The Seattle Seahawks stunned analysts and fans alike with their selection of San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, 26th overall. Every year, there are teams that win “win” and “lose” the draft with their picks. Initially, the Seahawks were graded in the latter category for adding Penny.
The move was largely criticized because many believed that Seattle could have selected the elusive back much later in the draft. Headed into April 26th, Penny was hardly recognized as a consensus first-round pick. He was often dropped from the top 5 group on some running back boards and was expected to be a solid Day 2 pick. This isn’t to say Penny wasn’t a good player in college; he led the NCAA with 2,248 rushing yards and 25 total touchdowns while averaging an impressive 7.8 yards per carry during his senior year at San Diego State.
However, on second glance, the Seahawks could possibly be justified in their bold move. Penny apparently generated quite the buzz among teams. The league bought into his college stats and his impressive showing at the NFL Combine, where he posted a 4.46 forty-yard dash. One unnamed franchise (possibly the Browns, who were noticeably interested in the months leading up to the draft) even phoned Seattle minutes after the selection to discuss a potential trade for the former Aztec.
Seattle obviously had a plan and they stuck with it. Their logic was justified and reflected the general sense of the league. However, the question still remains: why?
Ever since Marshawn Lynch left the Seahawks for retirement the team has struggled to find a stable, productive running back. Experiments with Thomas Rawls, Christine Michael, C.J. Prosise, Chris Carson, and Eddie Lacy all failed in an electric offense led by quarterback Russell Wilson. Injuries were the main reason, of course, but not the entire story. Truth be told, Seattle needed a reliable weapon to take the pressure off of Wilson and return the fierce ground-and-pound attitude to its franchise.
Yet, even Penny isn’t that type of player. He’s primarily a slasher, who uses quick cuts to elusively evade opponents. He tends to shy away from tacklers and was the most upright runner in the 2018 class. This contrasts the entirety of Lynch’s playstyle, which welcomed contact in order to punish the opposing team. While Lynch relied on sheer brute force and physicality to overpower his opponents, Penny is more of a speedster than a bruiser.
So why did Seattle go after their guy so early? They needed to add another fresh pair of jets to their offense. The Seahawks are focused on getting faster on offense, and we can clearly see that in next year’s projected starters. Players like Wilson (4.63 forty-yard dash), Baldwin (4.48), Jaron Brown (4.40), and Tyler Lockett (4.40) all boast the ability to stretch the field with their speed. A new age is brewing in Seattle, one that prioritizes dusting opponents instead of beating them with pure strength.
The necessity to play fast also grew due to competition in-division. The Los Angeles Rams acquired a frightening new cornerback duo in Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters this offseason, while also pairing Ndamukong Suh with reigning DPOY Aaron Donald. Richard Sherman left the Seahawks in free agency to join forces with Ahkello Witherspoon in San Francisco, who are also on the rise from a rebuild. Penny is just another piece that fits perfectly into the scheme Seattle is building.
Will it work? Is Penny the answer to the Seahawks’ woes at running back? Head on over to my Twitter at @Snack_TimeFS to tell me your opinion.
Cole Topham is the lead editor for snacktimefantasy.com and covers the MLB and NFL. He enjoys watching his opponents suffer as he defeats them week after week in his fantasy football/baseball leagues.