RUNNING BACK CHRIS WARREN
WHEN DRAFTED: 1990, fourth round, 89th overall
SEAHAWKS CAREER: 1990-97.
WHY HE’S ON THE LIST: One of the better drafts in Seattle history — 1990 — didn’t necessarily lead to a whole lot of wins.
It was that season that the Seahawks used their first three picks on Hall of Fame DT Cortez Kennedy, linebacker Terry Wooden, who would go on to start 105 games in his career, and cornerback Robert Blackmon, who would go on to start 119.
And in the fourth-round with their fourth overall pick, the Seahawks drafted a relatively little known running back from Ferrum named Chris Warren (above in an Associated Press photo) who would go on to rush for 6,706 yards in eight seasons as a Seahawk, departing as the leading rusher in team history before later being passed by Shaun Alexander (who has 9,429).
NFL teams knew all about Warren’s talent. But he had been forced to leave Virginia after his junior year due to academic issues and instead finished his career at Division III Ferrum (all well documented here in a 1996 story by Larry Stone). And being somewhat out of sight at the end of his career, as well as the questions raised by his transfer, helped drop him to the fourth round.
Seattle, which had just seen the Curt Warner era come to an end, grabbed Warren after some running backs who turned out to be busts — such as Blair Thomas and Anthony Thompson — had already been taken.
That 1990 draft, though, also featured Emmit Smith, who ended up the leading rusher in NFL history with 18,355 yards. Warren’s career total of 7,696 (he had stints with Dallas and the Eagles after leaving Seattle) ranks third in that draft class, behind Smith and Terry Allen’s 8,614.
Warren may have put up bigger numbers except he rushed for just 24 yards on 17 carries his first two seasons while being used primarily as a kick returner, with the carries instead going primarily to Derrick Fenner and John L. Williams (and you sort of wonder how that would be perceived today).
But once he got the RB job, Warren turned into one of the best in the NFL in the mid-90s, making three straight Pro Bowls from 1993-95. Alas, that was during the messy period when the Behrings owned the team and the on-field product often seemed the last priority of the organization. Despite what in retrospect seems like a lot of good players, Seattle went from 1989-98 without making the playoffs (and admittedly, quarterback was a huge issue, as well).
Warren had to wait until his Dallas and Philadelphia days to make the post-season.
But going from fourth-rounder to leading career rusher makes him one of Seattle’s best draft picks.