NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidate: #1
Seahawks RB Kenneth Walker III
Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III was the second back to come off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft, going only five spots behind Iowa State RB Breece Hall. Had Hall not suffered a season-ending knee injury, it’s hard to imagine I’d be writing about anyone else right now. Hall was electric in his rookie campaign, instantly giving the Jets offense the jolt it needed. As good as he was, Walker has been just as much the difference-maker for Seattle.
Coming into the season, the path to immediate playing time was murky for Walker. Annual breakout candidate Rashaad Penny had finally done just that. To end the 2021 season, Penny put together single-game rushing totals of 135, 170, and 190 yards and looked like he was finally ready to be the guy. He started 2022 a smidge off that torrid pace, but broke out in Week Four for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. One week later, however, his season suffered the same fate as Breece Hall’s. Enter K9, as he’s lovingly called in Seattle.
Walker ran for 88 yards and a touchdown on eight carries in Week 5 to relieve Penny. In his first four starts since, he has added 424 rushing yards (4.82 yards per carry) and six touchdowns. He ranks 14th in the NFL in rushing yards (570), but now a full-time starter with a heavy workload, he’s set to shoot up the ranks. On top of that, he’s playing an instrumental role in a Seahawks offense that’s exceeding even the wildest preseason expectations.
Barring unforeseen injury or a dramatic change to his workload, Kenneth Walker has the opportunity to both carry his team to the postseason and take home OROY honors.