It’s that time of year again as we all look ahead to the 2016 NFL season. The draft is in the rear view mirror and training camps are a stone’s throw away. It’s the time of year where fans everywhere ponder their team’s possibilities with open hearts, irrational expectations, and a tendency to overlook the reality of most situations.
However, regardless of which fan base you find yourself rooting for this summer, there is always room for hope, most commonly due to the influx of young talent across the league. Therefore, it seems only appropriate that we at SportsTalkLine.com take an updated look at the incoming rookie class. In this case, we’ll be starting with the perennial NFC powerhouse Seattle Seahawks and a case by case look at how their draft class fits into the organizations short and long-term plans.
In this piece, I will be taking a look at perhaps the most unique and exciting player selected by the Seahawks in the 2016 NFL Draft: running back C.J. Prosise. At just over 6’0” tall and weighing in the ballpark of 220+ pounds, it would be easy to mistake the former Notre Dame standout as a typical backfield bruiser. One who would earn his stripes between the tackles. After all, didn’t Marshawn Lynch establish the blueprint for what the Seahawks look for in a running back? Well, the fact of the matter is no one will mistake Seattle’s 3rd round running back for Beast Mode 2.0.
In Prosise, the Seahawk’s have a diverse weapon the likes of which have never been seen in the Pacific Northwest. He joined the Fighting Irish originally as a defensive back out of Madison Woodberry Forest in Petersburg, Virginia. His athleticism, speed, and change of direction skills were off the charts and he was originally seen as a sure-fire developmental prospect for Notre Dame’s highly touted defense. However, it wasn’t long before Prosise was in for a change in environment as he was soon moved to wide receiver in an effort to further exploit his size and talents.
After red-shirting for the 2012 season in order to help him learn the finer points of the receiver position in South Bend, Prosise eased into a contributing role recording 7 catches for 72 yards as a red-shirt freshman. He was also well on his way to becoming a key cog for the Fighting Irish’s special team’s unit.
The following season would prove to be a bit of a breakout season for Notre Dame’s up-and-coming receiver as he played in all 13 games along with 6 starts. Prosise would record 29 receptions for 516 yards and 2 touchdowns in that 2014 season showing a real knack not just as a competent route-runner, but also as a playmaker capable of running through defensive backs and moving the chains with consistency. Additionally, Prosise continued to showcase his versatility and team-first mentality by leading the team with 11 special teams tackles.
However, despite the immense talent and promise he showed as a weapon at wide receiver, an early season injury to Notre Dame’s starting running back Tarean Folston forced Head Coach Brian Kelly into a tough spot. He needed a playmaker with receiving skills out of the backfield in order to make his offensive work, and before he could truly evaluate the possibilities, he found himself a volunteer.
Once again, C.J. Prosise was willing to learn a new position for the better of the team. Not only did he take the challenge on full-board, he responded in his first start of 2015 by rushing for 155 yards and a touchdown against the University of Virginia. The following week, he was able to prove his performance was no fluke by embarrassing Georgia Tech to the tune of 198 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns, including a 91-yard touchdown run that still stands as the longest in Notre Dame Stadium history. Prosise would go on to rumble for 1,032 yards on 156 carries (6.6 YPC) along with 11 touchdowns in 2015. Perhaps more importantly, however, he continued his dominance as a receiver out of the backfield adding an additional 308 yards and a touchdown through the air, in what would prove to be his final season in South Bend.
Now, it should come as no shock to Seahawks fans why Prosise was drafted with the No. 90 overall selection of the 2016 NFL Draft. He is really just starting to learn the nuances of the running back position having only played there for one year, but the potential is truly staggering. It’s no secret that Seattle has long been in search of a third down back capable of creating mismatches as a receiver out of the backfield. Robert Turbin never proved to have the explosiveness to truly threaten defenses in receiving situations, and Fred Jackson was long past his prime.
However, more importantly, neither of these backs possessed precise route-running ability, change of direction ability, or even the raw explosiveness of C.J. Prosise. It’s truly no wonder that Head Coach Pete Carroll has been absolutely RAVING over their third round running back since he was selected back in May. Additionally, Seattle’s coaching staff has made it no secret that they envision a very specific role for their young back. This likely includes several packages with Prosise motioning out wide to match-up against smaller defensive backs or slower linebackers, in addition to utilizing his speed and quickness in the occasional read-option packages.
Make no mistake, despite Coach Carroll’s constant preaching of competition, this is Thomas Rawls starting job to lose regardless of the fact he’s coming off injury. However, Prosise will not be just some gimmick option in the offense. His rushing abilities will undoubtedly be utilized not only to keep defenses honest in their approach to defend him, but because he has the talent and ability to spell Rawls without seeing any drop-off on the field. In the end, his play making ability, team-first mentality, and room for growth could make Prosise the steal of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Jarrod M. Patterson is an NFL/Seattle Seahawks beat writer and analyst in Aberdeen, WA. #GoHawks