As with the 2017 NFL Draft, the 2018 NFL Draft class is simply loaded at the running back position. With players like Saquon Barkley, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, and Derrius Guice in the mix, it’s easy to overlook other players.
But Rashaad Penny of San Diego State is not a runner who should be overlooked. The nation’s leader in total yardage, he is a true four-down player and able to produce on any down and distance.
He might also be one of the draft’s best-kept secrets. If, however, the New York Giants want to add a running back, he’s a good one to know about.
- Very well-rounded. Able to produce as a runner, receiver, and returner
- Incredibly productive. Lead FBS in total yardage with 2,974 total yards. Also scored 28 total touchdowns (23 rushing, 2 receiving, 2 kickoff return, 1 punt return)
- Good vision to find holes at the line of scrimmage, as well as a blend of balance, agility, and strength to make would-be tacklers miss.
- Surprising speed in the open field. Can turn missed/broken tackles into big gains.
- Experience running from behind center as well as in shotgun, as well as in a variety of blocking schemes.
- Tough runner who knows how to finish runs behind his pads when he has to.
- Able to move into the slot as well as split out wide.
- Pass protection is something of a question. Could stand to improve as a blocker.
- Heavy usage in the last two years. 589 total touches over the last three seasons.
- Plays much faster than expected, but top end speed is still a question. Doesn’t seem to run away from many defenders.
What they’re saying
Penny could have run for 400 yards if the offense had the ball enough — in fact, his chunk plays may have ultimately worn out his own defense, which spent most of the game taking a beating from Army’s option attack. Penny capped off a brilliant career with 221 yards and four touchdowns in a 42–35 loss to Army.
Playing for San Diego State, Penny hasn’t received the national attention that backs at bigger schools have, but what he accomplished in 2017 deserves recognition. Penny is such a well-rounded runner, with size, strength, agility, quickness, and balance, that it is difficult to not see shades of David Johnson or Alvin Kamara in his game. Penny might not compare to Barkley as a physical specimen (who does?) but he is the only player in FBS to exceed his production, and that’s something which NFL teams should take note.
With Pat Shurmur (likely, at this point) taking over the Giants, they will likely base their running game on zone runs. And while Penny looks to be able to play in any scheme, he is a particularly good fit for a zone scheme. He will likely go higher than people who haven’t heard of him will anticipate, but Penny looks to be an excellent addition to any offense.