News broke earlier this week that Marshawn Lynch had been arrested for a DUI, leaving the Seahawks in a difficult place. Given that this is Marshawn’s 3rd criminal offense during his time in the NFL, and he has already be suspended once in the past, it is fair to say that Lynch is virtually a mortal lock to miss Week 1, and probably a number of weeks after that. Often, in the NFL, teams must rely on their depth to succeed. This is usually due to injury rather than criminal incident but the concept remains the same. The Seahawks’ primary contingency plan in the event of the loss of Marshawn Lynch is rookie 4th round pick and former Utah State Aggie Robert Turbin. In most scenarios the idea of losing one of your marquee players and having him replaced by a rookie you drafted in the fourth round is absolutely terrifying, but the running back position is a unique case. In the past few years rookie running backs have found a great deal of success league wide, even ones that were not Adrian Peterson-like stud first round picks. The list of rookie running backs drafted outside the first round who went on to be productive in the last few years include names like Roy Helu, DeMarco Murray, Chris Ivory, Kevin Smith, Steve Slaton, LaGarrette Blount and Matt Forte. The most commonly stated reasoning for this success is that running back is simply not that difficult a position to learn. Rookies can be sheltered from difficult 3rd down blocking assignments and simply be turned loose with the ball in their hands on first and second down. If we accept that there is a precedent for running backs like Turbin to succeed in their first year, a look into his pre-draft scouting reports should give us a fairly good idea of what Turbin brings to the table and what kind of drop of from Lynch’s production we are likely to see early in the year.
To evaluate Turbin’s credentials I looked over a variety of scouting reports that surfaced about him in the lead up to the draft. The reports differ in certain areas and given that I have never seen Turbin play I don’t have any means for supporting one opinion over the other. What I’ve done instead is looked at many scouting reports and only included information that is common to either all of them or at least a solid majority. I’ve structured these pieces of information into the basic categories of “good news” and “bad news”. Most scouting reports use the terms “positives” and “negatives” but that terminology strikes me as dry.
Good News: Robert Turbin has good size and strength
We don’t have to rely on scouting reports to confirm this information. Turbin tips the scales at a solid 222 pounds and put up 28 reps on the bench press, a fantastic number for a running back. Turbin uses this strength to run downhill and break tackles. He has the ability to wear down defenses and create yards after contact in a similar manner to the man he will be stepping in for, albeit in a way that is unlikely to match the aesthetic appeal of “Beast Mode”
Bad News: Robert Turbin is not fast.
Turbin ran a 4.50 at the Combine which is respectable but approximately average. Unfortunately, multiple reports suggest that he doesn’t play up to his timed speed. Turbin lacks a second gear to break away from defenders and has been known to get caught from behind. Turbin is unlikely to turn the corner on outside runs or impress with his lateral movement. The word “plodding” is liberally used in descriptions of Turbin which is generally not a good sign.
Good News: Robert Turbin has good vision
To clarify we aren’t talking about Shaun Alexander in his prime type of vision, but most scouting reports suggest Turbin does a good job of picking the right hole and hitting it. His decisiveness is combined with a solid burst through the hole that creates consistent positive yardage. This bodes for Turbin’s ability to thrive in a zone-blocking system. This is also a factor, along with his aforementioned power, in his knack for finding the end zone. Last year Turbin had 23 total touchdowns (19 rushing, 4 receiving) for Utah State.
Bad News: Robert Turbin won’t contribute much in the passing game
This weakness is not uncommon among running backs coming out of college. Turbin is more of a power back than a receiving option and only put up 171 yards receiving last year. Turbin also can struggle with pass blocking. He tends to whiff on his blocks and gets blown back at times. These problems may well be correctable as he certainly has the requisite strength to be an effective blocker. At this point he is fairly raw in both pass catching and pass blocking and unlikely to see much time on 3rd down.
Overall Turbin has the ability to be an effective fill in for Marshawn Lynch for however long he is needed. When Turbin was first drafted some were confused as he appeared to be more of a backup feature back than a complementary back to Lynch, considering their skill sets are somewhat similar. It now appears that a backup feature back is exactly what the Seahawks need and the pick of Turbin may well end up being wiser than it initially seemed. Robert Turbin is unlikely to wow Seahawks fans with blazing speed, incredible moves or earthquake inducing runs but he could provide solid, if unspectacular, production. As long as we don’t expect too much out of him, especially in the passing game, he may well be a pleasant surprise. NFL comparisons for Turbin range from Isaac Redman to Marshawn Lynch himself and if Turbin is able to land somewhere in the middle of those two then Seahawks nation will have to be happy.