• Matt Nein

Common Cents: Rashaad Penny

Matt Nein / @mnein9

Rashaad Penny is one of my absolute favorite football players in the entire league right now. His career in the NFL has gotten off to a very rough start but I believe he is poised for a very big comeback, sooner rather than later. I think the majority of people have forgotten how good he actually is and I am going to tell you why you need to have him on your roster. Penny will never be cheaper to acquire than he is right now. 

San Diego State:


First, a quick recap of his college career. 


Rashaad Penny was one of the greatest running backs in SDSU school history. His senior year he rushed for 2248 yards on 289 attempts with a school record of 7.8 yards per carry. He is third all time in school history in career rushing yards and rushing TDs, only behind Donnel Pumphrey and HOF RB Marshall Faulk. 

(Photo Credit: Pro Football Reference)


Penny’s senior year he led the nation in rushing yards (2248) finishing in front of Bryce Love (2118), Jonathan Taylor (1977), and Devin Singletary (1918). Penny was only 6th in attempts however providing his team with elite efficiency between the tackles. 


Penny was also electric in the return game as well taking 8 back for touchdowns over the course of his college career. 

(Photo Credit: Pro Football Reference)


@FFBallAllDay has created an RB rookie grading system that uses athletic profiles, college production, efficiency metrics, coaching schemes, coaching tenure with success, draft capital and several more factors. All this information is compiled, and each rookie RB is given a score. Here are the top 5 grades ever given


Jonathan Taylor – 88.89, JK Dobbins – 88.33, Rashaad Penny – 88.11, Saquon Barkley – 84.93, and Christian McCaffery – 84.82.


Profile:


Penny is a naturally strong player at 220 pounds. He carries it well and has very broad shoulders and has a blazing 4.46 40-yard dash for someone his size. Penny had a college dominator rating of 50.1% (98th percentile) and his college YPC was 7.8 (96th percentile).


As far as physical measurements go, this is who he compares to in recent memory.



Seattle Seahawks: 


Penny was selected with the Seahawks first round pick back in the 2018 draft with the idea in mind that he would come in and eventually take over the lead RB role over the often-injured Chris Carson. This, however, has not come to fruition…. yet. 


The Seahawks have only ever selected RBs in the first round 3 times. Curt Warner, Sean Alexander, and Rashaad Penny.


Penny was a very controversial pick back in the 2018 draft to say the least. Penny was the second RB off the board behind Saquon Barkley (2) and taken in front of players like Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, Ronald Jones, Derrius Guice, and Royce Freeman. So why was he taken so early? What did the Seahawks see in him? Well, apparently the Seahawks weren’t the only team targeting Penny early on. After the selection was made, the Detroit Lions immediately called GM John Schneider and tried to trade for Penny.


After the draft Pete Carroll had nothing but excitement and praise for Penny. 


"He’s Three-down back for us who can do everything. He needs to work on his pass protection, but the ability to play him on all downs, that versatility is really big."


The coaching staff also described Penny as a patient, elusive runner. His college numbers support that statement. 


Penny had the best elusive rating (123.3, according to PFF) in the entire draft class.


Penny lead the FBS in missed tackles forced with 80 his senior season.


Penny averaged 3.32 yards per carry when contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage; the highest of any player in the draft class.

Penny’s rookie year got off to a very rough start. It was reported going into rookie minicamp that he was struggling to get a hold of the playbook. Then going into training camp Penny broke his finger and was forced to miss more than a month after having surgery. Penny needed to have a screw inserted into his finger to fix it. (This was Penny’s first major injury in his entire career.) This set him back even further. Penny later admitted that after the injury it took a mental tole on him and really messed him up. Pete Carroll also echoed much of the same, “Penny didn’t quite know how to handle the setback of the broken finger and time lost at the end of last preseason, then nagging injuries throughout the regular season. That it took a toll on Penny mentally.”


It was also reported that Penny showed up overweight (listed at 220 but was actually 237) and that his ego got the best of him. Being a 1st round pick, Penny thought that this was his job and that he had already jumped Chris Carson. As we all know, Pete Carroll is not that kind of coach. Pete loves and thrives off competition. It does not matter where a player was drafted or how much capital it took to acquire a player, Pete will always play the better player. 


Once Penny finally took the field, the Seahawks saw glimpses of why they drafted him with the 27th overall pick. Penny rushed for 419 yards on 85 carries (4.9 avg) with 2 TDs in 14 regular season games as a rookie. Considering that state of how bad the Seahawks offensive line was though, it’s actually not bad. (The offensive line was really really bad.)


In 2019, Penny rushed for 370 yards on 65 carries (5.7 avg) with 3 TDs over 10 regular season games. His yards per carry went up and his TD production doubled (caught 1 passing TD). Now, 4 scores is not a lot, but on 73 touches that’s a pretty solid scoring rate. 5.48 touchdowns per 100 attempts may not seem like a lot but Chris Carson’s career rate is 2.97 per 100 touches. Not to compare Penny to the great Seahawks HOF RB Sean Alexander, but Alexander’s rate was 4.66 and he was a scoring machine. What these numbers tell me, in the small sample size that we have, Penny is explosive and a top tier running back when healthy. 



How explosive/talented is Rashaad Penny? Extremely. 


Penny and Carson are two very different running backs as far as skill set goes and Penny is light years better than Carson. I went back and did some research and I wanted to see how explosive Penny was vs Carson and vs the rest of the NFL. I took a look at the number of runs for 20+ yards each had, and the number of 30+ yard runs each vs the number of carries each got. 


In 2018, (Penny’s rookie year), Penny rushed 85 times with 5 of those going for 20+ yards (5.88%). Of those 5, 2 of those went for 30+ yards (2.35%). 


Carson rushed for 260 times with 8 going for 20+ yards (3.08%). Of those 8, 1 went for 30+ yards (0.38%).

In 2018, there were 294 runs of 20+ yards by 77 different rushers. 

This is an average of 3.8 per rusher. 

Of those 294 runs, 97 went for 30+ yards by 29 different rushers. 

This is an average of 1.97 per rusher. 


In trying to determine Penny’s level of explosiveness (and talent), if Penny had received the workload Carson got, at his rate of 20+ runs, Penny would have had 16 runs of 20+ yards which would have tied the league leader that year, Saquon Barkley. 


In 2019, Penny’s average went up even more on 20+ yard runs from 5.88% to 6.15%.

 Penny rushed 65 times with 4 of those going for 20+ yards. Of those 4, 2 went for 30+ yards. 


Carson’s average went down from 3.08% to 2.88% on 20+ yard runs. 

Carson rushed 278 times with 8 of those going for 20+ yards. Of those 8, 1 went for 30+ yards.


In 2019, there were 250 runs of 20+ yards by 69 different rushers. 

This is an average of 3.6 per rusher. 

Of those 250 runs, 101 went for 30+ yards by 49 different rushers. 

This is an average of 2.06 per rusher. 


Again, determining Penny’s rate at the same workload Carson got, Penny would have had 17 runs of 20+ yards with 9 of those being 30+ yards or more. Nick Chubb lead the league in 20+ yard rushes with 10 and CMC lead the league in 30+ yard rushes with 5. 


Now lets take a look at Penny’s actual numbers. 


These are Penny’s averages when he receives a 20%+, 30%+, and 40%+ snap share. 

Penny has never received a 50%+ snap share. 

Since Penny has never received a 50%+ snap share game, below are his projections based off the above numbers. 


(For reference, Chris Carson has averaged 59% snap share over the last 2 years playing in 29 regular season games. In 2018 Carson averaged 49% and in 2019 averaged 68%.)

Even when Penny shares the field with Carson, minimum 26% snap share, Penny is still far and away the better RB. 



The Tape:


Penny showed flashes his rookie year of what he can do and why Seattle decided to draft him so high. Penny’s first ‘breakout’ game came his rookie year in week 10 against the Rams when he rushed for 108 on 12 carries with 1 TD. 

Penny also on 2 separate occasions showed how special of a talent he is by turning absolutely nothing into a huge gains with one of them going for 30 yards. (Goes back to before with Penny’s 30+ yard runs. They were not busted assignment runs they were earned yards.)

In Penny’s sophomore year, things began to click.  


Week 2 against a tough Steelers defense, Penny ran for 62 yards on 10 carries with 1 TD. 

Penny then missed the next 4 of 5 games after suffering a hamstring injury in practice the Friday before week 3 kicked off. Penny’s first game back from injury was week 8 against ATL and Penny ran for 55 yards on 8 carries. Not wanting to rush Penny back to quickly with a healthy Chris Carson still on a roll, Penny was quiet weeks 9 & 10. Week 11 Seattle went on their bye week and things changed. Week 12, Penny was unleashed. 

Penny ran 14 times for 129 yards and a TD against a very stout Eagles run defense. 

This first part of this video is one of my favorite things about Penny. For a guy who weights 220lbs he is a very elusive, quick footed RB. One jab step and he makes a man miss. 

The good times kept on rolling the following week against MIN in a primetime game. 


15 rushes – 74 yards – 4.9 YPC – 1TD – 5 TGTs – 4 REC – 33 yards – 1 REC TD

After dominant back to back weeks coming out of the bye week, it had seemed the former first round pick had arrived. 


On the very first Seahawks offensive drive week 14, Penny took a screen for 17 yards before being tackled awkwardly and putting an end to his season with a torn ACL. 



Will Rashaad Penny play in 2020? 


Yes, and much sooner than most think. Penny has released several rehab workouts videos over the course of the summer updating people on his recovery. Penny’s latest video is the most encouraging of all. 

I was able to find this quote from a doctor commenting on the video. (I was unable to locate his name.)


“In all reality, the speed ladder is a really good sign, regardless of Penny still being braced up. For all who remember the horrific dislocation and tear that Teddy Bridgewater suffered in a non-contact play, the ability to push momentum off the knee is one of the harder parts to regain. Ladder drills are straight-line, so Penny is somewhere in between simple running and doing any real cutting. But the fact that he’s able to extend and recall his busted knee at full speed is very positive indeed.”


It is anticipated that Penny will be ready to roll by weeks 4 or 5. 

Looking Ahead: 


I fully expect Rashaad Penny to be the lead back going into the 2021 season if he’s not already by the end of the 2020 season. Hyde was signed to a 1-year deal and Chris Carson’s contract is expiring at the end of this season and the team has had zero talks about resigning him. Rookie Deejay Dallas was drafted in the 4th round in April for purely special teams and depth. In 2021 however Dallas could play a nice change of pace role relieving Penny from time to time. I also expect Seattle to draft or sign someone next offseason as well to refill the depth. 


2021 belongs to Penny. With team control for the next three years and the expiring contracts of Hyde and Carson, no reason for the Seahawks to not let their former 27th overall pick take the reins. 


A healthy Rashaad Penny is a top tier (top 8) fantasy football RB.