Penny for your thoughts? There are a lot of rookie RBs getting a lot of early attention this offseason. But this overlooked RB deserves far more attention. With the drafting of Rashaad Penny, the Seattle Seahawks tipped their hand. The former San Diego St. back is the unquestioned favorite to lead Seattle’s RB group. Do you really use a first round pick on a RB, then stick with Chris Carson or Mike Davis? C.J. Prosise will be lucky to play ten games. So with that out of the way, mark the starter snaps down for Penny.
PLEASE NOTE: It’s important to understand that just because we are extremely high on Penny, that doesn’t mean you should draft him in the second round. Pay attention to our up to the minute ADP, all the way to your draft day to determine where he’s going and make sure that you grab him in the appropriate round. In our high stakes drafts where drafters are looking for high upside, his current ADP is 56.7 and in typical leagues, Penny is going at pick 54.
Now let’s talk about Seattle’s offense. When it’s performing at its best, Russell Wilson is getting out of the pocket, improvising off of a broken play and getting the ball downfield. Well, it just so happens that Penny was well-regarded by many scouts as an excellent improviser as well on broken down plays. Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated said this about Penny: “He’s outstanding as an outlet receiver in scramble situations. So it seems like new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer might have a nice way for making defenses pay for chasing Russell Wilson.” So great, he can catch the ball and make plays, making him a sleeper RB to target in PPR leagues!
What about standard scoring leagues where you need a guy who gobbles up yards and touchdowns?
Well, according to Pro Football Focus, Penny forced 86 missed tackles last year, most in all of college football. Not only was it the most, but he also had 28 more than the second-most RB, Ronald Jones. Penny also had 4.47 yards after contact, third-most among RBs. He has an ideal height and weight combo for a running back: 5’11” and 220 lbs. He is a thick-bodied runner with excellent vision and patience, much like our Fantasy friend Le’Veon Bell. Penny waits for the hole and has an elite burst with the top end speed to make defenders pay. Plus, given his size and strength, tacklers better bring their A-game because Penny will punish poor technique. Whether it is inside the tackles or outside, he walks the fine line necessary to bring the thunder and lightning all in one package. Just to further illustrate his speed, San Diego St. used him as a kick returner. He had eight combined kickoff and punt return TDs in his collegiate career, and his seven career kickoff return TDs are tied for most in NCAA history. Unreal.
— Sleeper Athletes (@SleeperAthletes) January 27, 2018
Check out this 73-yard TD reception by Penny during this year’s Senior Bowl. It’s very easy to imagine Russell Wilson sliding out of danger and finding Penny with open field in front of him.
When asked about his thoughts after drafting Penny in the first round, Seahawks GM John Schneider had this to say, “A true rarity is that we had a team call after we selected him and tried to acquire him. I’ve never experienced that. We feel very blessed tonight.”
So hang on, the fit might be great, but there’s praise for every incoming rookie. Athleticism can be overstated. This is the NFL after all; everyone possesses some sort of athleticism. The question boils down to how does Penny figure to be a Top 10 RB in his first year? The truth is you don’t have to be David Johnson or Todd Gurley or Ezekiel Elliott to be a Top 10 back. Maybe you need to be that good to finish first in Fantasy scoring among RBs. But Top 10? The bar isn’t as high as you might expect.
Last year Duke Johnson Jr. finished 11th among RBs in PPR scoring. Carlos Hyde finished 8th and didn’t even rush for 1000 yards. In this age of specialization and committee backfields, you don’t need LaDainian Tomlinson numbers. In 2016, Frank Gore was the 12th-best Fantasy back in standard leagues, and he barely cracked 1000 yards.
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Obviously, if you’re in a PPR format like the Fantasy Football World Championships, you need at least 40 to 50 receptions to crack the Top 10. Since Seattle brought on offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer this year, let’s look at his past offenses to determine how many targets Seattle’s running backs can expect in 2018. The last stretch where he was an OC in the NFL was in 2014 with the then-St. Louis Rams. That year, Zac Stacy, Tre Mason, and Benny Cunningham combined for 101 targets. Speaking of Tomlinson, who joined the Jets & Schottenheimer in 2010, LaDainian was peppered with 61 targets and produced 42 receptions in 2011. Of course, Penny may not be LT, but we are more focused on a blend of opportunity and talent, not talent alone. Schottenheimer is also known for running a power running game offense. If you go further back into his resume, as I mentioned, he was the OC with the Jets from 2006 and 2011. His final two years overlapped with Rex Ryan, so that’s definitely power football. Head coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider have both already said multiple times they envision a three-down role for Penny. You can only put so much faith into coach-speak, but with so few backs seeing a true three-down workload, the potential for lots of touches has to be very alluring. Recently, Schottenheimer on Penny’s progress as a blocker: “I’ve been blown away by his ability to diagnose the blitz, see where the blitz is coming from and track his guy. It’s been outstanding for a young back, one of the best, if not the best I’ve ever been around.” This great news because sometimes pass-protection can really keep a promising back off the field!
So when do you target Penny during your Fantasy drafts? Well, you can’t reach for every pick but to ensure you land your guy, you should try to land him in the fourth round. His ADP is 49.30. However, he’s going a bit earlier in FullTime Fantasy Sports leagues with an ADP of 46.3. That placement makes him the 20th RB off the board while we rank him 10th among all RBs in PPR scoring. If you start your draft RB-heavy, Penny could be your RB3/flex play. You’ll easily have the best RB trio in your league if that’s the case. Even if he is your RB2, you’ll still have two strong contenders to finish in the Top 10 of RB scoring.
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