Is Chris Carson Poised to Become the NFL's Next Late-Round Star Running Back?

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistAugust 21, 2018

Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson (32) runs against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Gregory Bull/Associated Press

The Seattle Seahawks have their superhero, but quarterback Russell Wilson needs a sidekick. That might explain why Seattle used a first-round pick this offseason on blue-chip former San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny.

Indeed, the Seahawks may have an offensive weapon to complement their star signal-caller, but his name isn't Rashaad Penny.

While Penny has been adjusting to the NFL (he suffered a broken finger in practice last Monday), 2017 seventh-round pick Chris Carson has become a professional buzz-generator in Seattle's offensive backfield.

The 23-year-old Oklahoma State product had Twitter raving after several high-impact carries early in the team's second preseason game Saturday against the Los Angeles Chargers, running around and through first-team defenders.

That was another indication Carson has picked up where he left off last season, when the bulky (5'11", 222 lbs) power back flashed often while averaging a solid 4.2 yards per carry before a broken leg and high ankle sprain ended a promising rookie campaign.

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll told the media in late March that Carson was over that injury. In early June, Carroll praised Carson for his form at organized team activities, saying he looked "so fit and just so cut and quick and explosive and all of that," according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

Carson had said before OTAs—per Stacy Rost of 710 ESPN Seattle—he felt "a lot more solid" than he did last year after putting on about 10 pounds. And Wednesday, before Carson put on his show Saturday night, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport referred to him as the Seahawks' "bell cow."

While patience is a virtue, and there's nothing wrong with playing a complementary role as a rookie, those dynamics could make for an awkward situation if Penny is effective this season.

In May, yours truly deemed Penny to be a potential savior in Seattle. He tore it up with 2,248 rushing yards, 23 touchdowns and 7.8 yards per carry as a senior in the Mountain West Conference.

Rashaad Penny was drafted six rounds earlier than top Seahawks running back Chris Carson.
Rashaad Penny was drafted six rounds earlier than top Seahawks running back Chris Carson.Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

The only running back selected ahead of him was generational talent Saquon Barkley at No. 2 overall. And Seahawks general manager John Schneider—who picked Penny 27th—said he would have felt comfortable taking Penny 18th before Seattle traded down, per Pro Football Focus' Scott Barrett.

Carson was the 26th running back selected in the 2017 draft. He was almost Mr. Irrelevant. As Condotta reported last August, "Questions about his speed and durability helped lead to his fall to the seventh round."

Since he was a high school senior, Carson has suffered a torn ACL, a broken thumb, a pulled hamstring, multiple sprained ankles and the broken leg.

"His longest run at OSU was 26 yards," Condotta noted, "which in part helped lead NFL.com in its scouting profile of Carson to conclude that he 'lacks explosive, playmaking ability.'"

Those concerns haven't disappeared, and he'll never be a burner. But many players have overcome durability questions, and plenty have also succeeded despite lacking a sprinter's speed.

Carson also wouldn't be the first draft afterthought to become a special running back. Former rushing champs Priest Holmes and Arian Foster weren't drafted but made a combined seven Pro Bowls. Hall of Famer Terrell Davis was a sixth-round pick, active standouts Jay Ajayi and Jordan Howard were fifth-rounders, and Curtis Martin, Frank Gore, Jamaal Charles, DeMarco Murray and David Johnson were third-round selections.

Just last year, third-round rookies Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt earned Pro Bowl honors.

Is Carson next? It appears he's improved from both a physical and technical standpoint since he entered the league with not much expected of him, and he's built enough momentum to be considered a prime breakout candidate in 2018.

       

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.

Related

    Latest MVP Odds Have Mahomes, Brees in 2-Man Race

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Latest MVP Odds Have Mahomes, Brees in 2-Man Race

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report

    Is Seahawks' Home-Field Advantage Overrated?

    Seattle Seahawks logo
    Seattle Seahawks

    Is Seahawks' Home-Field Advantage Overrated?

    SI.com
    via SI.com

    Chiefs-Rams Moved from Mexico City to LA

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Chiefs-Rams Moved from Mexico City to LA

    Tyler Conway
    via Bleacher Report

    Saints, Chiefs Move Ahead of Patriots in Latest SB Lines

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Saints, Chiefs Move Ahead of Patriots in Latest SB Lines

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report