Kenneth Walker Fantasy Football Outlook: Can This Rookie RB Make An Immediate Impact with Seahawks?

Kenneth Walker Fantasy Football Outlook: Can This Rookie RB Make An Immediate Impact with Seahawks? article feature image

Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Kenneth Walker III.

  • Fantasy football expert Samantha Previte and former NFL general manager Randy Mueller project expectations for Kenneth Walker in Year 1 with the Seahawks and beyond.

Who Is Kenneth Walker?

by Samantha Previte, fantasy football analyst for Action

Kenneth Walker III has been one of the most intriguing rookies and was one of two running backs in a tier of their own in the 2022 NFL Draft class.

Walker was ultimately the second running back off the board behind Breece Hall, but could be better positioned than Hall to make an immediate impact for fantasy football in 2022.

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Walker is highly athletic and clocked a 4.38-second 40-yard-dash at the combine. His speed, elusiveness and ability to make defenders miss are apparent in his college tape, as former NFL GM Randy Mueller notes later in the article.

The Wake Forest transfer is coming off a breakout campaign from his one and only season at Michigan State. Walker shouldered a significant workload as their workhorse back and recorded 263 attempts for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Walker loses some marks for his height and almost nonexistent usage as a pass-catcher. Standing at 5-foot-9 and 211 pounds, the 2021 Heisman Trophy finalist profiles more as a third-down back than an every-down back. This is problematic because Walker had virtually zero experience catching passes at the collegiate level: The 21-year-old tallied a whopping 19 catches in three NCAA seasons for 136 yards and a touchdown. Walker could develop into a serviceable pass-catcher, but his route tree remains limited at this time.

Kenneth Walker Fantasy Football Outlook

by Samantha Previte, fantasy football analyst for Action

Landing Spot Grade: B

The Seahawks have a lot of moving parts, so I will say it is difficult to assess Seattle as a landing spot vis-à-vis fantasy when the team itself has so many question marks.

The biggest question mark heading into the season is at quarterback. The team parted ways with longtime signal-caller Russell Wilson via a blockbuster trade this offseason, and ended up with Drew Lock, who is projected to be the Seahawks' starter as of writing in June.

Lock, 25, was Denver’s second-round pick in 2019 and was largely unsuccessful. He completed 59.3% of his passes for 4,740 yards, 25 touchdowns and 20 interceptions over 24 appearances in three seasons for Denver. Lock’s performance will have less of an impact on Seattle’s running backs than the Seahawks receivers, but factors like time of possession and game script will inevitably impact Walker’s production.

Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured: Kenneth Walker III.

Walker joins a cramped running back room in Seattle and will have to vie for touches with Rashaad Penny, Chris Carson and DeeJay Dallas each week.

Penny, 26, was the Seahawks’ leading rusher last season with 119 attempts for 749 yards over 10 games, 671 of which came in the final five games. He inked a one-year deal this offseason and will be Walker’s primary competition out of the backfield.

Carson, 27, posted two 1,000-rushing yard campaigns in his first three years in the league, but has been hampered by injuries of late. He suffered a season-ending neck injury in Week 4 of the 2021 season and finished with 54 attempts for 232 yards and three touchdowns.

The Seahawks drafting Walker could be an indication that Carson’s issues are longer term, which would free up more touches and boost Walker’s fantasy value.

2022 Fantasy Potential: RB2 Upside (But More Likely RB3)

Walker is a solid overall prospect, but he has limited pass-catching experience and joins an established backfield in what could be a bottom-10 offense this season.

Walker holds more value if Carson is held out of any significant stretch of time. Walker's range of outcomes is wider than most rookies’ simply because of the major changes the Seahawks have undergone this offseason. As is the case with most rookies, Walker carries more value in dynasty than redraft and is widely regarded as the 1.02 in rookie drafts behind Hall.

Kenneth Walker Pre-Draft Evaluation

by Randy Mueller, former NFL general manager and team executive

The Wake Forest transfer is the epitome of a rotational back who will have to carve out his role depending on scheme at the next level. He is not big, he doesn’t run inside much and he was a non-factor in the passing game at Michigan State.

What Walker is, though, is a hard guy to get on the ground in space. He’s sudden, he can make defenders miss and he has speed to bounce and turn the corner and run out of sight. His vision and decision-making usually takes him outside, even if the play is designed for between the tackles. He would rather operate on the edges as opposed to between the tackles, and therefore a one-back type of spread scheme might fit him best (see: the Cardinals with Kliff Kingsbury).

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Once in the secondary, Walker can make sharp cuts at a high level of speed.

At first glance, some evaluators might say Walker is a third-down back. Here is the problem, though: He can’t hold up — at this point — in pass protection versus bigger blitzing linebackers and is an unrefined route runner who is a small target to locate.

His 13 receptions last season were a career high, so he would need to pass the test of a pass-catching workout before checking the box for having hands and ball skills. I'm not saying he can’t catch, he just wasn't used much to do so.

There may be more questions than answers for teams at this stage, so I don’t see him being selected before Round 2 or 3.

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