Even Rashaad Penny did not expect to be drafted in the first round, which tells you all you need to know about whether the Seahawks made the right pick at the right time.
John Schneider and Pete Carroll said they had offers to move down from 27, but they obviously didn’t want to risk dropping too far and losing the running back to another team. Their fears might have been confirmed when a team apparently called right after they drafted Penny and offered to trade for the back. Schneider said he had never been offered a deal AFTER drafting a player.
Obviously some people think Penny, just the third back ever drafted in the first round by Seattle, is going to be great. For the pick to be worth it, though, Penny will need to become the primary rusher and score 8-10 touchdowns a year. To do that, new line coach Mike Solari will have to fix a run-blocking unit that was among the league’s worst last season.
If the Seahawks cannot fix the blocking and continue to use a rotation rather than riding Penny, he will have been a wasted pick.
It sounds like the Seahawks plan to use him as their kick returner, too — he was a three-time Mountain West special teams player of the year after returning eight kicks for scores from 2015 to 2017.
“His special-teams acumen is so unique, he’s really going to be able to help Tyler (Lockett) and help take the burden off of Tyler at times,” Carroll said. “He’ll compete for all of the return stuff, which is great.”
Lockett is in the final year of his contract and figures to be a full-time starter alongside Doug Baldwin, so he figures to move to only punt returns while Penny takes kickoffs.
Penny then will compete with Chris Carson and Mike Davis for the starting RB job. “He’s coming in here to compete and he knows that,” Carroll said. “We’re not just handing him the job; he has to come in here and battle, which he’s ready to do.”
The Seahawks love Penny’s durability (he never missed a game at San Diego State) and ability to play three downs. They also were impressed by this stat: Penny forced the most missed tackles of any RB in this draft (he also was seven times better than No. 2 pick Saquon Barkley when hit behind the line, per Pro Football Focus).
“I don’t know if there was anyone better besides Saquon Barkley, who is an extraordinary player and that we haven’t seen a guy like that in years,” Carroll said. “And (Penny) is right there in his ability to make the explosive plays and make the extraordinary stuff happen.”
Video of Penny shows a runner with good vision, feet and balance. He takes a second to rev up the speed, but he has good wheels and looks like a smooth, instinctive runner. He also has patience. He follows his blocks and waits for them when he can. Of course, NFL defenders are much faster and he is coming to a team that was horrible blocking for RBs last year, so we’ll see how that skill translates.
“He’s so versatile and so dynamic,” Carroll said. “We know that every time he gets his hands on the ball, he can score a touchdown. That’s in the running game and the passing game, because he’s very gifted catching the football and running routes as well.
“He is also going to be a three-down back for us, and he can do everything. He needs to work on his pass protection, which he was not asked to do a lot of. But he will give us the ability to play him on all downs, and that versatility is really big.”
So big that Schneider and Carroll decided he was worth a first-round pick even in a deep class of running backs. We’ll see.