3 things Ken Walker III will do a lot of as a rookie: Catch, Score, & Snap
Seaside Joe 1248: Another career-high day, another display of being the best running back in college football
It has been 98 days since the Seattle Seahawks drafted Ken Walker III with the 41st overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. And we are only one day away from seeing Walker play in his first Seahawks scrimmage, eight days away from possibly making his NFL preseason debut, and 38 days from Seattle’s Monday Night opener against the Broncos.
How many years until Walker skeptics come to see the error in their ways? We might not have to wait that long.
After starring in Seahawks practice on Wednesday with Rashaad Penny taking a rest day, Walker has already started to put together the same types of plays against NFL competition as what helped him dominate the ACC and Big Ten conferences at every stop along the way from being an overlooked 2019 recruit to being an underrated 2022 draft prospect.
The speed (4.38 was only .01 behind the fastest time for a RB in 2022), vision, acceleration, footwork, hands, and most importantly perhaps the one thing that running back critics for some reason want to pretend doesn’t exist with this one position and no other position, Football IQ, should all translate to the NFL seamlessly.
These skills were recognized by Michigan State when Walker entered the transfer portal in 2021, even though Walker was playing in the slow mesh offense at Wake Forest and was routinely below 20 carries each week. The Spartans could recognize what Walker did that no other running back in college could do, ignored his two-star recruitment status, and believed he could be dominate under the right circumstances.
That’s why when they were entering their 10th game of the season, Ken Walker led all backs with 1,330 yards and 15 touchdowns on 197 carries headed into a late-season matchup against Maryland.
Coming off of their first loss of the season, all but ending Michigan State’s bid for the national championship, the team once again turned to their Heisman hopeful … for a career-high 30 rush attempts.
Yep, he’s still great.
There are a multitude of skills that I expect will carry Ken Walker III to being one of the top contenders for Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2022, even if he is starting out second on the depth chart behind Penny. As a runner, we can see how Walker could be among the leaders in broken tackles per carry (as the highly-drafted Javonte Williams was in 2021), but sharing the backfield with Penny will also mean getting onto the field in other ways.
That’s where I think Walker could have some ‘surprising’ attributes that will help him do three things in the NFL to get on the field in key situations:
Catch the ball (out of the backfield and as a receiver)
Score near the goal line
Take direct snaps in the wildcat
These attributes may shock Seahawks fans when the regular season is underway, but they should come as no surprise to Seaside Joe readers if my predictions continue to come true.
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Michigan State would get back in the win column against Maryland and the younger brother of Tua Tagovailoa (a semi-interesting QB prospect for 2023) in large thanks to the efforts of the most likely suspect. Walker had 30 carries for 143 yards and two touchdowns against the Terrapins, but also caught two passes for 29 yards.
Previously on Ken Walker III’s college career: Walker’s freshman season, Walker’s career-day vs NC State, Walker’s holy shit moments vs Virginia, how Walker got to Michigan State, will Walker be a third WR, Walker’s 4-TD debut for the Spartans, Walker blows through Miami like a tornado, there was no better college RB in 2021 than Ken Walker, Walker vs Rutgers, root against Walker at your own peril, Walker vs Michigan and Aidan Hutchinson, Walker suffers first loss at MSU, still rushes for 136
With only two more college games left to cover after this one, we are near the end of Walker’s time in school and onto his professional resume.
Michigan State vs Maryland, 11/13/2021
The Direct Snaps Thing
What can I say? Both Wake Forest and Michigan State would often call wildcat plays for Ken Walker III. It’s clearly something that he is comfortable with and it benefited both offenses. There were at least two direct snap calls for Walker in this game that I found, and both occurred near the goal line. The first above was just shy of a first down.
The next was just shy of a touchdown. Both were later converted.
Why would we expect the Seahawks to call these plays if they weren’t already in Shane Waldron’s repertoire?
I think because you always utilize the skills you have in your personnel groupings and this is a skill for Walker. But more importantly, either Drew Lock or Geno Smith is going to start at quarterback.
Putting Walker back there instead sometimes couldn’t hurt. I think Waldron will look to get creative in many ways based on Seattle’s current situation at quarterback.
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Ken Walker the First Down
Walker getting the ball on third-and-1 this season could be a usual sight, too. We haven’t seen a lot of pass block reps for him, as far as being a “third down back” goes, but I think Walker should be more valuable in that role than DeeJay Dallas. At least, in the long run.
Yes, he can catch
An ‘analytics’ person responded to one of my tweets about how Walker is going to do a lot more catching in the NFL than he did in college by disputing my opinion with a “stat.” Okay friend. I happen to like watching football and making determinations on a case-by-case basis, but everyone has their methodology.
The only problem Walker had with catching the football was getting opportunities in offenses that don’t often design plays for running backs to catch the football. His hands appear to be great. His pass blocking always looked adequate, but Walker emphasized on Wednesday that he knows he needs to work on his pass sets by getting more reps in practice.
Walker scored 31 touchdowns on 382 carries over the past two seasons, an average of one score for every 12.3 touches. His “never give up” mentality, keeping his feet moving, never going down on first contact, broken tackle abilities, it should all translate to Walker being one of Seattle’s main weapons in the red zone.
I would not be shocked if Walker scored more touchdowns than Penny.
Bonus: What to expect of Ken Walker III and others at Seahawks mock game on Saturday
I haven’t seen Walker get targeted many times in the middle of the field but above is an opportunity for him to do so and extend the play after Payton Thorne’s first read was covered. He should be an outlet for Geno or Lock, too.
At this point in the season, Walker has now caught seven passes in his last three games. If he had that pace all season, Walker would have finished with more like 25 catches instead of 13. He caught at least one pass in six straight contests. I think that he could get at least 25 catches as a rookie.
Finding the edge
He’s just so good at this. Walker is a threat to break off a home run on any play.
Embarrassing linebackers is another common theme
He will make smart football players look stupid. He knows what angles you have and what angles you don’t have and he will use your first decision against you. That’s Ken Walker III.
Oh you’re a Seahawks fan? Yeah, I think you’re gonna like Ken Walker III.
If you don’t, you might be more of a fan of yourself than you are of good players who do good things for the team you like. Walker’s going to do a lot of good things for Seattle, and I believe that should include scoring, catching, and sometimes even being QB1.
I mentioned in a previous post that my "2nd team" is the Lions because I grew up near Detroit. But I am also a #GoBlue Michigan fan and it pissed me off royally to see this... no name dude DESTROY what was (I thought) one of the best college D's last year. I was prepared to hate KWIII throughout his pro career wherever he landed but now he is a Seahawk! KWIII clearly gets 'up' for big games/performances and I can't wait to see what he does vs Denver. It is going to be a coming out party for sure.
I am so excited to see this man play in real games. A bright spot on a season without many. Unrelated, but I think I like those practice uniforms better than the gameday ones. I'd buy that dark navy jersey.