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Is Drafting Rashaad Penny Wise?

Last year I wrote about my hometown hero, San Diego State University alum Rashaad Penny, as an elite NFL prospect. Although he was from a small Mountain West school, he sported a class-leading College Dominator Rating above 50% and had the second-highest score in the RB Prospect Lab. Yet Penny was possibly overdrafted in reality when he was taken by the run-heavy Seattle Seahawks in the first round, and in fantasy when he was being taken as high as the fourth round in his rookie year.

Penny didn’t splash into the league like Saquon Barkley or Ezekiel Elliot. He struggled to win the starting job in Seattle away from Chris Carson, and was even behind Mike Davis in carries. Drafters in 2019 are understandably depressed on Penny, taking him as RB33 — two full rounds behind teammate Carson. Pete Carroll has been vocal about getting Penny more involved, but Pete Carroll is known to say a lot of things, and it’s still too early to see a change in the Seattle backfield workload.

It’s not uncommon for rookie running backs to struggle in their rookie year. Jacob Rickrode wrote about the hit rate of rookie running backs, and found that only 26 out of 432 rookie running backs drafted in the past five years had a top-12 season their rookie year. Is Penny worthy of another shot on your fantasy team? Looking back over the past five years, there have been a number of notable backs who have had similar rookie seasons to Penny’s inaugural campaign. Looking at similar players and how those players performed their second year might give us some insight into Penny’s outlook.

I looked for NFL players with similar workload to Penny’s in their rookie year and gathered the following 10 comparable seasons. All received between 74 and 110 carries and gained between 354 and 490 rushing yards.

Rookie RBs with similar stats to Rashaad Penny (2013-2018)

Rookie RB comps to Rashaad Penny

Of the similar players in the cohort, only Dalvin Cook won the starting job his second year,1 but Marlon Mack earned 10 starts. On average, the cohort saw 170 touches for 852 all purpose yards and 6.5 TDs. This would calculate to approximately 160 PPR fantasy points, or about RB20 in 2018 scoring.2

Sophomore seasons after posting rookie seasons comparable to Rashaad Penny

Penny Comps N+1 Will Penny light the world on fire and be the top running back? Not very likely, but he has a good chance to be a solid RB2.

The other names on this list have similar possible outcomes this year, and are going much earlier, so even if Penny doesn’t pay off big in redraft, he is likely to be a riser in dynasty. Consider Penny a bargain compared to the other backs in the cohort.

2018 bestball ADP of players similar to penny

Image Credit: Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Rashaad Penny.

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  1. And it’s worth noting that Cook missed most of his rookie season with injury, so his presence on this list could be somewhat misleading. Still, from a raw statistical standpoint his rookie season was very similar to Penny’s.  (back)
  2. And no player on this list can match Penny’s draft pedigree, which ought to boost his Year 2 expectations slightly. Then again, he plays for Seattle.  (back)
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