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The 2018 RB Elite 8: (3) Rashaad Penny vs (11) Royce Freeman

The RotoViz Running Back Prospect Sweet 16 Tournament matches the top incoming prospects in a head-to-head March Madness style format. Various RotoViz writers break down each matchup with the winner moving on to the next round.


Let’s get into today’s matchup!

(3) Rashaad Penny vs (11) Royce Freeman

Anthony Amico – Rashaad Penny

I love both of these players, but will ultimately side with Penny. Despite being the No. 3 RB in my model, Penny is going sixth at the position in current rookie drafts and seventh overall. The next RB off the board, at No. 11 overall, is Freeman. With these players valued so closely, I’m going to go with the one who appears to be better in a vacuum.

Blair Andrews – Rashaad Penny

Penny and Freeman are probably my two highest-owned RBs in early best-ball drafts. They’re about the same size and almost exactly the same age. Penny gets the edge here because he was faster at the combine and much more productive in his final year.

Jordan Hoover – Royce Freeman

Don’t let Freeman’s seeding fool you. This is extremely close. Penny’s insane production as both a runner and receiver, plus his kick game contributions, make him one of the most intriguing RB prospects in this class. He also ran a 4.46 at 220 pounds. But the slight discount you get with Freeman, plus his remarkable early-career production (76.16 first-year Workhorse Score), give him the slight edge.

Cort Smith – Rashaad Penny

Penny currently projects to in the mid-to-late first round of rookie drafts, while Freeman looks like he’ll go in the second, probably in the same area as someone like Kerryon Johnson. That price discrepancy is not enough for me to pass the dominant Penny, who accounted for 50 percent of his team’s rushes, 46 percent of their rushing yards, and 53 percent of the TDs in his final season.

Matt Wispe – Rashaad Penny

This is a difficult pick because both RBs are among my favorite players in the draft. Freeman had the consistent production over his career that you’d want from a workhorse back, but Penny was the leading rusher in the country during 2017. Penny separates due to his rising draft stock and production in kick returns.

Scott Smith – Rashaad Penny

Freeman is one of the more productive backs in recent history. He performed better at the combine than expected and catches the ball well for a big back. Some people think he has some Le’Veon Bell to his game. None of that is enough for me to move him past Penny in this matchup. Penny has seven returns for touchdowns, showing the breakaway ability that led him to a 91st-percentile speed score. Penny’s senior bowl proved he can perform in all facets as a RB against higher level competition. While Amico’s RB model loves Penny, so do simpler means of scouting. Since 2000, only eight RBs have rushed for 2000 yards and 20 TDs in a season and all of them have had some level of success in the NFL.

Ryan Bobbitt – Royce Freeman

Jordan Hoover’s excellent article on first year workhorse scores highlights some prior hits and is actionable for future drafts. For this matchup, Freeman dominates the early production while Penny has shown an all-around skill set, albeit at a later age. I’m going with Freeman and his slighter cheaper cost in rookie drafts.

Hasan Rahim – Royce Freeman

Both Amico and Hoover have done tremendous work highlighting the important of producing at a young age, so I’ll concentrate on their respective acquisition costs. You’re likely going to have to select Penny with an early pick if you’re looking to draft him, whereas Freeman’s acquisition price should be cheaper. Take the discount with Freeman.

Dave Caban – Rashaad Penny

Man, this is a tough one. I like Freeman’s agility and early career production, but he and Penny are similar prospects. Penny is faster and produced a stronger speed score. While both are among the most explosive backs in the class, Penny proved himself to be a do-it-all breakaway monster and has a skill set that will undoubtedly find use on Sundays.

Shawn Siegele – Royce Freeman

Both of these runners are undervalued, but Freeman’s early college success is truly remarkable. His 1,836-rushing, 348-receiving, 19-TD sophomore campaign gave him 3,778 yards from scrimmage and 38 TDs in his first two seasons.1 (The former Duck was so productive at Oregon that you could add another insane season like Penny’s 2017 on top of the SDSU star’s career production, and Penny would only pass Freeman in yards from scrimmage during the final game.) Freeman’s lower scouting score – he’s No. 8 in the most recent RSI – appeared to foreshadow a lackluster, Samaje Perine-esque combine, but he flashed plus athleticism instead. With elite agility at 234 pounds, he’s the perfect prospect for the contemporary NFL.

John Lapinski – Rashaad Penny

Both RBs displayed impressive production and athleticism in college, but Penny flashed ability that might be truly special with his return touchdowns and monster workload. Had Penny put up similar numbers against tougher competition, this wouldn’t even be close. Adjusting for strength of schedule is difficult, but I think in many cases it’s overestimated, so I’ll go with Penny here.

Final Result

In a battle of two RotoViz crushes, it is Penny who advances to the next round. While the staff loves Freeman’s size, speed, and early career production, Penny’s expected higher draft stock and dominant final season allow him to move on by a score of 7-4. It is clear that both of these players are buys based on current prices. Penny moves on to face the the winner of Nyheim Hines and Derrius Guice.

  1. Penny managed 900 yards and 8 scores through two seasons. And, yes, he was competing with Pumphrey, one of the greatest college runners ever, but Pumphrey struggled badly in Eagles camp last year. That mild demerit, along with SDSU’s strength of schedule, balances the competition argument slightly.  (back)

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