Should we draft Ken Walker over Breece Hall?

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.

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My dice say Carson is done. Neck injuries are serious business, especially when it’s not just muscular. Split the rest between Penny and Walker.

Be clear. If the Hawks draft a QB next year, it will mean their running game, featuring Walker at that point, with nobody else, will explode?

Normally, I’d agree with you there, except teams are less likely to live and die with one RB nowadays. Expect the Hawks to either bring somebody back, or draft somebody.

Nothing against Walker, but talent wins out. I’ll take Hall with the 1.01. What I saw from their college tapes, and their combine numbers,. tells me Hall is the better talent here. That doesn’t mean Walker won’t have a better offense around him in the long run. But will they be here soon enough to take advantage of his talent?

nope, trade the 1.01 to the 1.o2 guy then you get a bonus asset to add to your prediction

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Which is exactly what I’m trying to do right now.

I think this year Hall will produce more. But in 2023 Walker might be the better pick as Penny is probably gone.

Hall will be sharing a back field with Carter in 2022 and 2023.

Walker is the long term play but Hall is the better for immediate impact.


Both RB’s will be in RBBC’s, since it is pretty hard for any RB to be a bellcow nowadays. The only question is how will the workloads be split by the Jets and Seahawks? Watch how things shake out in training camp and the preseason.

Walker has a chance to become a bellcow. Carson’s career may be over, and if Penny gets injured again, Walker could act as 3-down back. The only downside is that he’s never been used as a pass catcher, so we don’t know how well he can handle those duties.

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Walker is 5’9" and 211 pounds. That’s not a bellcow size. If Penny misses any significant time, the Seahawks may be forced to go elsewhere for somebody to soak up a few touches. Deejay Dallas? Maybe, since he wasn’t terrible in the limited action he saw.

Don’t let Austin Ekeler hear that. I need that 5’8" 195 lbs dude to play another top 3 season for my fantasy team. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

JT is 5’10" and 226 lbs, btw.

JT plays behind a great offensive line too. As I said in the other thread, I’d take Najee Harris over JT, and one of the reasons is Najee is a supremely gifted RB who can do it all. JT isn’t that. JT is just a good RB playing behind an exceptional offensive line.

Do you think Ekeler can have another bellcow season and not break down? We’ll see, but I doubt the Chargers would have drafted Spiller if they thought Ekeler could take that kind of punishment.

PFF ranked them 12th in the regular season. That’s barely above average. Their run blocking was a lot better than their pass protection, though, that is true.

I do see the risk. But there are also a few arguments that work in Ekeler’s favor. Almost half of his production comes from his use as a receiver. And he didn’t see heavy usage in his early years. He should have more tread on the tires than your average 27 year old RB.

You can as easily turn that argument around: if the Chargers were sure Ekeler couldn’t handle that kind of punishment, they wouldn’t have waited until the 4th round to draft a new RB.

The Chargers have been looking for a change-of-pace guy for 3 years now. Joshua Kelley didn’t get the job done, neither did Larry Rountree. Spiller is next man up, and while he looks good as a prospect, he still needs to prove he can fill that role.

But even if he can, I don’t see him as Ekeler’s natural successor. I’m fairly sure the Chargers will draft another RB in the 3rd round (or earlier) in 2023, and that will be the guy to watch.

The number of 4th round (or later) backs that claimed lead roles in the NFL is rather short.

From 2018 to 2021, there have been 25 4th and 5th round RBs:

Nyheim Hines
Mark Walton
Ito Smith
Kalen Ballage
Chase Edmonds
Jaylen Samuels
Jordan Wilkins
Bryce Love
Justice Hill
Benny Snell
Tony Pollard
Ryquell Armstead
Qadree Ollison
Jordan Scarlett
Joshua Kelley
La’Mical Perine
Anthony McFarland
DeeJay Dallas
Jason Huntley
Michael Carter
Kene Nwangwu
Rhamondre Stevenson
Chuba Hubbard
Kenneth Gainwell
Ben Mason

Not exactly a scary list. Pollard has some appeal, Stevenson may still have a future, and Hines may (or may not) have some sneaky PPR upside this year. But none of this RBs is, or has been, close to a lead back role.

Michael Carter looked like he could become one, but the Jets preferred to draft Breece Hall. And 6th round pick Elijah Mitchell had a surprisingly good season last year, but the 49ers still spent a 3rd round pick on a new RB this year.

It’s not impossible for a 4th round (or later) RB to become a lead back. Ekeler is the living proof, he came into the league as an UDFA. But statistically, the chances are slim.

That’s why I keep my expectations on Spiller tempered. Ekeler is my main back, and neither Breece Hall nor Ken Walker can replace him. So I am considering to reach for Spiller as a safety net, just like I traded for Rountree last year (thankfully, he didn’t cost me much).

But statistically, Rachaad White, TDP or Brian Robinson stand a better chance of claiming a meaningful role. 3rd round backs still produce a fair number of busts, and even the ones that made it are hardly league winners. But at least, the 3rd round gave us players like Antonio Gibson, Darrell Henderson, Devin Singletary, Damien Harris or Alexander Mattison.

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In all the years I’ve watched football, it is rare to see an offensive line that does both run blocking and pass blocking exceptionally. But I should add that many sacks are due to QB’s holding onto the ball too long. I’m not sure how PFF avoids that pitfall in rating an o-line.

James Robinson was also a UDFA. It does happen.

Thanks for mentioning him. Ballage intrigued me two years ago with the Chargers. I like his running style, and he does break tackles well. Kind of a mini-Derrick Henry. Sadly, nobody has signed him yet. He would be awesome behind Indy’s line!

I think the Jets worried they had nobody if Carter got hurt. Hall fell into their lap. Now they have a great 1-2 combo.

Trey Sermon was their 3rd round pick the same year, and we have yet to see anything meaningful from him.

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3rd round draft capital doesn’t warrant success, but at least there are some 3rd round backs in recent history whom I wouldn’t mind having on my fantasy roster. In the 4th round and beyond, the air gets very thin, though.

Personally, I sometimes think that draft capital is valued too highly in the NFL. I would love to see what players like Kene Nwangwu could do if they were allowed to give us a larger sample size. But hardly any coach will do that, as long as there is no immediate need.

Early round picks can fail, and late round picks and UDFAs can shine. But your chances to find a fantasy asset is a lot better with 1st and 2nd round picks than with 4th rounders and below.

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I was reminded of the late Tony Siragusa by this discussion. He was a UDFA, and still went on to have a good career (although his cheap shot on Rich Gannon was a blemish).

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Without having checked, I think the chances to make it as an UDFA are better on defense.

Still, I’d never disregard a player just because he carries no draft capital. The most prominent example is the GOAT himself, who was drafted late in the 6th round.

I also love Austin Ekeler’s story. He didn’t inherit the role because of injuries. He earned it, step by step. When I drafted him in 2018 in the 18th round of the startup draft of my main dynasty league, I did so because I felt I could use another RB, and his name was highest on the list. Never heard it before that moment.

In the first game of the 2018 season, he put up 21.3 points, despite Melvin Gordon being active and performing very well. That’s when I started paying attention. And the more I watched, the more I thought that he looked better than Gordon in some situations.

In 2019, Gordon held out for the first 4 games, and Ekeler went through the roof. Gordon returned in week 5, and slowly reclaimed his old role. I saw the week 11 match vs the Packers live in stadium, and was finally convinced that Ekeler was the better back. The Chargers fans around me agreed when I asked them.

In 2020, Gordon moved on to Denver. I was almost sure the Chargers would draft a new lead back. If that was their intention with Joshua Kelley, then it didn’t work out. Ekeler’s season was derailed by a hamstring injury. But in the games he played, he was awesome.

In 2021, it was clear that the Chargers’ backfield was Ekeler’s to lose. The injury concerns remained, but I knew that, if he would stay healthy, he would be a top 5 RB. Top 3 in PPR. The rest is history: he finished 2nd only to Jonathan Taylor.

I still remember how I got laughed at by Axe Elf when I shared my preseason projections on Ekeler. “I wouldn’t touch that guy if he fell to me in the 4th round of a draft.” We can only hope for him that other managers in his leagues drafted Ekeler earlier.

Anyway, I’m rambling. Bottom line: successful late-round picks usually earn their role step by step, or capitalize on injury scenarios. But teams don’t draft a player in the 4th round with the plan to use him as a future replacement for their current starter. If they saw that kind of potential in a player, they’d draft him earlier.

That doesn’t mean a player like Spiller can’t make it. All it takes is an Ekeler injury and Spiller showing impressive performances in several consecutive games, and the Chargers may ask themselves in 2023 if they really need to invest an early-round pick into a new RB.

But the more likely scenario is: Ekeler will stay mostly healthy, Spiller will perform admirably in a change-of-pace role, and the Chargers will draft their RB of the future in the 2nd round of the 2023 draft.

That’s the same scenario I’d predict for the Raiders, btw.

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I still have to see how Zamir White does before predicting that. Better not sleep on them Georgia boys! :wink: