Rookie Spotlight: Rashaad Penny, San Diego State University
Height: 5’ 11’’ (official)
Weight: 224 lbs (official)
Hands: 9 ⅛”
Arm: 31 ½”
40 yard dash: 4.5 (unofficial/projected)
NFL Comparison: Devonta Freeman, Kareem Hunt, Jordan Howard
– very patient waiting for his blocks
– explosive out of cuts
– soft hands
– prototypical size for a 3-down back
– finishes runs with power
– good kick-returner
– willing blocker
– insane college production
– game-changer in the return game
– ball control
– horrible in pass protection
Scouting Notes: One of the more well-rounded backs in this year’s draft, Rashaad Penny used all of his tools to put up eyebrow raising numbers in college (2,383 all-purpose yards in 2017). Some may say that Penny was just a beneficiary of the SDSU system, as his predecessor Donnell Pumphrey was the FBS all-time leading rusher, but watching Penny’s game tape quickly dispels that notion. Penny runs with an explosive fervor that immediately reminded me of one of our 2017 Senior Bowl darlings Kareem Hunt, and we all know how well his rookie season went.
What’s intriguing about Penny is that considering how explosive he is, he’s extremely patient in waiting for his blockers to open up lanes for him to dash through. It’s also a nod to his excellent vision, as he always seems to know where he needs to cut to evade his tacklers. Of the 2018 class, perhaps only Saquon Barkley is on par with Penny vision-wise. On occasion, he is too eager to jump to the outside, but Penny isn’t afraid to buckle down and power through between the tackles when he needs to.
Penny isn’t breakneck fast, but he knows when to use the ample speed he has. If he gets to the second level, he’s usually gone and there isn’t much anyone can do to stop him.
It’s not all roses with Penny, though. He does have ball control issues, and his hands are sizeable so you can’t blame his fumbling on that. It’s a technique issue and one he’ll have to work on to hold on to any job in the NFL. And though Penny is a willing blocker, he struggles BADLY to pick up the blitz and he tends to use his shoulder instead of his hands to slow down defenders. He ducks his head and misses easy assignments. Again, this is a technique problem he’ll have to correct before he can be trusted with a 3-down role.
Fantasy Outlook: The more a back can do, the more he stays on the field and Rashaad Penny can do almost everything. The things he struggles with are deal breakers though, so he’s got some work to do to earn a lead role on any team. A major boon for Penny is that he returns kicks, so that gives him a leg up on some more one-dimensional backs in the draft. Because of reservations that he’s a system back, Penny will probably fall out of the first two rounds of the actual NFL draft but should not slip that far in early dynasty drafts.
Penny has the build and skill-set to be a very busy back in the NFL, so don’t sleep on him in dynasty drafts. There are plenty of backs that are bigger and faster than him, but few present the versatility that Penny offers.
Penny, a consensus first-team All-American who finished fifth in the final voting for the Heisman Trophy last year, rushed 289 times for 2,248 yards (7.8 avg.) and 23 touchdowns, while adding 19 catches for 135 yards (7.1 avg.) and two touchdowns, 17 kick returns for 521 yards (30.6 avg.) and two touchdowns, and two punt returns for 70 yards (35.0 avg.) and another score. He ended up leading the country in rushing yards and all-purpose yards (2,974), and ranking second in rushing touchdowns and overall touchdowns (28), fifth in kick return average, tied for fifth in kick return touchdowns and sixth in rushing yards per carry (7.78).
Penny finished with the fifth-most rushing yards in NCAA FBS single-season history (2,248) and the fifth-most all-purpose yards (2,974). Penny ended the season with five straight games with at least 200 rushing yards, joining USC’s Marcus Allen (1981), Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders (1988) and North Texas’ Jamario Thomas (2004) as the only players in NCAA FBS history to accomplish that feat.