As a recruit
During his senior season at Norwalk High School in Norwalk, CA, Penny rushed for 2,504 yards and 41 touchdowns. That gave him over 4,000 yards and 71 touchdowns in his final two seasons. He also had 665 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. Penny was a three-star recruit who chose San Diego State in 2014. He was the 60th overall running back and the 95th in California. Rivals had him at 44 among RBs and 63rd in California. ESPN had him 144th at his position.
As a college player
For the Aztecs, Penny played behind one of the most prolific players in NCAA history: Donnel Pumphrey. Pumphrey rushed for over 6,400 yards at San Diego State, with three of those seasons coming as the starter ahead of Penny. Even as Pumphrey rushed for 2,133 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2016, Penny had 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns as the backup. When Pumphrey left, Penny rushed for 2,248 yards and 23 touchdowns, besting his former backfield-mate and leading all NCAA players.
Perhaps most importantly to a Seattle backfield, Penny forced missed and broken tackles better than any other back in college football. See below in this NFL Draft preview by ProFootballFocus:
He got there with plays like this:
And was a former conference Special Teams Player of the Year with plays like this:
As an NFL prospect
At the combine, Penny measured in at 5’11, 220 lbs, with 31.25” arms and 9.25” hands
He ran a 4.46 with a 32.5” vertical and a 10’ broad jump.
Rashaad Penny (@pennyhendrixx) ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds at the @NFL Combine, adding a 32.5 vertical inch jump & a 120-inch broad jump.#NFLCombine#NFLDraft#CLNYhttps://t.co/qpovCktwSf pic.twitter.com/uhiGrssBHP— THE COLONY (@The_CLNY) April 19, 2018
Penny was not viewed by many as a first round pick, or the second-best running back in the class, but to Seattle he obviously is those things. Penny has been called a better between-the-tackles runner than Saquon Barkley (as noted above in the PFF video), even if not a better overall prospect. Though to some, yes, he is a better overall prospect, that’s just a matter of opinion.
It’s not the opinion of most or many, but the Seahawks clearly liked what they saw and took him in the first round at pick 27. That’s a very significant number too.