For as long as Pete Carroll and John Schneider are still around, you can always expect the unexpected from the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL Draft. Well... you can actually expect them to trade down in the first-round, THEN something unexpected happens, but you get the point.
Thursday night in the Seahawks war room saw Seattle trade from 18th to 27th, picking up a third-rounder from the Green Bay Packers in the process. Many analysts expected Seattle to go for a pass rusher or a cornerback, but noooooooo, the Seahawks went after a running back. Okay, if it’s a running back, surely that means Sony Michel, or Derrius Guice, or maybe even Ronald Jones or Nick Chubb, right? Nah. The answer is Rashaad Penny, who rushed for well over 2,000 yards last season at San Diego State, averaged more than 7 yards per carry, and returned eight kicks for touchdowns on special teams.
Instant analysis meant instant criticism of Seattle either overdrafting Penny or ignoring other needs that could be solved with a first-rounder. Virtually all of the major websites handed out failing grades to the Seahawks.
Let me preface this by saying the last time I gave the Seahawks a bad draft grade it was the year they took Russell Wilson. Penny was one of the biggest surprise choices of the first round. It wasn’t truly a stunner that the Seahawks picked a running back. But to pass on Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Derrius Guice for Penny was unexpected. You can argue scheme fit, and maybe Penny will be a superstar and the new Marshawn Lynch in Seattle. It just seems like he could’ve been had later in the draft. At least he wasn’t the choice at No. 18 and the Seahawks were able to get a pick on the draft’s second day.
Day 1 grade: D
There was zero surprise that the Seahawks traded down, as they expected their guys to be available later. I believe Penny is a good back, but they picked him too early. This is the modus operandi for the Seahawks in recent years, picking someone in the first round much earlier than most people project. And, in most cases, the picks haven’t worked out.
Losers: Seattle Seahawks
Rashaad Penny is a very nice running back and an explosive player, but for a team with a ton of holes, particularly on the offensive line, it was surprising to see them draft a running back in the first round. John Schneider and Pete Carroll do not care for your draft board or your mock draft; this is perfectly fine and it’s worked out well for them. (In 2012 everyone ripped the draft that netted them Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson, so color me scared of criticizing them.) It’s just hard to see them magically establishing the run without improving the offensive line. Fortunately, it turns out that Penny is really good at breaking tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He’ll need to be!
Penny may not be the human highlight reel for the Seahawks that he was for the Aztecs, but he’s a high-effort runner coaches are going to want to give carries to.
Still, this selection is…inscrutable. Many experts assumed the Seahawks would seek reinforcements for what’s left of the Legion of Boom, but they drafted heavily in the secondary last year. Offensive line is always a sinkhole, but the Seahawks decided years ago that they were going to pretend not to notice. Penny feels like a luxury for a team that entered the draft with just one pick among the top 100 and is clearly doing some renovations, if not a rebuild. And there may be better running backs on the board. Sorry, Penny: Don’t take this grade personally. It’s not you, it’s them.
He’s a nice runner, but they have so many other needs and there are better backs. Weird.
A true shocker. Not Derrius Guice, or Sony Michel, or Nick Chubb or … you get the point. Penny has a lot going for him, and had a great 2017 but … wow. Seattle had a golden opportunity to fill Richard Sherman’s spot with Josh Jackson … and reached for a RB? Grade: D
Analysis: Penny is a good player who will walk into the Seahawks’ starting lineup. But Seattle had too many holes on its roster to be using a first-round pick on a running back. And Penny wasn’t even the best running back on the board. Not with Derrius Guice still available.
Wait, what? With glaring needs at cornerback and edge rusher, and Iowa corner Josh Jackson and BC edge man Harold Landry still on the board, the Seahawks drafted a running back? (And that running back wasn’t Derrius Guice?) Look, GM John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll studied all of these prospects infinitely more than we did, and they’re obviously familiar with his team’s needs. And it should be noted that over the years the Seahawks have successfully found lanky press corners in the middle rounds of the draft. They acquired more mid-round capital by trading back in the first round. There’s also a case to be made on the other side of the ball: this team was at its best when the offense ran through Marshawn Lynch. A run-first offense naturally creates more leeway for Russell Wilson’s sandlot style. So we certainly can’t call this pick a blunder. But it’s very surprising the Seahawks didn’t address their D-line or secondary.
The Seahawks are clearly eager to replace Marshawn Lynch, but this is not a good decision. Rashaad Penny was seen as a second- or third-round prospect among teams. I know one team in the early 40s that was targeting him, and I imagine they’re surprised that he was taken.
I almost gave this a Millen grade - I would’ve gone with Kielbasa-Mode - but the Seahawks don’t have a second-round choice and almost certainly wouldn’t have gotten Penny in the third. So, I understand this pick ... sort of. The Seahawks could’ve traded down once more to get Penny.
Penny does fit Seattle’s type to a T: He’s big (5-foot-11, 220 pounds), physical, and breaks a ton of tackles (he led all draft-eligible backs with 80 forced missed tackles on runs last year, per PFF). That elusiveness and ability to pick up yards after contact should come in handy behind Seattle’s subpar offensive line, but the Seahawks are paying a high premium on the running back position when they have so many other more pressing needs.
As an aside, I am seriously tired of reading comments about the Seahawks not investing in the offensive line position, especially considering three of the five projected starters are first- or second-round picks from previous Seahawks drafts, and they just traded a third-rounder for Duane Brown. I’m also baffled as to why Shaquill Griffin has been written off as the heir apparent to Richard Sherman, and that Sherman’s replacement needed to be found in this year’s class.
I guess Seattle should just forfeit the rest of the draft or let some random child from Queen Anne who really loves to play Madden make the final decisions for the Seahawks.
The moral of the story here is that instant grades in the NFL Draft are close to worthless. If a team is stupid enough to draft a kicker in the second-round like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did with Roberto Aguayo, then yeah, that should be criticized on the spot. But everything else? Waste of time.
Here’s For the Win - USA TODAY analyzing the Germain Ifedi pick from two years ago.
Or maybe you may like Pete Prisco’s quick analysis on the Christine Michael selection from 2013.
We all know what a crummy 2011 draft the Seahawks had. They didn’t get a QB and wound up with some dudes named Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Byron Maxwell, and Malcolm Smith. I doubt there’s a future Super Bowl MVP and a future Hall-of-Famer among this quartet. Mel Kiper Jr. nailed this at the time it happened.
Seattle Seahawks : D+
Top needs: QB, OT, WR, DL
Summary: By passing on Andy Dalton, the clear impression is that Seattle has other plans (or hopes to) at quarterback. Could it be Carson Palmer or Kevin Kolb? I hope the Seahawks have better plans for quarterback than they appeared to in terms of adding value here. Carpenter fits a need, but was a reach with better tackle available. Moffitt can help this offensive line, but I didn’t see guard as a top need. Wright was a reach on my board, as was Durham, a wideout out of Georgia who may have been around much, much later. The Seahawks then made some sensible picks in the secondary, but at what impact that late? They did nothing really to help the defensive line and their sense of value was questionable. The positive might be that this is a very young team, and you suspect Pete Carroll expects improvement. I just don’t know if he added much this weekend.
Take draft grades with a grain of salt.