Seahawks RB in Danger of Losing Starting Role to ‘True Pro’ Rookie

Kenneth Walker, Zach Charbonnet

Getty NFL analyst predicts Seahawks breakout running back Kenneth Walker (L) may lose the starting job to rookie Zach Charbonnet (R).

While the Seattle Seahawks received high grades across the board for the 10 selections made during the 2023 NFL Draft, the biggest “why” moment came in the second round when the team selected running back Zach Charbonnet.

The confusion was not due to a lack of talent, the UCLA standout rushed for 1,359 yards and 14 touchdowns last season in just 10 games, but because the Seahawks drafted running back Kenneth Walker in the second round last year, who turned into the team’s breakout star after Rashad Penny went down injured in Week 5.

Walker, who led all rookies with 228 carries and 1,050 rushing yards last season, will likely start the 2023 NFL season as the starter, USA Today‘s Tim Weaver predicts that role may quickly get usurped by Charbonnet.

Weaver wrote, “Yes, the Seahawks invested a second-round pick in Ken Walker only last year. Nevertheless, he plays a brutal and easily-expendable position and he also has to contend with a superb young RB prospect coming in. UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet does some things better and might only need one minor injury to Walker to take over the starting running back spot.”

RotoBaller‘s Josh Constantinou also sees Charbonnet creeping up on Walker’s top spot. The Michigan State alum “showed flashes as a receiver, hauling in 27 passes for 165 yards,” but “unfortunately, the team drafted his counterpart, Zach Charbonnet, with the 52nd overall pick,” Constantinou wrote. “The UCLA prospect is one of the few backs with a three-down skill set, making him a serious threat to siphon carries and receptions from the sophomore’s workload.”

Seahawks OC Shane Waldron Called Zach Charbonnet ‘A True Pro Right Away’

It’s hard to imagine Walker losing the starting job after such a successful first year, but Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron offered their new 6-foot-1, 220-pound running back seriously high praise after seeing him in action during rookie minicamp.

“I think Zach is a true pro right away,” Waldron told Seattle Sports on May 17. He’s gotten in the building and really been about his business. And again, a guy that’s really showed up. I know it’s kind of tough for the different things those guys are getting pulled in all sorts of directions in the leading up to the draft, but man, this guy came in in great shape ready to work, and you can tell that he’s a guy that will be able to work 24/7.”

Waldron, however, did mentioned utilizing a combination of both Walker and Charbonnet. “I think that second running back is, in my mind, just as important as any starter on the field right there just knowing the landscape of the league and a 17-game season-plus and knowing that the ground and pound can can take its toll on some guys,” Waldron said.

Pete Carroll Sees Zach Charbonnet as a ‘Complement’ to Ken Walker

While Seahawks Pete Carroll told reporters after the draft that the two running backs “will be battling,” he selected Charbonnet to complement Walker, not supplant him.

“He’s going to be right in there with Ken,” Carroll said. “It’s going to take both guys to get the workload with some help from DeeJay. I really like the versatility like we are talking about because he can block, can catch the ball out of the backfield, he’s good in the screen game, he makes big plays, and he’s been the workhorse, so I think he will be a great complement to Ken.”

“I got Ken on the phone just to talk to him about that, how much we see them fitting together,” Carroll noted. “I’m pretty excited about this one.”

As for Charbonnet, he’s not focused on “battling” Walker. “Honestly, I haven’t thought too much about it I’m just going day by day,” Charbonnet said, per SI. “Every day I’m just coming in and putting in the work. He’s a great guy [Walker], and I’m excited to be able to play with him and to be able to push each other.”

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