When the Seahawks selected Chris Carson in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft, as the fifth-to-last selection of the entire event, nobody outside of the Seahawks' facility could have envisioned what he would become.
After years of struggling to establish the run, Chris Carson enjoyed the first 1,000-yard season by a Seahawks running back since Marshawn Lynch in 2014, with 1,151 yards in 2018. For an encore, he ran for 1,230 yards the following season.
Last year, his stats dipped for various reasons. He missed four games with a balky foot injury while also trying to ease back into game action following a hip injury to end his 2019 season.
When he was playing, he did not receive the same workload as he did in previous seasons, with Seattle wanting to be cautious because of his recent injury history. Despite posting a career-high 4.8 yards per carry, he turned in his lowest yardage total since his rookie season. He never had a game with more than 17 carries. This came after carrying the ball 20 or more times in eight different contests in 2019.
The Oklahoma State product is returning to Seattle after his rookie contract expired, signing a new two-year, $10.4 million deal in March.
Now, Carson stands to be one of the benefactors of Shane Waldron's new offense in Seattle.
"Shane does a great job of making everything balanced, mixing up different schemes. It's a more explosive offense," Carson explained in a press conference at the beginning of training camp.
A more balanced, explosive offense will help Carson look much more like the pre-2020 version that was consistently contending for 1,000 rushing yards.
The effectiveness never went away for Carson. He ranked 12th in DVOA among running backs in the NFL last season, a career-best. Now, it's just a matter of ramping up his workload and allowing him to establish dominance during a game.
That never happened in 2020 for one reason or another. Be it because they were busy letting Russell Wilson "cook," trying to keep up in a shootout due to shoddy defense, or the team being concerned about his durability, Carson rarely got the chance to get into a rhythm last year.
Now with a clean bill of health and a new offense, it's safe to assume Carson will get a heavier workload in 2021. Sure, the offense boasts a deep running back room with the likes of Rashaad Penny, Alex Collins, Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas nipping at his heels, but camp has made it clear: he's still the alpha dog in the room.
Set to turn 27 next month, Carson is one of the best running backs in the NFL when healthy. He was one of just seven running backs to turn in 1,000-yard rushing seasons in both 2018 and 2019. If he has it his way, 2021 will look at lot more like 2019 or perhaps even better.