During the 2016 NCAA football season, Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson lost his starting job with the Oklahoma State Cowboys. On Wednesday, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was gushing over the seventh-round draft pick. Carroll talked up Carson's well-rounded game, praising not just his prowess as a runner but also his ability to block and catch passes out of the backfield. "I'm anxious to see how he grows with us and if his role can expand as we find out more stuff," Carroll said, via Joe Fann of the San Francisco 49ers' official website.

So what happened between Carson's collegiate benching and the fueling of his NFL hype train? Well, for one, there was the NFL combine, to which Carson was surprisingly invited despite seeing only 82 carries during his final year at Oklahoma State. The 22-year-old, whose 23rd birthday is coming up this Saturday, impressed at the combine with a 4.58 40-yard dash, 23 bench reps, and impressive jumps (37-inch vertical, 130-inch broad). Still unsure of their long-term replacement for the legendary Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks decided to take a flier on Carson with the 249th pick of the draft.

Now, a few months later, Carson looks like he may have carved out a permanent role in the Seahawks' backfield, and it seems like Carroll is open to expanding that role. Carson ran the ball six times for 39 yards in the Seahawks' season opener against the Green Bay Packers, leading all Seattle running backs in snaps, and it looks like he could be in line for even more work against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2.

Here's why:

Chris Carson was the Seahawks' best running back in preseason and week 1

It's unwise to rely too heavily on preseason performances as indicators of regular-season success, but the preseason does count for something—remember, we saw the first signs of Dak Prescott's franchise-quarterback skill set during his preseason action last year.

In Seattle, Carson posted the best preseason rushing line on the team, racking up 102 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries (4.3 yards per carry). Eddie Lacy plodded his way to a 3.6 yards-per-carry average, and thomas rawls lasted just two carries, gaining five yards, before an ankle injury knocked him out for the rest of the preseason and the season opener. Pass-catching specialist C.J. Prosise managed just eight yards on four carries.

Carson was also the team's top receiving back, hauling in four catches for 64 yards over the course of the preseason. Lacy caught one pass for three yards, while the supposed specialist Prosise managed just two catches for 11 yards. Rawls did not catch a pass.

To top it all off, none of the running backs currently on the Seattle roster scored a preseason touchdown, while Carson, as mentioned, scored two.

Carson was also the team's best back in the Week 1 matchup with the Packers, posting 39 rushing yards and a ten-yard reception. Lacy ran five times for three yards without a reception, Prosise ran four times for eleven yards without a reception, and Rawls missed the game with an ankle injury that on August 17 was merely considered “minor,” according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy, and C.J. Prosise are injury-prone

One of the most important things you can be in the NFL is available, and the Seahawks currently boast a stable of running backs who frequently find themselves on the shelf.

Rawls suffered a devastating ankle injury that ended his impressive rookie campaign in 2015, and he struggled to stay on the field the following season, playing just nine games. Lacy only missed two games over his first three NFL seasons, but he was limited to five games by an ankle injury last year and missed some of this year's offseason program while recovering. As a rookie in 2016, Prosise missed a chunk of training camp with a hamstring injury. He eventually earned the starting job in the backfield (in part due to Rawls' struggle to stay healthy), but he was knocked out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury in just his second start.

Carson may not have the draft pedigree of Lacy (second round) or Prosise (third round).

He may not have a history of NFL success like Lacy or Rawls. But he is the only Seahawks running back who has been healthy since the start of the offseason program, and that is something that NFL coaches value. If you can be relied upon to get in the game and stay in the game, you're more likely to get snaps.

Chris Carson fits the Seattle Seahawks' playing style

It's no secret that the Seahawks want to dominate their opponents physically. They play perhaps the most aggressive defense in the NFL with bullies in the trenches and long defensive backs well-built for press coverage and big hits. On offense, they're much the same. Though the offensive line has fallen apart in recent years, the Seahawks are still largely a grind-it-out team, and Carson fits the mold of an ideal running back for that type of offense.

Seattle's offense was best running the ball back when Marshawn Lynch—now with the Oakland Raiders—was with the team. Lynch stands at 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds with a bruising downhill running style. Carson is listed at 5-foot-11 and 218 pounds, and as Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said back during the pre-draft process, “Carson is suited to a downhill attack that allows him to be the hammer rather than the nail,” much like Lynch was during his days in Seattle.

Rawls (5-foot-9, 215), Lacy (5-foot-11, 250), and Prosise (6-foot-1, 225) are physically imposing as well, but with Carson outperforming his backfield mates and being the only Seahawks running back who has stayed healthy all year, there is a strong chance that Carroll decides to give him a heavy workload against a weak 49ers team in Week 2. If Carson continues to impress, the Seahawks may continue to hand him the ball and not look back.