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Defying NFL Trends: Unpacking Seahawks and Lions’ Unique Commitment to Running Backs

NFL trends, Seahawks strategies, Lions’ commitment, running back positions, player picks, team negotiations, draft selections, player trading, team strategies, changing NFL landscape, value of running backs, John Schneider, Brad Holmes, Rashaad Penny, Jahmyr Gibbs.

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Russell Weaver
Russell Weaver
Russell Weaver is a renowned writer, celebrated for his vibrant storytelling and intricate world-building. Beyond being an writer, he's an artist, dedicated to crafting stories that captivate, transform, and linger.
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In the 25 years that John Schneider, the General Manager of Seattle Seahawks, has been in the NFL, he had never come across something like this.

It was shortly after the end of the first round of 2018 draft, and Seattle had recently picked running back, Rashaad Penny at No. 27 overall. The general manager got a call from another executive keen to investigate Schneider’s interest in an NBA-style trade for Penny. An unheard-of proposition in the NFL, Schneider described it as a “true rarity”. As the story unfurls, it turns out that the call came from none other than the Detroit Lions.

Valuing Running Backs Despite Changing NFL Tides

This unusual incident aligns perfectly with the unique commitment of these two franchises toward running backs. Despite a significant shift in the NFL’s stance on the role, Seahawks and Lions have consistently attributed great worth to these positions.

These two teams, who squared off at Ford Field, have spent three major first or second-round picks on running backs since 2018. According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, no other team has expended more than one such pick in this period.

A Run on Backs, Spanning Regimes

Seattle extended its streak of second-round picks with their selection of Kenneth Walker III in 2022 and Zach Charbonnet in 2023, besides choosing Penny. On the Detroit side, its run on backs has survived two management eras. Post loosing out on Penny in 2018, they picked Kerryon Johnson in the second round that year. Subsequently, they spent another second-round pick on D’Andre Swift two years later.

Emerging under the leadership of GM Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell, their most recent pick was Jahmyr Gibbs as No. 12 overall in the last spring, challenging opinions on the value of running backs.

Game-Changing Players, And the Power of Perceptions

Holmes’ perspective on selecting running backs dismissed analytics. He noted, “They’re all football players and if they can help you, they can help you.” No one questioned the selection of Todd Gurley, a top prospect in the draft, and an extremely skilled running back. The same logic applied to Gibbs, chosen 12th overall at the 2023 draft by the Lions, surprising many because no running backs had been picked in the first round in 2022.

As coach Pete Carroll of the Seahawks emphasized, running backs are at the heart of the game. They bring value by fostering the performance of the whole team.

NFL’s Changing Perception Towards Running Backs

In an increasingly evolving NFL landscape, the running back position is seen differently. Its devaluation has become evident in team negotiations and draft selections. In fact, ESPN Stats & Information highlights that there has been a decline in running back picks in the first two rounds over the past 10 drafts, compared to previous decades.

Despite this broad trend, the Seahawks and Lions, demonstrate that convention-defying strategies can sometimes yield successful outcomes. Their counter-current approaches reaffirm that in a sport as dynamic as football, the importance of key player roles cannot be underestimated.

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