take the best player available, the Seahawks will feel like they’ve won the lottery.”
I don’t expect Richardson to fall to Seattle, with Cleveland and Tampa Bay very likely suitors for such a talented player. Even so, imagine the prospect of Richardson and Lynch working together in the backfield. It’s an enticing idea, but an idea not too far detached from a Lynch-Martin combo. Believe it or not, the Seahawks may consider a healthy stable of running backs the next biggest priority after improving the front seven on defense. And while quarterback remains the team’s greatest need until it’s finally solved for the long haul, it could be a situation that’s at least improved before the draft even takes place.
Doug Martin tape vs Arizona State, Nevada, New Mexico (2011) and Nevada (2010) courtesy of JMPasq and Aaron Aloysius