To the surprise of no one, the Seattle Seahawks surprised everyone with their first selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, selecting San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny 27th overall. Penny, the second running back off the board, fills a position of need for the Seahawks, although the importance of the position can certainly be debated. Penny was a prolific playmaker with the Aztecs, rushing for 2,248 yards in his final season and averaging over nine yards per touch over his last two seasons combined.
Why Penny will succeed
As a runner, Penny is fluid in his movements in the open field and able to make defenders miss in space at every level of the defense.
Penny’s decisiveness in his runs translates to a zone blocking scheme perfectly. Equally powerful and explosive, Penny is capable of breaking tackles in the hole and around the line of scrimmage, as well as running away from defenders on long runs. In his final season with the Aztecs, Penny posted 30 runs of 15 yards or more. Finally, Penny’s style of play will absolutely survive as the game evolves. He’s dynamic in space as a runner and a receiver, and is a big play waiting to happen as a returner.
Rashaad Penny!— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) January 27, 2018
The FBS rushing leader rips of a BIG run that set up the South deep in scoring territory.
: NFL Network pic.twitter.com/WZEGqTtrWg
Why Penny will fail
The value or lack thereof of running backs in the modern game aside, Penny is a relatively safe pick. Health was never a question for him at San Diego State as he played in all 54 games. As a runner, Penny stays on schedule and displays good vision on both inside and outside runs. The biggest knock on him is an absolute inability to hold up as a blocker in the backfield. That will see him lose snaps early in his career and if that part of his game fails to develop over the next several years, it’s tough to envision him as a consistent three-down player.
Fit with the Seahawks
At 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, Penny’s build and body type is exactly that of a Seahawks running back. Equally capable of running inside and outside, Penny suits the type of early-down runner they’ve targeted previously, and his ability to break tackles will be massive. During his final season with the Aztecs, Penny broke 91 tackles. While the Derrius Guice-Marshawn Lynch comparisons are obvious, Penny’s split-legged running style actually reminded me quite a bit of Lynch and Jay Ajayi. It enables him to maintain balance upon contact and churn out extra yardage at the end of runs.
239 yards and 4 touchdowns... on 14 rushes.— SDSU Football (@SDSUFootball) December 23, 2017
Rashaad Penny is the best running back in the nation do not @ us pic.twitter.com/0GZ9jvhA9p
Year one role
It may be harsh on Chris Carson, but Penny immediately becomes the best early-down running back on Seattle’s roster. Penny and Carson will presumably split running downs but there’s a real chance Penny completely takes over the position and becomes a 200-plus carry, 1,000-yard running back in his rookie season. His lack of ability as a pass protector will see him come off the field on passing downs, but with two extremely versatile chess pieces in J.D. McKissic and C.J. Prosise, it was unlikely he would be a main competent in those situations anyway.