Rashaad Penny is 2022’s most underrated NFL player.
Sports media is fraught with embellishment, something to which not even us at Field Gulls are immune, but this case can be built on some solid and [possibly] substantial evidence.
Also, it’s among the most future-impacting storylines for the Seattle Seahawks this year.
For three and a half days, Penny was a shock. “Did the Seahawks really draft a running back in the first round?” was the mantra of draft week. I did check, and San Diego State was indeed an FBS school, so there’s a point.
For three and a half years, Penny struggled to get on the field, whether due to injury or performance. Never before (since Trent Richardson) had such a successful college runner amassed so many 1-yard runs. You hated it. I hated it. We occasionally said things about it, do not lie.
HAHAHAHA— Tyler Alsin (@TylerjAlsin) November 27, 2021
"The Seahawks gained 18 yards with Rashaad Penny. What that means, is that literally any running back, in this exact situation, can also gain 18 yards"
~Sam Gold absolute murder
And then, for four games, Rashaad Penny was the best ball carrier on planet Earth.
Let us say that again, because it bears repeating.
In a six-game stretch, from December 5 to January 9, Penny turned in four of the best RB performances of the 2022 season, any team.
Another somewhat ridiculous stat... 10 of Penny's 96 carries have gone for at least 15 yards this year. That's 10.4 percent.— Corbin K. Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) January 3, 2022
As for the four 1,000 yards rushers entering this weekend?
Jonathan Taylor is around 6%. Dalvin Cook 6.9%. Nick Chubb 7%. Joe Mixon 4%.
Now that four leads two directions:
(1) He finally did it! (You are an optimist and are full of joy)
(2) Sample size (You believe yourself to be a realist but are a pessimist tainted by years of Seattle Mariners fandom)
How Did We Get Here?
What the Seahawks did that was good - draft a boom-or-bust running back with an enormous boom.
What the Seahawks did that was bad - draft him in the first round, and then let/not prevent / watch him bust for three freaking years.
And so here we are now, in the final and contract year of Penny’s rookie deal, with him set up perfectly to confirm or shatter all hopes for his own financial future and that of the Seattle run game, with a seat at the table for the best 1-2 RB punch in the NFL.
So which Penny shows up this year?
The Media Has Spoken
I get the skepticism. I get the indifference, less, but I get it.
What I don’t really get is the media wholesale gave up on even making Penny an interesting part of the offseason conversation, and he is absolutely interesting.
Not a single ranking, not one weird list, not a tiny little hot take idiot guru, put Penny in their top-5, top-10....anything.
Here’s just a couple, but you can Google this stuff yourself.
Tier 1⃣ running backs pic.twitter.com/YALxP7sj0s— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) April 10, 2022
From one of my personal favorite works on the Internet, the Mike Clay annual report, Penny is 34th. Worse than two backups.
The clear and present belief is that Penny’s 2021 finish was a fluke. He remains no good, in the eyes of those most certainly not preoccupied with the AFC East and the TB Buccaneers.
I for one think it’s unbelievably out of character for not a single pundit to attempt an “I told you so” if Penny comes out swinging in 2022. If he does, they’ll simply jump on board, possibly delete a tweet or two, and go about their lives.
But this is exactly what he was drafted to be. At his best, Penny is the home run hitter Carson never was, he has a higher ceiling, a *cough* much lower floor, and greater inconsistency.
It’s reasonable to doubt whether Penny will see the same success, with how long it took him to find a groove and with all the changes in Seattle this year. It’s unreasonable to believe Penny played beyond his capabilities.
Rashaad Penny had the MOST yards per carry of all running backs at 6.3 in 2021— Jett (@Jett_GH) May 21, 2022
Next closest is Nick Chubb at 5.5 per carry. pic.twitter.com/STptGl0VlO
The Seahawks have had an abundant share of underrated players spanning generations of fandom, and still boast Tyler Lockett and Quandre Diggs near the top of that list. But Penny is the only one with a shot at being top-tier at his position - because he was last year - and yet finds himself considered a backup by many heading into the season.