NFC West: Robert Turbin

Seahawks rookie review: Snap leaders

August, 10, 2013

A quick look at the Seattle Seahawks' 2013 draft class following the team's exhibition opener against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium:

RB Christine Michael, second round, No. 62 overall. Michael carried 16 times for 89 yards and had a 24-yard run late in the game. His quickness was evident. This performance suggested the rookie could help the Seahawks this season. Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin could make carries scarce for Michael and other backs, however.

DT Jordan Hill, third round, No. 87 overall. Hill seemed close to making plays without finishing consistently. He did apply pressure to the quarterback. Hill finished the game with one tackle. He played more snaps on defense (44) than any of the team's other draft choices. Officials flagged Hill for illegal use of hands.

WR Chris Harper, fourth round, No. 123 overall. Harper gained 8 yards on his lone reception. He was open another time, but the Chargers pressured quarterback Tarvaris Jackson into throwing to fullback Derrick Coleman instead.

DT Jesse Williams, fifth round, No. 137 overall. Williams faced double-team blocking more frequently than I would have anticipated. He played 28 percent of the defensive snaps and did not factor on the stat sheet.

CB Tharold Simon, fifth round, No. 138 overall. A foot injury caused Simon to miss the game. He has not practiced with the team during camp to this point. Seattle's quality depth at corner means Simon faces a tough fight upon his return.

TE Luke Willson, fifth round, No. 158 overall. Willson caught two passes for 16 yards, including a 15-yarder to convert on third down. His inability to catch a pass on another third-down play killed a drive. Willson played 16 snaps on offense and 10 on special teams. Only Jameson Konz (11) and Jeremy Lane (11) played more snaps on special teams.

FB Spencer Ware, sixth round, No. 194 overall. Ware matched Michael in offensive snaps with 27. He carried seven times for 32 yards (4.6 per carry) and a touchdown. He had a 20-yard run to go with his 6-yard scoring run.

G Ryan Seymour, seventh round, No. 220 overall. Seymour played 22 snaps (39 percent). That ranked third among the three offensive linemen Seattle drafted in 2013.

LB Ty Powell, seventh round, No. 231 overall. Powell ranked second on the team with six tackles while playing 31 snaps, or 46 percent. He made a tackle for a 2-yard loss in the second quarter, taking down Chargers running back Fozzy Whittaker, a player San Diego claimed off waivers from Arizona.

G Jared Smith, seventh round, No. 241 overall. Smith played 30 snaps. I wasn't watching him closely enough to take note of his contributions.

T Michael Bowie, seventh round, No. 242 overall. Bowie and undrafted free agent Alvin Bailey give the Seahawks a couple of promising young tackles to develop. Both seemed to play well in this game. Bowie played 44 snaps on offense, matching Hill for the most scrimmage snaps for a 2013 Seattle draft choice.
Good morning, NFC West. We've got some news and notes on running backs to sort through as the Thursday night preseason openers approach for every team in the division but Arizona, which opens Friday.

Let's get right to the specifics.

Arizona Cardinals: The team has already been without Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams, the projected top two backs if healthy. Both have had knee-related issues. Rookie Andre Ellington left practice Tuesday, possibly for an injury to his neck area. Mendenhall resumed practicing this week, but he remains limited. Arizona ran extremely low on players at this position last season, so the early personnel shortages are a bit concerning.

St. Louis Rams: Coach Jeff Fisher pointed to Daryl Richardson as the starting running back over Isaiah Pead. Rookie Zac Stacy is another one to watch. Fisher: "Daryl comes back as our starter because he played significantly more last year than anybody, and so Isaiah is working himself up and competing with Daryl. And you’ve got the rest of the guys that are just going to battle it out, and we haven’t ruled anybody out from that matter. But we're going to try to get as many carries as we can."

San Francisco 49ers: Undrafted rookie D.J. Harper is getting high marks for his blocking in particular. That is often an area where rookie running backs struggle. But as Matt Barrows notes, Harper knocked Pro Bowl linebacker NaVorro Bowman to the ground during pass-blocking drills, catching the attention of running backs coach Tom Rathman. This one falls into the file-it-away category. A rookie runner probably isn't going to factor for the 49ers in the regular season.

Seattle Seahawks: Rookie second-round choice Christine Michael has stood out for his explosive running, but he left practice Tuesday and was headed to ice his back. It's not clear whether Michael was injured or simply needing some routine maintenance, but with No. 2 running back Robert Turbin still coming back from a foot injury, depth at the position is a question mark.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Greetings from the construction site known as San Francisco 49ers headquarters. The new stadium dwarfs the facility across the blocked-off street. I'll be watching practices and conducting interviews over the next couple days.

Depth issues at receiver have pushed second-year 49ers receiver A.J. Jenkins into the training camp spotlight. The 49ers aren't the only team seeking 2013 contributions from skill-position players drafted in 2012. With each team in mind, here’s a look at where these offensive skill-position players (including quarterbacks) from the 2012 draft factor with their NFC West teams one week into camps.

Arizona Cardinals

The players: WR Michael Floyd (first round) and QB Ryan Lindley (sixth round)

Rookie impact: Floyd finished the season with 45 receptions, including eight for 166 yards and a score against San Francisco in Week 17. Lindley struggled as an emergency starter under brutal circumstances.

[+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsSeattle quarterback Russell Wilson might be able to rely more on his running game in 2013.
2013 outlook: Floyd is the relevant player here. He's projected to start opposite Larry Fitzgerald. Lindley is competing for the third-string job and could probably use a season in the shadows to recover from a rookie season where too much was asked of him.

QB Carson Palmer on Floyd: "He gets it. He understands it. He has had a natural feel for getting open in zones, which is something you're not taught. You just sit there and watch film with a guy forever and you either have it or it's something that takes years to develop. Phenomenal player."

Seattle Seahawks

The players: QB Russell Wilson (third round) and RB Robert Turbin (fourth round)

Rookie impact: Wilson tied Peyton Manning's rookie record for touchdown passes. He led the NFL in passer rating and Total QBR over the final eight games of the season. Wilson had a 22-4 ratio of total touchdowns to turnovers during that span. Turbin proved valuable as the primary backup to Marshawn Lynch, carrying 80 times for 354 yards (4.4 per carry).

2013 outlook: Seattle expects more of the same from both of these players. Wilson should benefit from a full offseason as the starter. He carried the offense for stretches late last season, but the Seahawks don't necessarily need him to do so consistently. They've got a strong ground game and defense, putting Wilson in position to succeed even though opponents will be better prepared for him this time around.

WR Golden Tate on Wilson: "You know that at any moment, Russell can throw a deep ball for six or he could take off running for 30 yards."

San Francisco 49ers

The players: WR A.J. Jenkins (first round) and RB LaMichael James (second round)

Rookie impact: The 49ers did not need either player for most of the season. Jenkins failed to gain traction at any point and finished with zero receptions. James added a welcome dynamic to the offense when the team lost Kendall Hunter to injury.

2013 outlook: Jenkins has a sore hamstring and by most accounts hasn't made much of an impact this summer despite gaining strength through the offseason. Injuries at the position have cleared the way for him. Preseason games could be telling. James had 38 carries for 190 yards (5.0 per carry) over seven games, counting playoffs. He's a keeper, for sure, but Hunter's return could relegate James to another season in the No. 3 role. His time is coming, but perhaps not until 2014.

Note: This space was reserved for a comment relating to Jenkins or James, but I could find none from training camp. Having just arrived at 49ers headquarters, I'll ask someone about Jenkins, for sure.

St. Louis Rams

The players: WR Brian Quick (second round), RB Isaiah Pead (second round), WR Chris Givens (fourth round) and RB Daryl Richardson (seventh round)

Rookie impact: Givens set a rookie record with at least one reception of 50-plus yards in five consecutive games. Quick flashed ability with a 36-yard touchdown reception against San Francisco, the second-longest allowed by the 49ers all season. But he had only 11 receptions overall. Pead wasn’t a factor. Richardson was a pleasant surprise with 98 carries for 475 yards (4.8 per carry).

2013 outlook: Pead must serve a one-game suspension to open the season, but he will likely factor prominently in a committee approach at running back. Givens was becoming more than just a deep threat late last season, a trend that should continue. Quick will get opportunities, but will he capitalize on them? Richardson has a shot at starting.

Coach Jeff Fisher on Quick: “I think we all got really excited [Tuesday] with his physicality. There was a run play yesterday and he came in and cracked the WILL linebacker and put him on the ground. A couple plays later he was run blocking a corner and he threw him on the ground. There was another catch, I think it might have been a couple days ago, where he used his body and went over a guy and it’s just really nice to see that from Quick because he has all the physical ability in the world. To see him finally using his strength and his size is a really good sign.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Issues with Ryan Williams' surgically repaired right knee sent the Arizona Cardinals' third-year running back to the sideline less than three full practices into the team's first training camp under coach Bruce Arians. An MRI exam showed no new damage, Arians said Monday, but Williams will seek a second opinion just to be sure. No one is quite sure when the 2011 second-round draft choice might be cleared for return.

The occasion provides an opportunity to examine as a group Williams and the other prominent halfbacks NFC West teams selected in 2011 and 2012. None was selected to start immediately, so we shouldn't evaluate them solely on production. This sixsome has endured a torn Achilles' tendon (Kendall Hunter), a torn patella tendon (Williams) and a one-game suspension (Isaiah Pead). All will likely serve as backups or in committees.

Williams, who has sometimes appeared dynamic on the practice field for his ability to change direction without losing much speed, could face a make-or-break season after knee (2011) and shoulder (2012) injuries kept him off the field. "I would think so," Arians said.

NFC West teams continued drafting running backs in 2013. They selected a league-high six of them: second-rounder Christine Michael (Seattle), fourth-rounder Marcus Lattimore (San Francisco), fifth-rounder Zac Stacy (St. Louis), fifth-rounder Stepfan Taylor (Arizona), sixth-rounder Spencer Ware (Seattle) and sixth-rounder Andre Ellington (Arizona). Ware has played some fullback in the past and is playing that position now.

The division parted with two incumbent starters when Arizona released Beanie Wells and St. Louis let Steven Jackson out of his contract. The Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch and the 49ers' Frank Gore appear likely to produce at high levels again this season, but their teams are increasingly in position for the future.
Two of the NFC West's top receivers, Michael Crabtree and Percy Harvin, headline a list of players declared physically unable to perform (PUP) as training camps gain momentum.

PUP designations carry different meanings at different times of the year. With that in mind, now is a good time to freshen up on the implications.

Players on PUP lists entering camp continue counting against the 90-man roster limit. They cannot practice while on the list. However, their teams can activate them from the list at any time before the mandatory roster reduction to 53 players, provided the players pass a physical exam.

This year, teams must reduce to 53 players by 6 p.m. ET on Aug. 31.

Players remaining on PUP lists at the reduction to 53 players must remain on the list for their teams' first six games. They do not count against the 53-man roster limit during that time. After six games have passed, players on PUP have a three-week window to resume practicing. Once a player begins practicing within that window, the team has another three weeks to activate the player from the PUP list onto the 53-man roster.

In effect, a player on the PUP list at the reduction to 53 players could return after his team's sixth game or as long as six weeks after that. The NFL had discussed expanding the three-week window for practicing by two weeks. I'm checking on the status of that proposal, which would have required collaboration with the NFL Players Association.

Update: The window has indeed been extended from three weeks to five weeks, according to the NFL.

Thirteen players from the NFC West are on PUP lists. Five others are on non-football injury (NFI) lists. The rules for NFI mirror those for PUP, the difference being that players on NFI lists suffered injuries unrelated to football. For example, the San Francisco 49ers recently activated defensive lineman Lamar Divens from the NFI list. They did not disclose the source of his injury, but teammate Ahmad Brooks had struck him in the head with a bottle in June, according to authorities.

Separately, the 49ers have also activated linebacker Darius Fleming and receiver Kyle Williams from their PUP list.

Running back situations in the NFC West come into clearer focus when we consider the 2012 stats for backs currently on division teams' rosters.

Check out the stats in the chart. They show current backs for the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals with a combined one rushing touchdown last season, compared to 27 combined rushing scores for backs with the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

We already knew the Cardinals and Rams were counting on players new to the league, returning from injuries or trying to reestablish themselves. Taking a look at those numbers drives home the contrast.

Think of it this way: Running backs currently with the 49ers and Seahawks combined for 3,799 yards last season, compared to 1,092 yards for their counterparts on the Rams and Seahawks. The difference between those figures is 2,707 yards, or 1.54 miles.

The Rams have become more pass-oriented in their personnel and mindset. They'll be looking for Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and rookie Zac Stacy to combine for healthy production overall. The Cardinals are hoping free-agent addition Rashard Mendenhall and incumbent Ryan Williams can get healthy and stay that way.

The Seahawks and 49ers, meanwhile, have the best starting backs in the division, Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore. They also have the best backups, led by Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James in San Francisco, and Robert Turbin and Christine Michael in Seattle. They have allocated more financial resources and draft capital toward the position over the past couple years. They also have quarterbacks with rushing ability, but their stats don't show up in the chart.

Seattle's Russell Wilson had 498 yards rushing last season. The 49ers' Colin Kaepernick had 415 yards. Those figures nearly match the totals for running backs in Arizona (563) and St. Louis (529).

In some cases, teams pass the ball effectively to win games, then run the ball to control games. Seattle and San Francisco have been more run-oriented by design. I wouldn't expect significant shifts in philosophy even though both teams' quarterbacks have proven they can throw the ball to great effect.

Eight in the Box: RB status check

May, 24, 2013
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each NFC West team look at running back, and what still needs to be done?

Arizona Cardinals: This is a transitional year at the position for Arizona. Free-agent addition Rashard Mendenhall gets a shot to revive his career following a disappointing finish with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He's familiar with Bruce Arians' offense, giving him a head start over the competition. Ryan Williams has a shot at the job, too, but he's been injured and recently admitted to playing scared last season while trying to protect his surgically repaired knee. General manager Steve Keim was a huge fan of the speed and cutting ability Williams offered coming out of college, but knee and shoulder injuries have taken a significant toll. Can Williams bounce back? Arians wants his backs versatile enough to play on third down as well. The team used a 2013 fifth-round choice for Stanford career rushing leader Stepfan Taylor with that in mind.

St. Louis Rams: Youth will be served in the Rams' offensive backfield now that Steven Jackson has left in free agency. The Rams could have kept Jackson, but they let him out of his contract with an eye toward building a younger roster. Rookie fifth-round pick Zac Stacy will get every chance to earn a prominent role on early downs. Isaiah Pead, a second-round choice in 2012, projects as more of a change-of-pace back. Daryl Richardson, a seventh-rounder last year, should also figure into the mix. The Rams anticipated moving forward from Jackson with a committee setup. It's an upset if one of the backs on the roster commands a huge majority of the carries. The Rams have assumed more of a fast-break look at the skill positions without Jackson as an offensive centerpiece.

San Francisco 49ers: Frank Gore remains the primary back at age 30 after holding up physically through a 19-game season in 2012. The 49ers have set up themselves for life after Gore by drafting Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Marcus Lattimore in recent seasons. The position has obviously been a priority for San Francisco. The 49ers know what the numbers say about running backs declining in their late 20s. Gore has resisted the trend to this point and doesn't seem to be declining. Meanwhile, the dynamics behind Gore are fluid. Hunter could remain the No. 2 back if he can bounce back from ACL surgery, but James demonstrated during the playoffs why he should factor as well. Lattimore, a fourth-round pick this year, will get the full 2013 season to recover from a career-threatening knee injury suffered in college. This amounts to a redshirt year for him.

Seattle Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch blows off postgame interviews, shows up for the Seahawks' offseason program at his leisure and has a DUI case pending in the courts. He is even tougher to tackle on the field. The Seahawks know they have a great thing going with the hard-charging Lynch -- for as long as it lasts. They've been hedging their bets for two years running. Robert Turbin, a fourth-round choice in 2012, fits the power mold and has a promising future. The same goes for 2013 second-rounder Christine Michael. And if those picks weren't enough, Seattle used a 2013 sixth-rounder for Spencer Ware, who projects as a combination halfback/fullback. Lynch is arguably the best back in the division. Michael's addition gives the Seahawks outstanding young depth, too.
NFC West teams have been stockpiling running backs. They selected six of them in the NFL draft last month. The Arizona Cardinals also added Rashard Mendenhall in free agency.

Jacob from Gig Harbor, Wash., hit the NFC West mailbag with a question about the Seattle Seahawks' approach to the position under Pete Carroll. He wondered whether Christine Michael's arrival as a second-round draft choice signaled a shift to the multi-back approach Carroll used at USC.

There's no question Carroll is implementing much of his USC vision with the Seahawks. Stockpiling running backs is part of that vision. I just don't see a rookie affecting the rotation significantly right away unless he blows away expectations during training camp and the exhibition season. Lynch is arguably one of the five best backs in the NFL. Robert Turbin enters training camp ahead of Michael on the depth chart.

There is only one football to go around.

Carroll has said he wants no drop-off at the position when backups go into the game. He has also said the team needed another running back after releasing Leon Washington. Adding Michael seems more like a move made with the longer term in mind.

Lynch played 66 percent of the offensive snaps in 16 games last season. That was up about 10 percentage points from his total in the 15 games he played a season earlier. I could see that figure regressing some naturally and not necessarily as part of a planned shift. Turbin should be better prepared to help the team in his second NFL season. I would expect Lynch to continue playing more than half the offensive snaps if healthy. The plan for Michael would be to develop his pass-blocking skills and all-around game this season.

"First off, we ran the ball more than anybody in the NFL last year, so we want this position loaded up," Carroll said in explaining Michael's selection. "I think the chance to get another good, strong, tough guy like we did just adds to the theme of what we're trying to present as a team."

Of Michael specifically, Carroll said, "He has not done as much pass protection work as we'd like. When we looked at Robert last year, we felt the same way, but Robert came on really strong as a pass-blocker, so we hope to do the same thing with Christine."

One question I have is whether Seattle will become more of a three-receiver team with Percy Harvin joining the offense. That would make sense, in theory, because Harvin, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate figure to rank among the best candidates for the five spots available to receivers, running backs and tight ends on any given play.

Using three receivers at a time more frequently would lead to more one-back sets, putting a premium on the back's ability to hold up in pass protection.
NFC West teams loaded up on halfbacks (as opposed to pure fullbacks) during the recently completed 2013 NFL draft.

The division selected six of them, two more than any other division selected.

A quick look at how the six could figure into their teams' plans:
  • Second round, 62nd overall: Christine Michael, Texas A&M. Michael heads to the Seattle Seahawks as the third back behind Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin, with a chance to challenge Turbin for the No. 2 role initially. Michael provides longer-term insurance for the position, but he could be talented enough to get carries as a rookie.
  • Fourth round, 131st overall: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina. The San Francisco 49ers plan to give Lattimore as much as one full season to complete his rehabilitation from a career-threatening knee injury. Lattimore factors into the 49ers' longer-term plans at the position, possibly as a replacement for Frank Gore down the line. There will be no rush to get him on the field in 2013.
  • Fifth round, 140th overall: Stepfan Taylor, Stanford. The Arizona Cardinals already have Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams, but both have had injury problems. Taylor, the career rushing leader at Stanford, provides immediate insurance at the position. His credentials as a power runner could make him a candidate to handle short-yardage duties. Durability has been a strength for Taylor, differentiating him from Mendenhall and Williams. Coach Bruce Arians values three-down backs. He considers Taylor one of them.
  • Fifth round, 160th overall: Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt. The St. Louis Rams plan to use Stacy in committee with Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson. Stacy is heavier and stouter than the others. He appears better suited for handling a workload on early downs and in short-yardage situations. Stacy could wind up getting more carries than any of the other rookie backs in the division.
  • Sixth round, 187th overall: Andre Ellington, Clemson. The Cardinals expect to keep four running backs on the roster, giving Ellington a very good chance to stick as a change-of-pace back with big-play potential and value in the return game. The Cardinals said they weren't planning on drafting another back, but they thought the value was strong and that Ellington provided a style the other backs on the roster did not provide.
  • Sixth round, 194th overall: Spencer Ware, LSU. Ware was a halfback for the Tigers, but he has also played fullback. The Seahawks expect the 230-pound Ware to push veteran fullback Michael Robinson. They value Robinson as a lead blocker and for his contributions on special teams. Ware would be the better runner of the two.
Good morning, NFC West. After spending some of Wednesday discussing the long-term future for Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, we should update the short-term future as well.

Lynch's 2012 DUI case is scheduled to continue with a May 22 motion for dismissal. The case is otherwise scheduled for trial June 21, although attorneys routinely succeed in securing continuances.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune has the details. Meanwhile, Danny O'Neil and Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle offer thoughts on the court information and Lynch's absence (so far) from voluntary offseason workouts.

The takeaway is pretty simple. There's not enough information to know whether Lynch faces additional discipline from the NFL in the form of a possible suspension, but in the bigger picture, Seattle had ample reason to consider drafting a running back as insurance.

Seattle's use of the 62nd overall choice for Texas A&M running back Christine Michael provides protection for the short and long term. It puts the team in position to remain fully committed to its ground game without being overly reliant on Lynch. Michael and second-year pro Robert Turbin could carry a full workload if necessary.

Lynch has always done things his own way, whether it's attending offseason workouts, refusing to fulfill league-mandated media obligations or engaging in risky off-field behavior.

The Seahawks can live with small inconveniences as long as Lynch remains a highly productive player. There is no way to know how long Lynch will remain a highly productive player, however. Back spasms have limited his availability for practices, threatened his availability for games and prevented him from playing once.
Christine Michael and Marshawn LynchGetty ImagesChristine Michael, left, gives the Seahawks additional running back depth behind Marshawn Lynch.
Jump ahead to 2015 and put yourself in John Schneider's seat as the Seattle Seahawks' general manager.

By then, you will have re-signed or lost elite players such as safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman.

Your quarterback, Russell Wilson, will be entering the final year of his rookie contract. Wilson will be eligible to sign a new one for the first time under the NFL's labor rules.

The same goes for Bobby Wagner, your starting middle linebacker, and Bruce Irvin, your highly drafted pass-rusher. All will cost much more than they're costing right now.

Your Pro Bowl left tackle, Russell Okung, will also be entering a contract year.

One receiver, Percy Harvin, will have a contract counting $12.9 million against the salary cap. Another, Sidney Rice, will have a deal counting $10.2 million.

Oh, and one other thing about this 2015 adventure: You'll have to decide whether to pay a $2 million roster bonus and $5.5 million salary for a running back entering his ninth season.

Marshawn Lynch is that running back, and right now, in 2013, he's about as good as they come, this side of Adrian Peterson. But you'll need younger, more economical alternatives for some of your best players down the line. These aren't the sort of immediate needs that show up in draft previews, but they're always lurking.

Now, thanks to one of the more surprising moves in the 2013 draft, the Seahawks have bought insurance for their future at the position most vulnerable to age.

Christine Michael, the Texas A&M running back Seattle unexpectedly selected 62nd overall Friday, must by rule sign a four-year contract through 2016. His deal will run past the contracts that Lynch and backup running back Robert Turbin signed last offseason. It will count far less against the cap than the $9 million Lynch's deal is scheduled to count in 2015.

Seattle probably did not draft Michael with the distant future in the front of its mind. One explanation trumps all others when determining why the Seahawks used a second-round draft choice for a running back with two perfectly good ones on the roster already. The team thinks Michael can be special.

"He was the highest-rated player on our board and we lost Leon Washington, so we were looking for a little bit of depth there, and he is just our kind of runner," Schneider said. "He's a tough, intense, up-field, one-cut guy, and he's just a very good football player, competitor."

Adding Michael does not imperil Lynch for the 2013 season, of course. It does provoke natural tendencies to wonder whether there's more to this story.

"I could be far-fetched here," Kevin from McKinney, Texas, wrote to the NFC West mailbag, illustrating how far the mind can wander, "but is it possible John Schneider and [coach] Pete Carroll are concerned with Lynch's future effectiveness due to the new lowering of the crown rule? It seems to me that is a big part of his game and significantly contributes to his yards after contact."

There is no way the rulebook pressured Seattle into drafting a running back.

Carroll and other coaches fear officials will struggle enforcing the new rule preventing runners from lowering their heads and delivering an aggressive blow to the opponent with the top of the helmet. The rule could affect Lynch, but league officials said they discovered only a few would-be violations per week when studying tape from last season.

The Seahawks selected Michael because they thought he was the best back in the draft and well-suited to their offense. They wanted additional depth for their running game, which will remain the focus of their offense. They have to realize that Lynch's back spasms, while manageable to this point, could become more problematic with additional wear and tear. And they surely realize that Lynch's occasional off-field troubles dating to his time with the Buffalo Bills could recur, inviting sanctions.

Adding Michael doesn't mean the team thinks less of Lynch or Turbin, a 2012 fourth-round choice. There are no indications the team is anticipating a Lynch suspension in relation to his DUI arrest last offseason.

Still, I would bet against Lynch playing out the final year of his deal when Michael and Turbin figure to be available at a significant discount.

Seattle was fortunate in 2010 to have a running back of Lynch's caliber and young age (then 24) become available by trade at reasonable cost. The team was wise to re-sign Lynch one year ago to a four-year deal featuring $17 million in guaranteed money.

This marriage should be good for both parties for the next couple of seasons.

Lynch's deal pays him $7 million in salary with an $8.5 million salary-cap charge in 2013. It carries a $5 million salary and $7 million cap number in 2014. The team will have a decision to make at that point because Lynch's deal includes a $5.5 million salary and a $2 million roster bonus with a $9 million cap figure for 2015, the contract's final year.

Michael, a luxury buy at present, should be much more than that by then.
Percy Harvin and Tavon AustinGetty ImagesSeeing Tavon Austin (right) go the the Rams at No. 8 validated Seattle's trade for Percy Harvin.

RENTON, Wash. -- The more the Seattle Seahawks watched game tape on Tavon Austin, the more they realized the West Virginia receiver would not last long in the 2013 NFL draft.

Back in mid-March, the Seahawks could not know Austin would land with the NFC West-rival St. Louis Rams. They had recently traded the 25th overall choice to the Minnesota Vikings to acquire another multidimensional wideout, Percy Harvin.

John Schneider, the Seahawks' general manager, felt relief Thursday when the Rams traded up eight spots in the first round to make Austin the first skill-position player selected.

It's not that Schneider was happy to see such an elite talent land in St. Louis. Quite the opposite. Even the Seahawks' suffocating secondary could have its troubles against a receiver as gifted as Austin. It's just that the way the first round played out affirmed the Seahawks' decision to acquire Harvin. They could not have secured another wideout with as much playmaking potential had they held onto the 25th overall pick.

Austin wasn't going to be there for them.

Once the Rams moved up from 16th to eighth for Austin, no NFL teams selected a wideout until the Houston Texans drafted Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins at No. 27. Cordarrelle Patterson went to the Vikings two picks later.

"Quite honestly, it made me feel at peace just because of where we were with the Percy deal when it started," Schneider said following the third round Friday night.

Both Hopkins and Patterson are obviously talented, but if they had struck evaluators as fitting into the Austin/Harvin mold, teams would have been tripping over one another in a rush to draft them earlier.

Schneider's thinking came into clearer focus in the weeks since Seattle made the move for Harvin before free agency opened March 12.

"I really wasn't quite sure, didn't feel really strongly about the difference makers at the receiver position at that level of the first round [in the 25th-pick range]," Schneider reflected. "And then the closer we got to the draft, the tape on Austin, it just kind of became obvious that he was going to be an extremely high pick."

That commentary should please Rams fans and Seahawks fans alike. Each team's leadership thought Austin was special. The Seahawks knew they had to deal for Harvin if they hoped to land a similar player. Not that Austin and Harvin are interchangeable. While both threaten the end zone as receivers, runners and returners, Harvin has a much sturdier build. He's part running back and part receiver in a much fuller sense. But touchdowns are touchdowns, and both teams expect their new wideouts to supply them multiple ways.

"We really do think Percy is our No. 1 pick," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He is part of this class."

Acquiring Harvin and addressing other areas of the roster during free agency left Seattle without significant needs entering this draft. That allowed the Seahawks, already loaded in the backfield with Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin, to indulge in Texas A&M running back Christine Michael.

This was a luxury pick and arguably a nonsensical one. It's also the sort of move smart organizations make. Seattle didn't have a need at quarterback when the team used a third-round draft choice for Russell Wilson last season. That move worked out pretty well.

The Seahawks could realistically be in the market for a new back two years down the line if Lynch's bruising style shortens his career. Having Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter on the roster didn't stop the San Francisco 49ers from using a second-round choice for LaMichael James last year. The 49ers took some heat when their 2012 draft class failed to produce much, but such is life for contending teams.

"We'll let these guys go at it, make sure everybody is aware of the competitive opportunity and hopefully that continues to make them elevate," Carroll said. "Sometimes there is a subtle way they help us by making other guys play well."

Not that Seattle was without needs entirely.

"Defensive tackle was definitely a need for us -- adding depth to the position," Schneider said. "That was the one spot that quite honestly, when you're putting it together, you are nervous you are maybe pushing players because of the need."

Seattle used its third-round choice (87th overall) for Penn State defensive tackle Jordan Hill. He'll probably contribute more as a pass-rusher than a run stuffer, differentiating him clearly from Alan Branch, who left in free agency. The Seahawks felt the talent at defensive tackle was about to drop off quickly as the third round gave way to the fourth. That gave them additional incentive to grab Hill.

The Seahawks hold 10 picks in the fourth through seventh rounds. Schneider and Carroll previously found K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in that range. Others such as Turbin, Walter Thurmond, Jeremy Lane, Anthony McCoy, J.R. Sweezy and Malcolm Smith came to Seattle in those rounds.

There might not be a Tavon Austin or Percy Harvin out there, but as the Seahawks and Rams discovered, that was the case eight picks into the draft.
The Seattle Seahawks entered the 2013 NFL draft with few (if any) pressing needs.

The team flaunted it a bit, it seemed, by using a second-round selection for a running back even though Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin combine to make that position one of great strength.

Seattle addressed one of its needs in the third round by selecting Penn State defensive tackle Jordan Hill with the 87th overall choice. San Francisco traded into the 88th slot to take pass-rusher Corey Lemonier from Auburn, and fellow division rival St. Louis was set to be on the clock shortly at No. 92.

The Seahawks will be saving money at defensive tackle in 2013 after letting Alan Branch leave in free agency. Seattle added free-agent defensive tackle Tony McDaniel in a modest deal. Hill will join the rotation. Scouting reports suggest he's better at rushing the passer than defending the run. We'll hear more from coach Pete Carroll in a bit.
The Seattle Seahawks have selected a running back, Christine Michael of Texas A&M, with the final pick of the second round after trading back.

This one should catch everyone off-guard.

Seattle appears stacked at running back with Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin. The team could use a defensive tackle, an outside linebacker, a tight end and possibly depth for the offensive line.

NFL teams drafted no running backs in the first round. Michael was the fifth and final one taken in the second round.

I'll be interested in hearing the Seahawks' explanation for this pick. I'm guessing we'll hear the team talk about taking the best player available.

Seattle had no first-round pick after trading it to Minnesota for Percy Harvin. Now, it's looking like the team's second-round choice won't play much right away, assuming Lynch and Turbin are on course to be the primary backs, as expected. Perhaps Seattle has a specific role in mind.

West RB ranks: Lynch, Gore and more

April, 16, 2013
Quarterbacks give way to running backs as Matt Williamson and I discuss the NFC West positional rankings Williamson provided in his role as scout for

Those rankings are available in the chart at right.

Matt ranks the Seattle Seahawks No. 1 at running back, followed by the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams.

Williamson: This one was easy for me. I'd be shocked if anyone put them in different order.

Sando: We can always revisit this position after the draft. The Rams will presumably select a bigger back to round out their backfield by committee. Even then, however, St. Louis will be proceeding with largely unproven players at the position. That is by design. It also makes it tougher to justify ranking the Rams higher without additional evidence.

Williamson: To me, St. Louis' backfield is utterly unproven. I don't think Isaiah Pead or Daryl Richardson is a lead back. Both are committee guys, but we haven't seen enough from either one to say either is as good as Rashard Mendenhall in Arizona. And I've always liked Ryan Williams a lot. In Mendenhall and Williams, the Cardinals have two guys you could hit a home run with.

Sando: A couple years ago, you suggested Steven Jackson had lost a step. Jackson is now gone from the Rams. The 49ers' Frank Gore is actually a couple months older than Jackson. Both will be 30 this offseason. Do you see Gore declining? Is that why you ranked the Seahawks No. 1 at running back?

Williamson: Seattle has the best back in the division in Marshawn Lynch, and Robert Turbin is a heckuva backup. It's not a knock on Gore. I like LaMichael James and like Kendall Hunter, too. So, the 49ers have three guys to talk about instead of two for Seattle.

Sando: James and Hunter look like keepers. The 49ers are in position to limit Gore's carries to keep him fresh.

Williamson: I would lighten his load, give him 90 percent of a full workload. The 49ers are a contender. They need 20 games from Gore, not 16. I'd be thinking big picture.

Sando: Gore had 351 touches in 2012 and 341 in 2011, counting playoffs. That's up from 271 per season from 2008 through 2010. Gore missed nine games to injury over that span. He has missed one game over the past two seasons combined. But that postseason workload is something to keep in mind for the upcoming season.

We'll look at wide receivers next.