Defending The Seahawks On This Kenneth Walker Pick

There’s a weird consensus around what the Seattle Seahawks did in this 2022 NFL Draft. People seem to be heartened by the fact that the Seahawks filled some very important holes, and they did so by not reaching. You didn’t hear a lot of chatter about how the Seahawks took guys most experts projected a round or two later. If anything, you heard chatter about how well the Seahawks picked certain guys who might’ve fallen to them unexpectedly. There was, of course, only one trade-back, and it happened well into the third day. Not a lot of fucking around by the Seahawks; as a fan, I appreciated it.

But, the downside to what the Seahawks did – again this is the opinion of the Consensus At Large I’m talking about here – is that they totally and completely neglected the quarterback position, while at the same time taking a running back with the 41st pick.

I’m on record, first of all, that you can’t call this the worst quarterback draft class in recent history – maybe the worst class of the last 2-3 decades – and then give the Seahawks a reduced draft grade for not taking one. Are you listening to yourself? Just because the Seahawks are rolling with Geno Smith and Drew Lock at the moment – and believe me, I’m no fan of either – doesn’t mean they should have doubled down by drafting a guy who’s not going to be any better than them. What’s the point of bringing in a third mediocre QB to throw into the mix? What is Malik Willis going to do to help us win a championship?

That’s one argument I refuse to have. If any of these rookie QBs eventually pan out, then we can have that conversation. But, don’t pretend like you’re out here touting these guys who the NFL passed over multiple times in this very draft!

The other issue is the simple fact the Seahawks took a running back in the second round. I can see this argument, at least, so let’s talk about it.

The Seahawks very much had a need at running back. Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and Travis Homer are all on the final season of their respective deals, while DeeJay Dallas has two years remaining. Carson is currently injured – with a significant, probably career-ending neck issue – and there’s no sign he’ll be ready to play this year or ever again. So, I would discount him immediately; even if he’s cleared by doctors, it wouldn’t shock me to see the team cut him. Rashaad Penny – until late last year – has been constantly injured throughout his career. That’s the whole reason why he only signed a 1-year extension with us! He’s good, maybe even elite, but I’ll believe it when I see it that he can stay on the field for a full season, let alone multiple seasons. And Travis Homer is strictly a backup in this league; he’s just a guy and not even all that good of one, from a football-talent perspective. For what it’s worth, ditto DeeJay Dallas.

The prevailing theory on running backs in the NFL is that quality backs can be found anywhere, all the way down into the 7th round and even among the undrafted rookies. Just get a guy, plug him into your lineup, and you should be fine. These are also, usually, the same people who want to throw the ball 95% of the time, so I don’t know if I’m totally buying what they’re selling. Travis Homer (a 6th rounder) and DeeJay Dallas (a 4th rounder) would seem to argue against the notion you can get a good back anywhere. But, by that same token, Chris Carson (7th rounder) and how great he’s been when healthy is all the ammo they need. Not to mention Rashaad Penny (1st rounder) is the poster child for why you DON’T draft a running back high.

I guess my question, then, is when is it NOT too early to draft a running back? What’s the line of demarcation?

Let’s just, for the sake of argument, look at the NFL’s rushing leaders from last year, and see where those guys were selected:

  1. Jonathan Taylor (2nd round, 41st overall)
  2. Nick Chubb (2nd round, 35th overall)
  3. Joe Mixon (2nd round, 48th overall)
  4. Najee Harris (1st round, 24th overall)
  5. Dalvin Cook (2nd round, 41st overall)
  6. Antonio Gibson (3rd round, 66th overall)
  7. Ezekiel Elliott (1st round, 4th overall)
  8. Elijah Mitchell (6th round, 194th overall)
  9. Derrick Henry (2nd round, 45th overall)
  10. Damien Harris (3rd round, 87th overall)
  11. Melvin Gordon (1st round, 15th overall)
  12. Austin Ekeler (undrafted)
  13. Javonte Williams (2nd round, 35th overall)
  14. Alvin Kamara (3rd round, 67th overall)
  15. Josh Jacobs (1st round, 24th overall)

I could keep going and going. So, for you anti-running back crowd, where’s the cutoff? I know there’s a contingent who thinks even the third round is too early! Yet, of the top 15 running backs last year, 13 of them were taken in the third round or higher. 10 of them were in the first or second rounds. In fact, the sweet spot seems to be right around pick 41, where both Taylor and Cook were selected, to say nothing of Derrick Henry – running back god – who was taken four picks later.

So, if there were no good quarterbacks to be had, and the Seahawks had a pretty urgent need for a quality running back (both to replenish their own supply, as well as to help compensate for shaky quarterbacking we’ve got on our roster currently), why would you shit-talk this team for doing the prudent thing and taking the best running back available? When MOST of the best running backs are taken somewhere in this range, and there was a pretty obvious drop-off in talent in this draft after Breece Hall was nabbed at 36 by the Jets.

For that matter, why aren’t the Jets getting as much shit for taking a running back five spots earlier?!

The next running back off the board went to the Bills at 63; his name is James Cook, and at least one article I read noted him as being among the most overrated coming out of this class.

You jump in there, take the reins of the Seahawks’ draft, and you tell me who you would’ve taken instead. We’d just grabbed Boye Mafe at 40; our third rounder was Abe Lucas at 72. Between those guys and Charles Cross at 9, we addressed our offensive line and got a pass rushing lotto ticket.

I don’t see a lot of point in taking one of the second or third-tier wide receivers, when we already have Lockett and are looking to extend Metcalf. David Ojabo stands out as a name, that would’ve been an idea (especially since it looks like we’re quasi-throwing out the 2022 season anyway). Maybe the center, Cam Jurgens, who went to Philly. Maybe a talented inside linebacker. I dunno, it’s easy to speculate now, but let’s revisit this in a year or two and see who among the players between 41 and 72 turned out to be better than Kenneth Walker.

I mean, this could all blow up in my face and Walker could be a collosal bust in the vein of Christine Michael. But, as I also said previously, just because you get bitten in the ass before by taking crappy running backs too high, that doesn’t mean you just give up on the entire concept. If Walker turns out to be a stud – like Taylor, like Cook – who doesn’t want that on their team? Who looks at Jonathan Taylor and thinks, “Nah, I’d rather have some pass rushing project who will probably cap out at 6 sacks per season.” That’s insane!

Like it or hate it, the Seahawks love to run the football. Who’s going to get a better opportunity to shine – not just as a rookie, but over the next four years – than Kenneth Walker? Rashaad Penny would not only have to prove the last 5-6 weeks weren’t a fluke, but he’ll also have to stay healthy for 17 games in order to keep Walker at bay. And, even then, it might not be enough, if indeed Walker is as good as we think he might be.

You gotta really look at a team, its needs, and its scheme, before you can start throwing out these opinions about how idiotic it is to take a running back at 41. I guarantee you the Colts and Vikings aren’t regretting it. And, I don’t care who’s under center, Walker is only going to be an even bigger help as we throw against 8-man boxes. Let Lockett get underneath some deep balls. Let Metcalf go up and catch passes in traffic. They’re going to be just fine. The play-action game is going to be off the charts.

And when we finally do get our quarterback of the future in the 2023 class? He’ll be stepping into a fantastic situation. Walker should have everything to say about just how great it’ll be.

Scouting Alabama: The Ole Miss Game

I’m not really a scout.  I don’t regularly sit around watching game tape or the All-22’s or whathaveyou.  I’m just a fan with a semi-coherent knowledge of the game beyond the Washington Huskies.  I don’t know if I’ve seen a single Alabama game this whole year!  I might have had part of the Iron Bowl, or the SEC Championship Game, on in the background, with the volume off, on a second television, occasionally glancing over to see Alabama do more Alabama things en route to convincing victories.  So, you know, it’s not like I’m some expert or anything.

In looking at their schedule, it appears there were only two games one might consider “close”.  In early November, Bama went down to LSU and came away with a 10-0 victory.  I have a vague recollection of that game being 0-0 forever before Alabama scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter and it feeling like that was all they needed.  So, if you’re looking for a way to hang in there with Bama, shutting them out for three quarters behind a strong defensive performance is one way to do it.

The other “close” game was much earlier in the season, as Alabama travelled to Ole Miss and came away with a 48-43 victory.  “Close” in quotes because Bama went up 48-30 late in the fourth quarter before giving up some quick garbage-time points.  Nevertheless, Ole Miss was in this one, and very well could have prevailed if it weren’t for some untimely turnovers and even untimelier special teams breakdowns.

At one point, very late in the second quarter, Ole Miss was up 24-3.  A personal foul on the previous touchdown they scored meant that Alabama had excellent field position on the subsequent drive.  It took Bama 3 plays and less than 40 seconds to score a touchdown, which allowed them enough time to force a 3 & Out, which led to Ole Miss giving up a punt return touchdown.  It was 24-17 at halftime, and things got much worse for Ole Miss from there.

On their first drive of the second half, Ole Miss was sacked and the fumble was returned for a touchdown to tie the game.  Ole Miss would go on to give up a go-ahead field goal before mounting a significant, game-changing drive.  In this game, Bama gave up a number of deep balls through the air, which bodes well for a team like Washington.  Ole Miss would get the ball down to the Alabama 1-yard line, trailing by 3 points, for first & goal.  A run for no-gain, a false start, and a loss of two yards put Ole Miss at 3rd & goal from the 8 yard line before a 7-yard scramble by the quarterback put the ball back at the one, at which point they settled for the field goal and the tie.

Bama scored a quick TD behind a long run, followed by an Ole Miss field goal to make it 34-30.  Bama would score another TD behind a long run by their quarterback, before Ole Miss mounted another drive into enemy territory.  They ended up coughing the ball up and Bama returned it for a 75-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach.

Or so it appeared.  Ole Miss got a quick TD, recovered an onside kick, and scored another TD in one play.  That made the game 48-43 with Ole Miss holding all three of their time outs.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, as Bama killed the rest of the clock on seven consecutive runs.

Alabama ran for 334 yards in this game on 48 carries.  Their quarterback, Jalen Hurts, led the way with 146 yards on 18 carries; running back Damien Harris had 144 yards on 16 carries.  Alabama held the ball for over 35 minutes and I feel like that’s what’s going to have to happen if the Huskies want to beat this team.

Ole Miss was able to force Alabama to punt 5 times.  And they REALLY made them work for a lot of their offensive scoring drives.  17 plays to get a field goal in the first quarter.  Another 9 plays to miss a field goal.  Another 10 plays for a field goal in the second half.  You’re doomed to be overwhelmed by Bama if you let them gash you for big plays.  And it’s going to be even worse if you turn the ball over or give up huge plays on special teams.

You don’t get to where Alabama is by playing sloppy.  The Huskies will have to keep it clean.  Pristine.  That means, as I just mentioned, not giving up huge plays on defense (those huge plays are more likely to come from the running game, so that’s something to keep in mind); not giving up huge returns on kickoffs or punts.  That also means not shooting yourselves in the foot with penalties.  Ole Miss didn’t have a ton of penalties – 6 for 65 yards – but on some of their punting drives, they had penalties that put them behind the sticks.  You’re not going to get very far if you’re constantly behind schedule.  And particularly on that drive I talked about above – where they got to the 1-yard line – you’ve got to get that ball in the endzone.  Settling for field goals against Alabama is a great way to ultimately lose to Alabama.

But, like I said, there are yards to be had.  Ole Miss’ quarterback threw for 421 yards on the day, completing only 26/40, with 3 TDs and 0 INTs.  Ole Miss had completions of:

  • 25
  • 44
  • 63
  • 32
  • 22
  • and 37 yards

You pick nearly any successful Husky football game this year, you’re going to find performances much like this.  Jake Browning completing multiple deep balls.  The offense efficiently picking apart teams and putting points up in bunches.  With the run game unlikely to gain much traction – Ole Miss only managing 101 yards on 33 carries – as I’ve said before, the Huskies are going to have to win this one on the arm of Browning.  Ole Miss damn near did it, and that gives me hope because our defense is better, our special teams SHOULD be better, and even though it’ll be tough sledding, our running game is better than that of Ole Miss.

It sounds like a simple formula:  hold their running game in check, limit the big plays, take care of business on special teams, and hit them deep through the air.  But, I’m sure that’s what most teams aimed to do against Alabama, and look at where it got them.

The Ole Miss game proves they’re vulnerable.  That’s what we’ve got to keep in mind here.  It’s up to the offense!  And, if they’re up to the task, we should hang with ’em.  Had Ole Miss protected the football better, they likely would’ve escaped with a win.  You’re not going to score against Bama every time; there will be plenty of punts by the Huskies.  So, you’ve got to take advantage of the scoring opportunities that you create.

And, as the Huskies are one of the best teams at forcing turnovers, just know that those are at your disposal as well.  For as solid as Bama is offensively, they still fumbled a ball against Ole Miss that led directly to points for the other team.  If we can force Jalen Hurts into lots of passing situations, we should hopefully force him into some ill-advised decisions.

For anyone who’s interested, the game is on YouTube.  In under 41 minutes to boot!