I love doing my own projections, as they change my point of view on some players. That just happened with Breece Hall and Ken Walker. Before I finally finished my initial 2022 projections, Breece Hall was the clear 1.01 for me, no questions asked.
Now I start having doubts.
Let’s look at the Jets first. Breece Hall will be the undisputed lead back there. Michael Carter won’t go away, but we are not to expect a 1a/1b situation there.
Last year, Zach Wilson claimed 15% of the rushing volume and 37% of the rushing TDs. I toned both numbers down a little, but Wilson won’t stop using his legs, including goal line carries.
Also, last year, the Jets were dead last in terms of rushing attempts, but managed to keep 5 teams behind them in terms of rushing yards. And they range in the league’s midfield in terms of rushing TDs.
With an overall improved offense, I expect those numbers to go up. Not by much, though. Zach Wilson showed signs of improvement as a passer, and got a couple of new weapons. There is no reason to believe that the run-pass-ratio will shift dramatically.
So the real question when it comes to projecting Breece Hall is: how much of a volume share will Michael Carter see?
If we expect Carter to be a passing down and change-of-pace back, his share can be as high as 30% on the ground and 10% through the air. I can also see him repeating his 4 rushing TDs from last year.
That would leave a 57.5% rushing share for Hall, which should be good for 1,000 yards on the ground. He will also see his share of targets, including the end zone. I gave him a 7.5% target share, as well as 8 TDs on the ground and another 3 through the air.
As a result, he comes out as RB#19 in my rankings, which is 3 spots above his ADP. He’s a solid RB2 with a safe floor and some upside, in case he can claim an even bigger piece of the pie. But he would have to take over Carter’s entire passing volume to have a chance at becoming an RB1. Not impossible, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
And the chance is that the Jets will remain in that mode for the foreseeable future. Wilson and Carter are both still young, so we can’t bet on Hall’s situation to improve based on roster changes.
Breece Hall has a career as a solid RB2 ahead of him. His performance will resemble that of Josh Jacobs: always solid, never great. I had drafted Jacobs with the 1.01 in 2019, and while he never met the expectations in him, he also never disappointed entirely. When he was healthy, he was in my lineup and would put up 10-15 half-PPR PPG most of the time. That’s what I would expect out of Breece Hall as well.
Now let’s take a look at Ken Walker and the Seahawks.
Let’s make one thing clear: I do expect the Seahawks offense to be terrible. I have them dead last in most passing metrics. Pete Carrol will still try to establish a run-first approach, but the offense is too lackluster to generate a ton of opportunities, so I have them only in midfield in terms of rushing production. Higher than the Jets, but not a ton higher.
The good thing is that Drew Lock isn’t likely to take a lot of rushing production away from the RBs. He’ll carry the ball himself in some short-yardage situations, and will maybe fall into the end zone once. But I don’t see his rushing share higher than 5% overall.
That leaves 95% of the volume to the RBs. And here’s where things get murky. On paper, Rashaad Penny will be the lead back in Seattle, and his main competition for carries will be Chris Carson. Both put up pretty impressive numbers last year - when on the field. Which Carson was in 4 games, and Penny was in 9.
And that’s the opportunity for Walker. With Carson, it’s not even clear if we will ever see him back on the field. Penny appears to be healthy right now, but it never took him long to change that in the past.
Projecting the 2022 Seahawks backfield involves a lot of rolling the dice. And my dice said: Carson will suit up for 8 games, Penny for 11 and Walker for all 17.
When on the field without Carson, Penny will claim the lion’s share of backfield work, leaviing max. 25% for Walker. Without Penny, I expect Walker to be the lead back. Which could translate into a bellcow role if Carson happens to be absent at the same time as well.
Also, regardless of whom of the other backs is available at any given time, I expect Walker to be playing on passing downs. The Seahawks didn’t utilize any of their backs as a pass catcher last year. At least that should change with the arrival of Walker, though.
Across all 17 games, I see Walker with an average rushing share of 48%. It can be as high as 80% in games where neither Penny nor Carson are available. And it can drop to 10% or lower in games where both other backs are healthy.
Along with a 10% target share, 9 TDs on the ground (as many as Penny and Carson combined) and another 3 through the air, Walker would come out as RB#15 in my rankings. Ahead of Breece Hall. Despite not even playing all the time.
The main risk with Walker is that Penny might be able to stay healthy all season, in which case Walker’s volume might be significantly lower. If I drop his volume share down to 30%, he’d be the RB#36, which matches his current ADP in redraft.
Walker’s upside is that Carson may not be available all season. That would leave around 300 rushing yards and 3 TDs up for grabs.
And in my projections, I gave Penny 11 games. Could be more, but could easily be less. If Carson misses the entire season and Penny plays only 7 games, Walker is pushing into RB1 territory already.
And then there’s the long-term outlook. Both Carson and Penny play on the last year of their contracts. In 2023, Carson will be gone for sure. And Penny, who is only a year younger, isn’t likely to stay around, either.
In 2023, the backfield could be all Walker’s. The Seahawks will try to find a new franchise QB next year, so the overall offense will improve sooner rather than later.
So let’s sum up the team situations for Hall and Walker:
In Seattle, there is a lot of uncertainty around the franchise’s future. They are bound for a terrible 2022 season. The current backfield is a mess.
In New York, we see an improving offense with new weapons and a progressing young QB. The backfield situation is pretty clear. And their 2022 season could be decent.
And still, in my projections, Walker beats Hall in 2022 already, as long as Penny misses just a few games. And while Hall is bound for a career as a fantasy RB2, Walker has a lot of RB1 upside - maybe even this year already, in case Penny breaks down early.
So should we draft Ken Walker over Breece Hall? It’s not hard to find mocks where Walker goes as the 1.01. I never understood it, until I did my 2022 projections. And now I have something to think about before my main league drafts later this month. Because I happen to hold the 1.01.