2022 NFL Second Draft Candidate Part 2: Rashaad Penny

by Shervon Fakhimi · NFL

Rashaad Penny is the subject of a BRAND NEW RotoUnderworld written series. The phrase ‘second draft’ is a common one among front offices across sports. When teams prepare for a draft in a given year, teams do their homework on every prospect, even ones they don’t need or have a chance to select in that specific draft. Why? So when one of these players eventually becomes available either via trade or free agency, there is still some familiarity with their games and how they’d possibly fit and revitalize their careers within a new system. This is not a new phenomenon. 

Running Back

It is not uncommon for a high draft pick, especially a first-round pick, to get a second chance despite early career struggles. Sometimes, the situation just was never the right fit for any party, especially the player, whether that be the personnel around them, the coaching staff, the usage of said player, or all of the above. Sometimes, injury gets in the way of allowing a player to shine their brightest. Sometimes, all these guys need is a fresh start to become the players they were meant to be. The latter applies to Rashaad Penny.

Second Draft RB Candidate: Rashaad Penny

Using a first-round pick on a running back is not smart business in today’s NFL. But Rashaad Penny‘s prospect profile warranted an early selection when he declared for the 2018 NFL Draft. Penny ran for 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. He followed it up with a gargantuan 2,248 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior. That season was so spectacular that he finished in the top five of the Heisman voting. He added 34 receptions during his final two collegiate seasons as well. His advanced stats were elite too. A 50.1-percent (98th-percentile among qualified running backs), College Dominator Rating, 7.8 (97th-percentile) College YPC average, and 10.3-percent (79th-percentile) College Target Share led to his first round selection.

Rashaad Penny Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

That led to the Seattle Seahawks drafting him in the first round of the 2018 Draft. The problem for Penny was that he could not beat out the incumbent Chris Carson. Though he did flash as a rookie with a couple of touchdowns and a 108-yard outing on 12 carries against the Los Angeles Rams, he registered 85 carries to 247 for Carson. The 2019 season was the year Penny showed his worth.

The 2019 Season

Chris Carson, still the starter through the first 10 games, rumbled for 853 yards and four touchdowns on 200 carries. Though mired in a fumbling spree, he kept the stranglehold on his starting job being the only healthy back. Rashaad Penny missed three games due to a hamstring strain, playing bits of others while recovering from it. He returned in Week 12 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Carson fumbled yet again. He got pulled and Penny seized the newfound opportunity by running for 129 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. A week later, Penny ran 15 times for 74 yards and a touchdown, also bringing in four of five targets for 33 receiving yards and a touchdown. He looked ready to form, at the least, a two-man punch with Carson, and possibly seize the starting job. But a torn ACL and meniscus in Week 14 foiled all of those plans.

Penny was sidelined for roughly two calendar years. He missed 13 games of the 2020 season rehabbing that injury. All he was able to do on the field that year was take 11 carries for 34 yards. Heading into 2021, he underwent cleanup surgery on the same knee he injured in 2019. This forced him to miss multiple weeks of training camp. He was able to return in Week 1. Soon after, he suffered a calf strain that forced him to miss the next five weeks. Meanwhile, Carson suffered a neck injury in Week 4 that prematurely ended his season. Once Penny returned, he could not usurp a new starter, Alex Collins. In the five weeks (one of which included a bye week) after Penny returned, he mustered just 26 yards on 15 carries. To make matters worse, he strained a hamstring and missed yet another game. 


Undeniable Upside

Once Rashaad Penny returned to action again in Week 13 against San Francisco, the Seattle backfield was in total flux. Chris Carson, Alex Collins, and Penny were hurt. Which prompted the Seahawks to call on the remains of Adrian Peterson to fill that void. Penny ended up leading the backfield that week with 35 rushing yards and 27 receiving yards. From then on, he took a stranglehold on the Seattle backfield and never relinquished it. In the last five games of 2021, Penny ran for at least 135 yards in four, totaling 671 yards. He averaged 7.29 yards per carry. He scored six touchdowns. The 749 rushing yards he ended the year with finished No. 25 among running backs.

With 5.5 (No. 1) True Yards Per Carry, a 12.6-percent (No. 1) Breakaway Run Rate, 6.4 (No. 3) Yards Per Touch, and 3.83 (No. 4) Yards Created Per Touch, he finally broke out.

Where Can He Go?

The Seattle Seahawks declined their fifth-year option on Rashaad Penny before the 2021 season began. Who could blame them after all the time he missed? However, after his end-of-season breakout and proving he is a quality starting running back when healthy, he will be a free agent. Many teams could use him. Would the Buffalo Bills take a shot to get some juice in their backfield? The Atlanta Falcons trotted a converted wide receiver last season for a full year in 2021. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t bring Leonard Fournette back, Penny could be an option there. Or, the Seahawks could bring him back with Chris Carson fighting through a neck injury; the Seahawks could get out of the extension they signed Carson to in 2022. If Penny returns to Seattle it’s plausible (likely?) he’s the starter entering the 2022 season.



Rashaad Penny was a gifted running back when he entered the NFL, and still is. Injuries have gotten in the way of him shining the way he was supposed to like he did to close the 2021 season. With plenty of teams needing a running back in free agency, he will be a hot commodity. If he stays healthy, he will reward not only any NFL team who signs him but any fantasy gamer who acquires him. He’s 26 years old with 280 carries under his belt in his professional career. He is a buy in dynasty leagues as someone who will not cost a premium but has league-winning RB1 upside. Get him now while you can and reap the benefits later.