2012 NFL Draft: Running backs

The opinions and analysis contained in this feature represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the thoughts and opinions of the Seahawks’ coaching staff and personnel department.

A look at the position heading into the April 26-28 draft:

Best of the bunch

Player, college                             Ht.     Wt.   Projection

Trent Richardson, Alabama      5-9     228   First round

Doug Martin, Boise State          5-9     223   Late first, early second round

David Wilson, Virginia Tech      5-10   206   Second round

Lamar Miller, Miami                   5-11   212   Second round

Chris Polk, Washington              5-11   215   Second round

(Rankings and projections by Rob Rang, senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com)

What it all means: Welcome to yet another position impacted by the NFL’s outta-my-way move to becoming a passing-oriented league. Running backs just don’t seem to be as valued as they were in say 2000, when the Seahawks selected Shaun Alexander with the 19th pick overall and three other backs were drafted before him – Jamal Lewis (No. 5 by the Ravens), Thomas Jones (No. 7 by the Cardinals) and Ron Dayne (No. 11 by the Giants). This year, Richardson is the only back guaranteed to go in the first round, and some are wondering just how far he might slide. As Bucky Brooks, the former NFL wide receiver turned Seahawks scout turned analyst for NFL.com, puts it, “The evolution of the NFL into a passing league has seemingly devalued the running back position.” Brooks adds, “Richardson is the crown jewel of the class with his unique blend of speed, quickness and power. He is not only one the top runners in the draft, but he might be one of the few players capable of making an immediate impact regardless of system.”

What about: Polk. All he did at Washington was set school records for average rushing yards (101.2) and career carries (799). That’s productivity, and durability. But teams continue to be concerned about the shoulder that required two surgical procedures in two years. Polk, however, is undaunted. He followed up a subpar effort at the Senior Bowl in January with a much-better performance at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and then bested that at his Pro Day workout in March. He also has an envious outlook on all the pre-draft speculation that comes with the selection process. “You never really know what teams are thinking and how the draft will go,” he said. “Plus most of the ranking are just people’s opinions.”

Don’t forget about: Martin. Don’t look now, but the Boise State back isn’t just gaining on Miller, Wilson and Polk, he has surpassed them in Rang’s rankings as well as those of some teams. It didn’t hurt that he compiled 301 all-purpose yards, including a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, in the Broncos’ bowl game. Neither did the fact that he had 3,431 rushing yards, 67 receptions and 43 TDs during his career. Neither did his commitment and attitude, which have been on display in meetings with teams. Neither did his efforts at the Combine (4.55 seconds in the 40; 10-foot broad jump; 28 reps with 225 pounds). Neither did one scout using the term “terrific” to describe Martin’s efforts at his Pro Day.

Seahawks situation: In a perfect world, the Seahawks would have another back with a similar style and skills to spell Marshawn Lynch and, perish the thought, step in and carry the load when the Skittles-munching, Beast Mode-running back can’t play. Yes, they still have change-of-pace back Leon Washington. Yes, they signed Kregg Lumpkin in free agency. But as coach Pete Carroll puts it, “Marshawn is an effective player. He brings attitude and he brings personality to it, to our style that we like. It would be nice to have that when he leaves the field, as well. We’ll take it in any shape or form that it will add to the football team.”

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