Rashaad Penny Deserved to Be the Second Running Back Drafted
The debate regarding the true value of running back in today's NFL rages on, but this isn't the time or place to dig in fully.
That's especially true because Rashaad Penny could wind up being the second-best (or best) running back in this class. Though he was a first-rounder, Penny was taken late, as the Seattle Seahawks plucked him off the board with the 27th overall pick.
Coming out of San Diego State, Penny's collegiate profile and athleticism put him on the map in the pre-draft process, but if you're confused as to why he was a first-rounder, maybe this will help.
Penny handled 22.2 carries per game last season as an Aztec, ranking him eighth in the nation. He turned those 289 carries into 2,248 yards (7.8 yards per carry) and 23 touchdowns. Penny added 19 catches and 125 yards (plus 2 scores) on his 26 targets.
In total, Penny accounted for 42.5% of his team's touches, the fourth-highest tough market share of any player this season. He led all rushers with a 45.8% yardage market share -- only three other players surpassed 35.0%, for context.
Penny, at 5'11" and 220 pounds, ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash. Adjusted for his weight, that ranks him in the 92nd percentile, via PlayerProfiler. He used that athleticism to rank as the nation's most elusive rusher by ProFootballFocus' metrics. He also ranked seventh in breakaway percentage, via PFF.
His receiving ability has some question marks, and he had just 34 catches total over the past two seasons, but the athletic profile suggests he can do damage in the open field after catches.
Penny as a Seahawk
Seattle's rushing efficiency has plummeted the past two seasons, via our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. In 2012, they ranked seventh in opponent-adjusted Rushing NEP per play. They followed it up by ranking 12th, 1st, and 6th.
The past two seasons, Seattle has slipped to 23rd and 21st in rushing efficiency, per our metrics. Addressing the running back position makes some sense, as they didn't have a single running back who hit 250 yards rushing for the year this past season, yet the concerns can't be pinned solely on the running backs.
The Seahawks' running backs combined for a Rushing Success Rate of 32.1%, 31st in the NFL last season, and the offensive line ranked 31st in FootballOutsiders' adjusted line yards metric. They'll need to revamp the offensive line to get the most out of Penny's rookie contract.
But the most elusive back in the class, one with touchdown potential and the ability to handle a big workload, Penny could help the Seahawks return to one of the league's most lethal rushing attacks yet again.