Ken Walker was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks with the 41st overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Not bad for a kid who was barely on the prospect radar just over a year ago. That's when he decided the triple-option offense at Wake Forest wasn't for him. Recruited to the Demon Deacons after three years as a starter at Arlington High School near Memphis, Walker played moderately well for two years before hitting the transfer portal in early 2021. He wound up moving to Michigan State without even seeing the campus or meeting with the coaches in person due to Covid restrictions. The one-time three-star prospect from 247Sports, the one who rumbled for 3,485 yards with 41 touchdowns in high school, was going to get a chance to work in an offense he thought suited him best.
Walker bet on himself and won. His very first carry with the Spartans was a 75-yard touchdown at Northwestern and that three-star prospect from 247Sports set the tone for his breakout 2021. Amassing 19 total touchdowns (18 rushing) and over 1,700 total yards in 12 games, Walker sped off with the Ameche-Dayne, Walter Camp and Doak Walker Awards and was even in contention for the Heisman Trophy. He was also unanimously voted an All-American -- pretty much the best possible scenario Walker could have dreamed up when he made his life-changing decision.
Age as of Week 1: 21 | Height: 5-9 1/4 | Weight: 211 | 40-time: 4.38
Comparable body-type to: Javonte Williams
We're breaking down everything you need to know about Walker from a Fantasy manager perspective, including Dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.
Walker's experience fits with the Seahawks' zone system. He's also exactly the kind of running back Pete Carroll goes gaga for: physical with great vision. It helps he has a good second gear, too. Walker has some untapped potential as a pass-catcher, but that's not a role running backs generally fill in Carroll's offenses. The pick certainly suggests that Chris Carson's neck injury is very serious and that Rashaad Penny's future, despite signing a one-year deal this spring, is not necessarily locked into the Pacific Northwest. Walker could overtake everyone on the depth chart in short order.
There should be plenty of excitement over Walker's arrival in Seattle. It's possible he shares more than we'd like as a rookie, but there's a very clear path to him as their workhorse back by Week 1 of the 2023 season ... if not sooner if Penny can't stay healthy. He's in contention for the No. 1 overall pick in rookie-only drafts, but expect him to not last past third overall. That might change a tad in Superflex/two-QB formats, but not by much. There are reasons to be excited about the 21-year-old.
- Appeared to have thick, strong thighs to go with well-developed lower legs. Upper body looked strong but also could potentially become further developed without slowing him down.
- Not a backfield dancer -- gets the ball and gets going.
- Frequently utilized a counter-step off the snap to get linebackers leaning the wrong way before the play even began.
- Reliably and patiently followed his play assignments and stuck with his blockers until a play seemed dead, then would try to bounce outside and freestyle his way to bonus yardage.
- Paired incredible vision with rare-to-find burst once he saw a lane to hit or stopped moving his feet. Burst also came in handy when racing defenders to the perimeter to win edge runs.
- Superior cut-back ability bought Walker so many extra yards. Would run at a defender and then effortlessly cut to make him miss. Some plays saw as many as four cuts thanks to his gaudy, never-ending agility. Avoided 167 career tackles.
- Change-of-direction and start-stop skills were gifts. Walker would constantly get moving quickly after freezing defenders by stopping on a dime. Added micro-movements like head-fakes would further make defenders bite.
- Very good long speed made him a certified gamebreaker. Registered an explosive rush (12-plus yards) on 15.2% of his carries last year.
- Constantly showed off good balance to break lower-body tackles with defenders falling off him like he covered himself with non-stick cooking spray before kickoff.
- Typically finished his runs with his speed and avoided unnecessary contact but wasn't fearful of making contact. Happened to push for maximum yardage often while a defender was glued to him.
- Impressively and effectively played consecutive stretches of snaps after breaking long runs. Had 20-plus carries in six straight games as well.
- Very good awareness showed up in a bunch of places including knowing when to run for as many yards as possible versus running into contact, knowing when to go down instead of fight for meaningless yardage, covering up the ball at the end of a play (one fumble in 480 college rush attempts), even improvised on routes to make himself an available target and knew to stay in bounds to help kill some fourth-quarter clock.
- Wasn't targeted often in passing game (25 targets over three seasons) but frequently secured passes in stride. Untapped potential here -- why wouldn't you use him on screens and one-on-one with cornerbacks?!
- Good-faith pass blocker who wasn't technically sound but did enough to recognize blitzers and got the job done. Could be coached to do better.
- Based on interviews, he seems to have good football intelligence. Coaches, teammates and classmates have called him humble.
- Has experience lining up in pistol, shotgun, single-back, out wide, in motion and even Wildcat QB.
- Prepared to work in any run scheme including RPO and triple-option.
- Only reported injury from football since high school was an ankle problem he tried playing through at Ohio State last December.
- While his burst and top-end speed were undeniable, the acceleration between these points waned from solid to good. At times it would take him a second to ramp up his speed. Might he get tackled before he hits his top gear in the pros?
- Walker's game was speed and agility. While he never feared contact, he did not often win with power at the college level.
- Coaches will have to either live with his freelancing style or work hard at making Walker stick to the play design.
- It's not a lock he will ever be a three-down player because of minimal experience in pass game and in pass protection. Walker ran 154 routes over three years. Will need development to become better at both roles but especially protecting his quarterback.
- Had modest seasons at Wake Forest before his breakout year at Michigan State. Will coaches be ready to hand him a lead running back job without extensive experience?
- Was told his football career was over before his senior year of high school because of blood clots. Needed to take blood thinners for three months in order to get cleared to play. No published reports about the status of his health and whether or not this issue may resurface again.
|2021 v Top-25||3||56||395||7.1||5||7||32||4.6||1|
Advanced stats to know
- 1,168 yards after contact in 2021 (most in college football)
- Per PFF, tied Jonathan Taylor and Rashaad Penny for the most yards after contact average among rushers with 250 or more carries in a season with 4.5.
- 94 tackles avoided in 2021 (most in college football)
- Owns the all-time record for longest rushing touchdowns at Wake Forest (96 yards) and Michigan State (94 yards).
- In 31 games: 154 routes run, 25 targets, 18 receptions, 129 receiving yards, one touchdown catch, two drops and a minus-0.68 average depth of target.
Walker has the floor of Ronald Jones and the ceiling of Dalvin Cook. The blend of his snap-quick agility and speed is undeniable; it's how he adapts to the physicality of the NFL game and whether or not he's allowed to develop his receiving work that will make the biggest difference. There is potential for him to be a three-down, 18-touch back in short order.