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Ambiguous Backfield Breakdowns: Seattle Seahawks

Hutchinson Brown shares his take on the debate between Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet.

Credit; Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to another Ambiguous Backfield Breakdown, where I take a look at running back rooms with multiple fantasy-relevant names and break down their dynasty values. Today, we are heading west to the Seattle Seahawks.

Kenneth Walker

Walker had a solid rookie season in 2022 and was very fantasy-relevant. Even with a slow start, he put together over 1,000 rushing yards and flashed the ability to be a top-12 running back in fantasy football. Many expected a huge leap this season until the NFL Draft happened and Seattle shocked us by selecting Zach Charbonnet in round two. He was a very highly touted prospect, and now he is a confusing player in fantasy… just like Walker.

Dynasty ADP

While Walker’s ADP is nowhere near where it was before the NFL Draft, you still have to invest a high pick in him as the RB13 off the board. He is being drafted around some very valuable players. I believe this is simply too high. I have him ranked as the 19th-best running back in dynasty.

Future Outlook

My ranking suggests a negative outlook on him. I genuinely believe there is a realistic world where Charbonnet outscores him in fantasy football this season, which is why I have him ranked just three running back spots behind Walker in dynasty.

The reason I feel this way is simple. The backfield will be split. The Seahawks are not just going to draft a running back in the second round and let him warm the bench. The biggest problem for Walker in fantasy football is how the offense will use these two backs.

As mentioned earlier in this piece, Walker had a successful rookie season. However, he has major flaws in his game. Firstly, pass-catching just is not a relevant part of his game. In college, he did not hit 20 total career catches and proved to be mediocre at it this season with Seattle. Additionally, his performance as a runner was either highly successful or unsuccessful. He ranked top five in both runs of 15 or more yards and stuffed runs last season. Also, among 34 RBs who got at least 10 carries inside the 10, he was dead last in yards per attempt. The offensive line was not elite last year for him, but they were not the reason for the struggle. According to ESPN Analytics, they were tied for 16th with a 71% run-blocking win rate as a unit.

Charbonnet will address the issues and improve Walker’s skills. He is a sturdy running back who can catch the ball extremely well. This positions him to receive the most valuable touches in a backfield for fantasy purposes, both at the goal line and as a receiver. That puts Walker in a situation where he is an early down grinder in between the 20s.

This role could be fantastic for football, but an absolute headache for fantasy. He will be completely dependent on explosive runs and touchdowns which will come, but not consistently enough to be a great option in fantasy football. The only way he gets the role that he had last year again is a catastrophic injury to his backfield mate.

Zach Charbonnet

After flashing at Michigan but never putting it together with a game-breaking season, UCLA put him on the map and dramatically increased his draft stock. As the primary back for the Bruins, he put together over 2,500 rushing yards and 27 rushing touchdowns, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. He was not only consistent and strong but also had the speed to make big plays.

Additionally, he showed off major talent as a receiver out of the backfield, putting together over 60 receptions in two seasons. A back his size of 220 pounds that can catch passes is fantastic. Those are the type of running backs who have a chance at a three-down role in the league. He took on a massive workload in college and has all the capability in the world to do so in the big leagues, but in Seattle, there is a different opportunity awaiting him.

Dynasty ADP

Charbonnet is going nearly 40 draft picks later than Walker in dynasty superflex formats, sitting around players who most definitely have relevance but are no guarantees. This seems low to me. I have him personally ranked as my RB22, meaning I see him currently as a solid value at that cost.

Future Outlook

The outlook I have is very bright for the UCLA product. I expect him to receive the majority of the valuable touches in this offense. He is clearly the best pass catcher between him and Walker and he is also clearly the best goal line running back as well. If he takes the primary role in both of those areas, There is a high likelihood that he will not only keep up with but also outscore his teammate in PPR formats this season. When you are getting the most valuable touches in the backfield the most often you are likely going to score the most points.

The fact that Walker and Charbonnet are not nearly back-to-back in ADP in all fantasy football formats entirely baffles me. Managers want to act like Walker is so established but he is not. As mentioned earlier, he showed a couple of major flaws in his game last season and Charbonnet and him both were given the same level of draft capital. There is no guarantee he is even the starter over the 2022 rookie who may just be the better overall running back. He is easily the more complete back and that may be what head coach Pete Carroll wants.

Kenneth Walker vs Zach Charbonnet

Overall, Walker still deserves to be ranked higher by a hair, but Charbonnet is the better asset to have in dynasty. The potential value you have in Charbonnet is just so high and at his ADP he is most definitely worth the risk, unlike Walker. No matter what format of fantasy football I am playing, I would rather wait for the value on Charbonnet than pay up for Walker every single time.

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Ambiguous Backfield Breakdowns: Seattle Seahawks
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20 days ago

As a guy that watched Walker destroy defensive lines his senior year at Michigan St and drafted him on a lot of teams last year I find your article wildly depressing.

Cy Guy
Reply to  MARK KELLY
20 days ago

I also have Walker on a few dynasty teams and had been banking on him keeping the job and being a RB1. I even had the chance to trade up in the 2nd round for him and didn’t, watching him get picked just before my 2.07. However, last week the owner that drafted him offered him and some other young prospects in a trade that will help me rebuild, so I hedged my bet and handcuffed Walker just in case. I still think Walker has first dibs at the starting job, but if he doesn’t impress then maybe Charbonnet will run away with it.

Cy Guy
20 days ago

I see three scenarios:

  1. Walker is an RB1, Charbonnet the clear backup.
  2. They split carries, neither is an RB1.
  3. Charbonnet is the RB1, Walker either gets hurt or only gets carries between the 20s.

At this point, #3 seems the least likely for 2023 (absent injury, of course), IMO. For redraft, I’m banking on #1 as the ceiling and #2 as the floor for Walker. #3 is the absolute worst case scenario for Walker, best-case for Charbonnet.
But we will see. I think rookie-fever is in full swing and people remember how good Charbonnet was in college, so they are overvaluing him a bit. That said, they were both second round picks so I could see Charbonnet running away with the job if he dominates this year.

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