Summary: Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty ended up being a Heisman Trophy candidate in the 2013 season, but at the beginning of the year, Lache Seastrunk was the Baylor Bear who had some Heisman buzz. Seastrunk's torrid finish in 2012 had many making that projection, and his red hot start to the 2013 season helped command defenses' attention that helped Petty become a point-machine for the Baylor offense.
Originally, Seastrunk signed with Oregon and redshirted as a freshman in 2010. Seastrunk sat out 2011 after transferring to Baylor. It took some time for him to work his way onto the field in 2012, but late in the season, he helped carry Baylor to a strong finish. Seastrunk closed out the year in impressive fashion with 843 yards across the final six games. He averaged 7.7 yards per carry for the year and totaled 1,012 yards and seven touchdowns. Seastrunk ran over some tough opponents including Kansas State (19-185), Oklahoma State (16-178) and UCLA (16-139).
Seastrunk started the 2013 season on fire before cooling down. Seastrunk had 156 yards and a touchdown on only 10 carries against Louisiana-Monroe. Even though he only played the first half against Buffalo, he totaled 150 yards on 17 carries with three touchdowns. Seastrunk ran for 172 yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns against West Virginia. He had some highlight-reel runs running over defensive backs and accelerating away from other defenders.
The junior was injured against Oklahoma and missed the games against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. After the injury, Seastrunk never got back into the groove for the Baylor offense. He ultimately ran for 1,117 yards and 11 touchdowns on only 158 carries (7.4 average).
As a runner, Seastrunk shows flashes of being a first-round back. He is fast with the burst to take a short run a long ways. He is very quick to the second level and is elusive in the open field. He also has some underrated strength where he can run through tackles from defensive backs or shove them away with a stiff arm. Seastrunk has good feel, balance, pad level and vision.
The only real negative to his running style is sometimes he dances too much rather than being decisive to pick up a short gain rather than waiting and getting stuck for no gain. That is something that can be fixed with coaching.
Overall, Seastrunk is a good runner who could be a difference-maker in the NFL. It wouldn't be surprising if he goes on some big tears where he rips off a lot of yards and touchdowns over the span of a few games before having some quiet stretches. Those quiet stretches could also result from Seastrunk having the propensity to get banged up with nagging injuries.
However, the lack of experience in the passing game is a problem for the passing driven NFL. Seastrunk had zero receptions in 2013 and only nine catches in 2012 (9-107-1).
Before the Combine, there were a lot of questions about Seastrunk's receiving ability. However, Seastrunk had an impressive performance as he ran good routes and showed nice hands. Seastrunk will require a lot of development for the passing game. His receiving ability is further along than one would think, but he will need to work on his pass protection. Seastrunk will have to learn whom and how to block in the NFL. Early on, teams probably won't trust him to protect their quarterbacks, and that will hurt his ability to see the field.
Seastrunk would be best as a rotational back. He doesn't have the size and durability to be a 300-touch back. As stated above, he needs to be groomed to handle responsibilities in the passing game. Those issues will weigh Seastrunk down in the draft. The highest he could hope to go could be the second round, but he looks more likely to be a third- or fourth-round pick. However he should be ready to be a nice contributor as a runner immediately in his NFL career.
Player Comparison: Kendall Hunter. Hunter has flashed for the 49ers at times. He is a fast back who can rip off yards in chunks, but hasn't been used as a receiver that much in the NFL. Seastrunk could be a similar runner in the NFL. Hunter (5-7, 199) may not have the size to be an every-down back, and Seastrunk could be better as part of a rotation rather than a back that can total 300 touches. They are similar size and both have good speed with some surprising strength. Hunter was a fourth-round pick in 2011 and that is probably the low end for Seastrunk.
NFL Matches: Houston, Jacksonville, Tennessee, New York Giants, Cleveland, San Diego, Oakland, Miami, New York Jets, Atlanta
There are a lot of teams that are going to target running backs on the second day or the mid-rounds.
Seastrunk has a few landing spots in the AFC South. The Jaguars could use a feature runner for their offense if Maurice Jones-Drew leaves Jacksonville. The Titans could move on from Chris Johnson, and Seastrunk would be a nice replacement as a back with some speed. The Texans could use a running back behind Arian Foster. Ben Tate is entering free agency and probably won't re-sign with Houston. Foster has had injuries so it looks very likely that Houston will be drafting a running back.
In the AFC West, San Diego needs an alternative to Ryan Mathews. Ronnie Brown doesn't offer much as a backup, whil Mathews is very injury-prone. Seastrunk would be a good fit for the Chargers' offense. Oakland, meanwhile, may move on from Darren McFadden, and the Raiders could use a back capable of carrying their offense.
The Giants have Andre Brown entering free agency, while David Wilson is coming back from a dangerous neck injury. Adding another runner makes sense for New York. Staying in the Big Apple, the Jets could use a featured runner for their offense. Elsewhere in the AFC East, Miami is still searching for a stable running back. Seastrunk could be brought in to compete with the Dolphins' holdovers.
Cleveland needs a starting running back. If they decide to address other positions in the first two rounds, the Browns could use one of their third-rounders on Seastrunk. Cleveland could get a nice value by targeting a back like Seastrunk in round three or four.
Atlanta made a short-term signing with Steven Jackson, but the Falcons need a starter for the long haul. Seastrunk could be a nice fit in Atlanta.