LenDale White and Leon Washington to the Seahawks
Seattle running backs finished in the middle of the pack in fantasy scoring, ranking 18th overall. However, in yardage-heavy leagues it’s worth noting that only 10 teams produced more running back combo yards than the Seahawks. As you might expect, then, Seattle’s RB TD production was putrid; only 10 teams scored fewer running back touchdowns.
With a new coach in town, a total revamp of the Seattle running back depth chart on draft day wasn’t entirely unexpected. The method by which Pete Carroll went about the facelift, however, was a bit unusual. Rather than draft a back, Seattle picked up a pair of young veterans who are expected to come in and immediately contend for playing time.
Carroll’s fondness for former Titan LenDale White was hardly surprising, given that White was part of the backfield committee that led USC to the 2004 National Championship as well as another title game appearance the following year. White had become superfluous in Tennessee with the emergence of Chris Johnson, watching his workload tumble from 304 carries in 2007 (one year before Johnson’s arrival) to 200 carries the following year to just 64 totes last season.
White cost the Seahawks nothing more than moving back a handful of spots in the fourth and sixth rounds, with the Titans even tossing a seventh-rounder Seattle’s way as well. The trade that brought Leon Washington to Seattle was more straightforward, with the Seahawks sending a fifth-round pick to the Jets to acquire Washington.
The wheeling and dealing leaves Seattle with four backs competing for touches: incumbents Julius Jones and Justin Forsett as well as newcomers White and Washington. What does Carroll have in store for this collective?
The logical assumption would be that Carroll, familiar with White’s work between the tackles from their Trojan days, will give LenDale the workhorse carries. White, just two years removed from finishing third in the NFL with 15 rushing touchdowns, could also be the fix for what ailed Seattle at the stripe last season. With a slight majority of the touches, a young offensive line under the tutelage of zone blocking mastermind Alex Gibbs, and a nose for the stripe to help the Seahawks improve on their paltry six RB rushing scores from a year ago, White has the potential to be a solid fantasy contributor—especially in TD-heavy scoring systems.
Washington’s role is dependent on whether or not he’s fully healed from the broken leg that ended his 2009 season after just seven games last year. If he’s at full go by training camp, he could push aside Forsett to handle the Reggie Bush role of Carroll’s new committee: third-down and pass-catching work, along with the occasional change-of-pace carries in a classic thunder-and-lightning approach.
You would think given Forsett’s showing last year—33rd in fantasy points among running backs despite just two starts and no significant touches prior to Week 10—he’d be in line to serve as White’s complement. However, in a new regime last year’s stats are almost meaningless; Forsett’s best bet for a reprise of last year is for Washington to be limited in camp, allowing Justin to hold on to the job and show Carroll first-hand he’s up to the task.
If you’re eyeing Washington in a redraft league, you’ll need to monitor his comeback: how many reps he’s getting, how he’s looking, etc. With a quality option like Forsett on hand, the Seahawks have no need to rush Washington back to the field. There’s also some long-term upside to Leon, though again it will depend on how fast and how far he comes back from the injury.
Ultimately, a White/Forsett committee to start the season wouldn’t be surprising, with Washington worked into the mix as the season progresses. And with White positioned not only as the goal line hammer and between the tackles rusher but also Pete Carroll’s guy, he’s the Seahawk back with the most fantasy upside.