After he rushed for over 1,000 yards and emerged as a reliable workhorse back for the Seahawks as a rookie, Kenneth Walker's place as the team's go-to back seemed secure – as did his status as a borderline first-round pick in Fantasy Football drafts. With the Seahawks selecting Zach Charbonnet in the second-round of the NFL Draft Friday night, that status is suddenly and unexpectedly at risk.
Dan Schneier broke down Charbonnet's complete scouting report after watching six of his games on film and you can find that
To be clear, I don't think Charbonnet is going to walk into training camp and take Walker's job or anything. The Seahawks want to run the ball heavily, and there could be room for both of them to get plenty of touches and for Walker to remain a high-end Fantasy option. But, in light of this pick, I'm definitely moving Walker down in my rankings, because the risk of a bust-case scenario just rose sharply.
Walker was an explosive rusher as a rookie who put up 0.52 yards above expected per carry, a solid mark that ranked him 16th out of 48 qualifiers last season, per NFL Next Gen Stats, right between Jonathan Taylor and Josh Jacobs. Not bad company.
However, Walker was an extremely boom or bust runner as a rookie; he picked up more yards than expected on just 33.5% of his carries, the second-lowest mark among all runners, sandwiched between James Robinson and Michael Carter. That's much less inviting company, and it's not the only place where Walker failed to stand out, as these two tweets highlight:
Kenneth Walker had the worst success rate in football last year among 100+ attempt running backs on a team coached by Pete Carroll who has a running back fetish. This makes total sense.— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) April 29, 2023
Walker is a home-run hitter at the running back position, which isn't a bad thing at all. In fact, it can be a very, very good thing, and one way for backs who aren't really featured in the passing game to make an impact for Fantasy. Walker got 18 or more carries in seven of 10 starts (not counting one where he left with an injury after just three starts), and that kind of volume gave him plenty of opportunities to break those big plays and turn in big Fantasy performances, and if he keeps getting 18-plus carries nearly every week, he's going to remain a very good Fantasy running back.
But the presence of another very talented running back with similar draft capital invested introduces significant bust risk. Charbonnet could just be a complimentary piece, getting 5-10 carries and most of the third-down work, leaving Walker more or less in line for that big workload, and the home run opportunities that come with it.
But, maybe the Seahawks view this as a 1a-1b situation, where Charbonnet cuts into the workload even more. That would be bad enough, but the bigger risk is that this trade potentially signals some frustration with Walker's all-or-nothing approach as a runner. The Seahawks might be hoping he takes a step forward to be a more consistent contributor in his second season, but they might also just not be as high on him as we think.
I'll still project Walker as the lead back here, but he's more in the RB15-18 range for me now. The likeliest outcome is still that he's a very productive high-volume runner with big-game potential every single week. But Charbonnet introduces real downside risk for his usage. If Walker gets off to a slow start – if he's hitting more singles and doubles than homers early on – the Seahawks have a viable pivot available now.
Given how dependent Walker was on volume and creating big plays, that's a pretty significant concern for me.