Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks 3rd Runner
Fantasy footall owners reading this might barely know about Thomas Rawls. They might not know him at all.
I’m going to argue that you should know this rookie running back. He’s now the #3 runner on the Seattle Seahawks and the two men in front of him have a lot of wear-and-tear.
Before the NFL Draft, Rawls was compared to a couple of players: Marshawn Lynch himself and (more commonly) Ahmad Bradshaw. That should give you some idea of the type of runner the Seahawks are getting. Thomas Rawls is a premier dynasty prospect, if you play in deep leagues which allow you to be patient.
Think about his situation. Thomas Rawls plays behind two excellent running backs in Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, but Lynch is a 30-year old with a punishing style of running and a lot of mileage. Jackson is 34-years old.
A year from now, Thomas Rawls could be the starter for one of the best teams in football–one which runs the ball a lot. More likely, you’ll have to wait until 2017 when Beast Mode’s contract is complete. By then, Lynch will be 32. The Seahawks wanted him gone at 30.
If you can afford to wait on Thomas Rawls, he could be the next starting runner of the Seattle Seahawks. It might take until 2016 or even 2017 for that to happen. Also, he is a player with character issues, so he could do something knuckle-headed to get himself suspended for a long time, or waived outright.
Those who have patience to wait and the understanding to know Thomas Rawls could make a disastrous personal decision might find huge value with a late-round flier. Rawls is a highly-talented runner with good size, amazing endurance, a punishing running style, and 4.4 speed.
Thomas Rawls once was a blue-chip college talent, and it’s my belief he’s a talented NFL-level back, too.
[Bryce Brown:If you’re reading this after Thomas Rawls broke his ankle in Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens, know that the team is going with a combination of Bryce Brown and Fred Jackson at running back. Bryce Brown is a 6’0″,. 220-pound, 24-year old veteran out of Kansas State. He was a 7th-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012, considered talented, but with concerns from a severe shoulder injury. After stints with the Eagles and Bills, Bryce Brown came to Seattle. He is the best option in Free Agency. Fred Jackson is a 6’1″, 215 lb 10-year veteran from Coe. He once was a productive back, but the team seems to think he’s too old to carry the load as the primary RB. DuJuan Harris: The 5’7″, 208-pound DuJuan Harris took over as the primary runner for the Seahawks on Sunday. He had 18 carries for 42 yards against the Ravens and didn’t look that good, though the Ravens are not bad against the run. Harris started in front of Fred Jackson and looked like the leading candidate to start until Marshawn Lynch returns. Neither Harris nor Jackson appear to be an early-down back, though. Note: DuJuan Harris was waived on Tuesday. Brandon Cottom, a 6’0″, 258-lb monster of a back sits on the Practice Squad and might be activated in Week 15. Or the team might bring in someone off the street. For instance, someone like Christine Michael might be signed off the Washington Redskins’ Practice Squad. I mention Christine Michael, because teams in these situations like to sign players who know their system already, but no news has suggested him as a possibility. It isn’t essential for RBs, though. Now on to the keeper league information on Thomas Rawls, which still applies in the long run.]
Thomas Rawls Stats
Weight: 220 lbs
40-Time: 4.42, 4.50, or 4.62
College: Central Michigan Chippewas
Drafted: Undrafted Free Agent (UDFA)
Thomas “The Train” Rawls had a winding path to the NFL. He is one of those players with undeniable talent, but a history of trouble. He played at two universities during his college career. At one, he was let out of his scholarship.
At the other, he missed games due to academic problems, while he was alleged to have stolen a woman’s purse. Critics could say he had character issues.
If you don’t draft such players, you might not care to go further. Since Marshawn Lynch fit the same mold coming out of college, I’m assuming most readers are willing to consider a player with off-the-field issues.
Michigan Wolverines Career
Thomas Rawls signed with the Michigan Wolverines in February 2011, saying University of Michigan’s all-time rushing leader, Mike Hart, was his favorite player. Rawls said he planned to break Mike Hart’s records. In his freshman season, the Flint, Michigan resident showed he had the talent to make a run at Hart’s numbers. Playing as a backup in 10 games, his season high was 73 yards against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Michael Rothstein of ESPN predicted the Train would be one of the Michigan’s 5 stars in 2012.
In 2012, Rawls played as the Wolverines’ short yardage running back. As a sophomore, he averaged 4.9 yards per carry and was the second-leading rusher on the team. He looked to be ready to break out as a Wolverines runner in his junior season.
It was not to be.
Thomas Rawls appeared in only one game in his third season at Ann Arbor, due to a knee injury. In January 2014, the University of Michigan announced he would be one of three players who was released from his scholarship. That meant the ex-Wolverine could transfer immediately to another school, losing no time to ineligibility.
Release from Michigan, Transfer to CMU
He chose Central Michigan. When he spoke to The Flint Journal about his transfer, Rawls said, “What I will bring to Central Michigan is a tough attitude, leadership and good characteristic skills and work. I can’t promise them that we will win a MAC championship but I can promise them that I can work hard and hopefully the guys will embrace me and I won’t embarrass the program.”
Unfortunately, that last statement did not prove accurate. In April 2014, Thomas Rawls was arrested on one count of larceny and two counts of stealing a credit card while at the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. It appears that he stole a woman’s purse and used a credit card inside it to purchase $33 worth of gas.
Video Footage of a Theft
MLive reported how the incident began this way: “Video surveillance from the casino shows Rawls entering a casino eatery with two other men, observing an abandoned purse in a chair, and sitting on it, according to an affidavit requesting arrest warrants filed by a Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Police officer.”
The MLive story continued with a description of how Thomas Rawls allegedly stole the purse.
The article said, “After sitting on the purse, Rawls hands it to one of his companions, who places it in a bag before the pair leave the casino, the officer said. The officer said Rawls used a stolen credit card from the purse to buy sub sandwiches at a casino sub shop and the group later bought $33.77 worth of gas with a debit card from the stolen purse.”
Despite video evidence supporting the charges by Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Police, Thomas Rawls denied having stolen the purse. He said, “Using credit cards, and me stealing a purse, I didn’t do it.”
Pleaded Guilty to Attempted Larceny
He continued to deny the charges, even after he pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of “attempted larceny” in September 2014. The Chippewas running back blamed his arrest on guilt-by-association. During the time between his release at Michigan in January and the start of his tenure at Central Michigan the next summer, he was spending time with old friends from his hometown. According to Rawls, the old friends brought him into their troubles.
About the incident at the time of the NFL Combine, Rawls said, “I learned a lot from it [the conviction]. Just being with guys I shouldn’t have been with from back home (in Flint). I learned a lot from it, and moved forward from it, and I’m looking forward to putting it all in the past.”
Goes Undrafted in 2015 NFL Draft
The arrest no doubt was the major reason Thomas Rawls went undrafted, because his on-field talents were impressive. The NFL was undergoing the most intense scrutiny it had seen in its history, due to the Ray Rice and Greg Hardy domestic abuse scandals, the Adrian Peterson child abuse scandal, and the intense coverage in the online social media. TMZ’s fateful video from inside the elevator had touched off a new era of scrutiny for the NFL in the pop culture, and (most) teams did not want to draft problem players.
Bringing in a player as an undrafted free agent with little financial commitment was another story. Thomas Rawls had talent, plain and simple.
During his one season at Central Michigan, the troubled athlete became a workhorse back. He ran the ball 40 times in back-to-back games, seeming to get stronger as the game continued. Rawls’ coach overused the back, so an injury eventually cost him to miss the parts of the last couple of games of his regular season, while an academic issue forced him to miss the Chippewas Bahamas Bowl game. But he had shown the type of ability to turn the heads of scouts.
This is a glimpse of the back’s short time at CMU.
At the NFL Draft Combine, Rawls ran a disappointing 4.62 40-time. He re-ran the 40 in his pro day, where he greatly improved upon his results with a 4.42 and 4.50 40-time. Normally, such a difference and impressive game tape probably would have been enough to get the CMU player drafted. Combined with his criminal past, teams shied away.
Thomas Rawls Signs with Seahawks
When the Seattle Seahawks signed Thomas Rawls to a rookie undrafted free agent deal, he joined a team with a stacked backfield. One of the Seattle Seahawks’s best players is Marshawn Lynch–everybody knows that. Beast Mode is the heart-and-soul of the Seattle franchise.
What casual fans might not know is the Seahawks had planned on ditching Marshawn Lynch in the 2015-2016 offseason. He was nearing 30, a time most running backs experience severe drop-off, and was entering a contract year. Negotiations had not gone well in the summer of 2014, so Lynch held out of training camp. Despite his on-field brilliance, Lynch does not appear to be easy to work with (media members can attest). The Seattle Front Office wanted him gone.
To replace him, the team had drafted Christine Michael as a 2nd rounder in 2013 and Robert Turbin as a 3rd rounder in 2012. Those represented major investments, so the writing was on the wall.
Reasons Christine Michael Failed
A couple of problems existed with that plan. One, Marshawn Lynch is an absolute freak on an NFL field. Also, he’s absolutely essential to the success of Pete Carroll’s team. Even more, Christine Michael failed to live up to his hype. While Robert Turbin is seen as a nice complementary player, Christine Michael was viewed as the eventual savior of the franchise. It did not turn out that way.
When training camp started, it was assumed Robert Turbin would be the primary backup and (perhaps) third down RB in the Seahawks’ offense. Christine Michael, who was battling an injury, was expected to be the third runner. Thomas Rawls would compete with Rod Smith (not the Broncos WR great) for the 4th spot at runner. Derrick Coleman and Will Tukuafu would serve as fullbacks and special teams players. In other words, the rookie would be on the roster bubble from the minute he stepped in camp.
Midway through the preseason, Robert Turbin got a high-ankle sprain. That injury proved to be a key moment in the development of the Seahawks 2015 running back situation. The team suddenly didn’t have a reliable backup for a 30-year old back with a high-impact running style and a lot of mileage. They were putting a third straight Super Bowl run at risk by simply assuming Lynch would be healthy.
Enter: Fred Jackson
Then the Buffalo Bills strangely waived Fred Jackson, a 34-year old veteran who had been a reliable passing down option (and sometime starter) for the past several years. Fred Jackson is old by NFL running back standards, but he is fit and has not shown lots of signs of slowing down. In fact, he was the only one of the Bills’ top 5 running backs who wasn’t hurt in the preseason–and he looked good.
Then Fred Jackson signed with the Seahawks, and everything was up in the air. Even when Thomas Rawls made the Seahawks’ 53-man roster on Sunday, it was reported he would probably be cut. That’s because the team still needed room to add Fred Jackson.
It didn’t happen that way.
Christine Michael Is Traded to the Dallas Cowboys
Late Sunday night, Christine Michael was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for a conditional draft pick. Texas is the site of Christine Michael’s past glories with Texas A&M. The team has few good options at running back, so it’s the best chance Christine Michael has of becoming a solid NFL starting running back.
Robert Turbin Goes on IR
Then Robert Turbin was sent to the temporary-Injured Reserve. That would put him out until Week 8 with the high-ankle sprain. Early reports are Turbin would receive an injury settlement at some point, so he could shop his services on the open market.
Quite clearly, Fred Jackson’s signing made Robert Turbin expendable. The two have roughly the same role on a team, except Fred Jackson is more accomplished.
Rod Smith to the Practice Squad
When Rod Smith was waived by the team on Sunday, it was widely reported he would be resigned to the Practice Squad. This time, the reports were accurate. Rod Smith is now on the Seahawks’ practice squad. If someone goes down with an injury, Smith is the likeliest singee.
Thomas Rawls: Seahawks’ New #3 RB
That leaves Thomas Rawls as the last-man standing. He is now sitting behind 30-year old and 34-year old running backs. While Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson are solid players with no hint they are fragile, one has to wonder about their injury concerns. Thomas Rawls is one injury away from relevence, two injuries from a starting position. It’s the NFL; it could happen.
What Is Thomas Rawls’ Value?
If you play in a dynasty league, then Thomas Rawls is a must-draft option in the late rounds. He is hard to tackle, much like Marshawn Lynch. There is no heir apparent, except for “The Train”. Of all players, he is the one most likely to become the Seahawks’ starter.
That’s a good position to be in, too. The Seahawks love to run the ball. They are young contenders and should be excellent for years to come. Thomas Rawls could be a part of that future–a big part of it.