With the trade of Russell Wilson in the offseason, the Seattle Seahawks made it clear that the team is in offensive rebuilding mode and bridging the gap with pedestrian quarterbacks Drew Lock and Geno Smith. When Wilson came to Seattle a decade ago, he wasn’t expected to be the immediate starter but won the job in training camp and forced his way into the starting lineup as rookie.
The feeling was that Seattle’s offense could be built around the running game. Pete Carroll had deep stable of running backs, headed up by Marshawn Lynch. A decade later, it appears the same blueprint is going to be used as the team moves on from not only Wilson but former featured back Chris Carson, who retired from a neck injury. With Rashaad Penny, rookie Kenneth Walker III, DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer, Seattle has the horses to make the new offense work, but will any of them stand up and stand out?
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A first-round pick in 2018, Penny has been a career bust. He played in just 27 of 48 games in his first three seasons and had just 161 carries for 823 yards to go with 17 receptions, 158 aerial yards, and six touchdowns to show for it.
Seattle didn’t extend the fifth-year option and it appeared as though the organization was done with him. But when Carson went down, Penny took over. In the final five games of the season, he rushed 92 times for 671 yards and six touchdowns – looking like what the Seahawks expected when they drafted him.
The organization re-signed Penny to a one-year deal, and he will enter 2022 atop the depth chart with something to prove. Which Penny will show up – the one who has missed too much time due to injury, or the one who has averaged 5.6 yards a carry in his career?
Kenneth Walker III
Walker, a violent runner, was the 41st pick of the 2022 draft. That alone speaks volumes considering that some of the quarterback class in the draft projected to be first-round picks were still on the board. It sent the clear message that not only was Seattle concerned whether Carson could return but also the uncertainty whether Penny could stay healthy for a full season for the first time in his career.
Walker checks a lot of boxes as to what a team looks for in a running back – a smooth strider, very good lower body strength, good hands as a receiver, and stop-start ability. Many scouts viewed Walker as the best running back in the draft class, and he will get his opportunities to carry a share of the workload at a minimum.
Dallas has carved out a role in the offense as a third-down back, special teams performer and kick returner. His contribution to the offense has been marginal – he’s played only 17 percent of team snaps in two seasons, rushing 67 times for 246 yards, catching 38 passes for 244 yards, and scoring five touchdowns in 29 games.
He has settled into his position but has been allowed to have more than four rushing attempts just four times in his career. Dallas’ special teams ability likely keeps his job safe, but expecting him to make a big leap into carrying the workload of a featured back is unfounded.
In three seasons (39 games), Homer has carried just 64 times for 379 yards (a 5.9-yard average), caught 36 passes for 307 yards, and has scored just two touchdowns. His role will never be safe because he has many more snaps as a special teams player (591) than in Seattle’s offense (403).
Both Homer and Dallas have remained on the roster because of their ability on special teams. If an unheralded player steps up and wows the coaching staff one of the two of them could see their future in jeopardy.
Fantasy football outlook
In most fantasy leagues, Penny is likely going to the highest player drafted because of his experience, incredible performance at the end of last season, and Seattle’s perceived desire to be a run-first team. He’s in the low-end RB3 range, but it’s safer to draft him as a RB4, which likely means you won’t end up with Penny based on his Round 6 ADP.
Walker should be ranked as a low-end RB3, because he has huge upside and Carroll doesn’t have a history of loyalty to his featured backs since Lynch left. It’s tough to trust Penny staying healthy, which works in the rookie’s favor.
Dallas and Homer have no fantasy value.
This will be a team to watch for fantasy players, because their strength is at wide receiver, not running back, and certainly not quarterback. Somebody from this group is going to put up strong numbers, and we’re leaning heavily toward that being Walker.