Following the unexpected retirement of running back Chris Carson, the Seattle Seahawks will be relying on a new lead ball-carrier this season. It appears that rookie Kenneth Walker III is set to assume that role over fifth-year veteran Rashaad Penny.
"Walker is going to be a bigger part of Seattle's backfield than people may realize," ESPN's Brady Henderson reported. "I could see the Seahawks giving him about as much of the load as Penny, even when both are healthy."
The 41st pick in this year's draft, Walker is coming off a stellar season at Michigan State in which he carried the ball 263 times for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns on his way to being named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. While he was expected to be a member of a backfield committee, his development was accelerated when Carson retired on July 26 because of a neck injury he suffered in 2021.
Henderson points to specific indications that Walker will have a major role in Seattle's offense. Penny's health is a constant concern, as the 26-year-old has not played a full season in his first four years in the NFL. He's recorded just two games in his career with 20 or more carries, per Henderson, so he's not expected to dominate the workload in the Seahawks' run-heavy offense.
Recent comments by Seattle head coach Pete Carroll also point to Walker getting a hefty amount of touches. He recently praised the way Walker "turned the page" in his pass protection ability, which was a deficiency in college.
"He could play all three downs and we'd feel comfortable with it," Carroll said.
The 21-year-old also only caught 19 passes in three collegiate seasons, but Henderson reports that during training camp he "has also shown much better receiving skills out of the backfield than you might assume."
Fantasy managers would be wise to target Walker in the middle rounds of their drafts. It appears that the former Spartan is poised for a breakout season in Seattle's backfield.