One of the recurring themes of the 2014 draft is the continuing devaluation of the running back position, the idea that one good running back is the same as the next. And that with the position having a short shelf life, there’s no reason to spend a high-round pick on one.
Greg Cosell of Yahoo.com, though, has written this piece disputing that idea, and uses Marshawn Lynch and Seattle’s success in 2013 as exhibit A of the difference an elite running back can make.
“There are always examples of teams having success over a short period with certain backs, like New England with LeGarrette Blount late in the season in 2013. People point to Knowshon Moreno as the prime example for the decreased value, and by extension the relative unimportance of running backs, in the NFL. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and caught 60 passes for an additional 548 yards, and he was not in high demand in free agency. That fueled the argument that backs are duplicates, indistinguishable from one another, and therefore less valuable. That misses the point, or more accurately, makes the point. Do you believe that either Blount or Moreno could be Lynch in Seattle?”
Good question, and one Seattle may be faced with soon as Lynch (above against Tampa Bay last season) begins to hit the ages where running backs traditionally drop off — he turned 28 last week and will be a $9 million cap hit in 2014 (with $7.5 million that Seattle could still get out of).
Can Seattle simply plug Robert Turbin or Christine Michael into the offense in a year or two and have the same success as it has had with Lynch?
No way to really know that yet, obviously, especially in the case of Michael, who was a standout in the preseason in 2013 but then played sparingly in the regular season. As we’ve written recently, that could change this year, when you’d think Michael would be thrust into more of a role to see what he can do. Certainly, Seattle needs to get more information on Michael this year to know what it needs to do going forward (and who knows? Maybe the Seahawks add to the competition in the backfield in the draft this year, though with just six picks — at the moment, anyway — and greater apparent needs elsewhere, one would think Seattle might not draft a running back this season).
I’d also argue, though, that in a year or two, when Seattle may need a replacement for Lynch, that the Seahawks may be able to rely on Russell Wilson more greatly than they did in 2013.
As Cosell wrote of the Seahawks:
“They did not blindly follow the gospel that the NFL is a passing league in which all begins and ends with their QB turning it loose. They were not dependent on Wilson throwing for 300 yards on a weekly basis. Their team was not structured that way. Wilson threw for more than 300 yards just twice all season (none in the playoffs), and he did not exceed the 200-yard mark seven times in 19 games. He was efficient and largely mistake-free within their framework. The caveat, of course, and it may be just as important to the Seahawks’ success as Lynch and the league’s number No. 1-ranked defense, was Wilson’s ability to extend plays with his legs, to break down the structure and discipline of the defense, especially on third down. How much is that aspect of the quarterback’s game an indispensable piece of this winning paradigm?”
By 2015, though, Seattle might be more dependent on Wilson to do that. By then, Wilson is likely to be the owner of a contract that could be 6-8- years long and worth $18-20 million a year or so, the kind of deal that inevitably means a QB will be asked to do more. By then, he will also be a bit more experienced and, if Pete Carroll is to be believed (and why not at this point?) a bit better — remember Carroll’s recent comment that he thinks Wilson could soon complete 70 percent of his passes? Seattle’s receiving corps by then also could be up to the challenge of taking more responsibility for the success of the offense, assuming Percy Harvin stays healthy, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse continue to progress, and maybe another difference-maker receiver is found in one of the upcoming drafts.
So maybe it’s a question Seattle ends up avoiding. Or maybe they end up making Cosell’s point — or proving him wrong.
IN OTHER NEWS. …
— More on the fan suing the NFL over Seattle’s playoff ticket policy.
— Jim Moore says it’s not cut and dried that Seattle re-signs Richard Sherman and also thinks this is Lynch’s last year with the Seahawks.
— Red Bryant ranked as one of the best Texas A&M draft picks in recent history. But no mention of Michael (maybe in a year or two?)
— Interesting stuff here on Indiana WR Cody Latimer, who earlier visited the Seahawks and on Sunday visited the Ravens (and former Seahawk WR Bobby Engram, now Baltimore’s WR coach) on the last day that visits were permitted.
— ESPN’s John Clayton with more on Seattle’s schedule and whether the Seahawks were the victim of bias in getting just one prime time home game.
“The Seahawks were a victim of their success and their schedule, not bias. Their two biggest home games after the opener are against the Broncos and 49ers, and CBS and Fox protected them from being moved to prime time. The other options were Dallas, Oakland, the New York Giants, Arizona and St. Louis. The Rams game is in Week 17, when no game is selected for prime time until late in the season. There is no interest in Raiders-Seahawks, and no one was willing to take a chance on Giants-Seahawks with New York coming off a poor season. The Dallas game could be problematic because the Mariners control the October schedule in Seattle’s SoDo district and could force the Seahawks to move an October night game if the Mariners make the playoffs. That leaves the Cardinals, but NBC decided to take that matchup in prime time when it’s in Arizona, because the Cardinals theoretically would have a better chance of making it a competitive game at home.”
— Jermichael Finley will undergo X-rays Monday. Seattle is among the teams he has visited.