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Scouting Profile: Running Back Rashaad Penny

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Mar 20, 2018

San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny led all of college football in rushing yards in 2017

Rashaad Penny, San Diego State

Height: 5’11”
Weight: 220 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.46 seconds
Vertical: 32.5 inches
Broad Jump: 10’0″

Penny is a favorite of some, as he’s a running back who plays on all three downs. He’s built extremely well at 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, but also moves exceptional for someone his size, as evidenced by his 4.46-second 40-yard dash. He’s one of the players where the more I watched, the more I liked. His Combine performance boosted him up some draft boards, though there are some shortcomings to his game.

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While at San Diego State, his competition wasn’t what you’d call great, but he took full advantage, averaging 7.67 yards per carry over his junior and senior seasons. In fact, his 2,248 rushing yards in 2017 were the most in Division-I football and 130 more yards than the closest running back on the list. He did receive a massive 289 carries over a 13-game span, so he’s got some tread on his tires.

Vision/Patience: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Penny is somewhat of a hybrid running back who can play in any scheme, as he shows the ability to get downhill in a zone-blocking scheme, but also has the lateral agility to bounce a run outside. His vision allows him to show off both of these traits, though his offensive line opened some big holes for him. While he can get downhill really quick, he also shows versatility as a runner when he sidesteps defenders who get into the backfield. There are also times where he displays excellent patience, a trait that not many big backs have. I’m hesitant to raise his score any more in this category, simply because his offensive line was so dominant.

Elusiveness (twitch, juke, tackle breaking): 3.5 out of 5 stars
He’s not a quick-twitch running back by any means, but he is someone who can make defenders miss. Whether this is a product of his opponents or not remains to be seen, but Penny’s vision often puts him in great situations to be elusive in the open field. You’ll see him bounce off defenders at times, and it’s because he knows how to handle his weight, lowering his shoulder when he knows he can’t slide by a defender.

Speed: 4.5 out of 5 stars
It’s hard to argue about a player’s speed when he runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at 220 pounds. It shows up on the field, too, as Penny has multiple gears to his engine. You’ll see him patiently wait for an opening to develop, only to burst through it like he’s a 195-pound running back. There were times he’d get to the sideline, cut up field and make defenders look like they were going in slow-motion. Speed is something that translates on every level, and it’s great to know that Penny knows how and when to use it.

Pass-catching/Pass-protection: 3.0 out of 5 stars
This is one of the areas we must knock him down a bit, and not because of his pass-catching. For a bigger back, Penny isn’t very good in pass-protection. There were times where he’d get blown-up by a blitzing defensive back, and remember that the competition wasn’t great. I can only imagine him trying to block the players that Sony Michel had to while at Georgia. It’s a shame, too, because Penny has solid hands in the passing game. Running backs are only kept in to block maybe a fifth of the time, so we have to give him an above-average grade here. The Aztecs stopped using him in the passing game about halfway through the season, though it may have been just to give his legs a rest.

Balance: 3.5 out of 5 stars
This comes back to his ability to lower his hips and drive when he’s approaching contact. He’ll round out some of his cuts, and that’s likely because he’s not low enough on a full-time basis. It’s not enough to be a concern, but it’s an area he can improve. He also needs to learn to leverage his 220-pound frame in pass-protection.

Potential Landing Spot
Some have started to mention Penny’s name in the first-round conversation, but I don’t see that happening. He’s got a good chance to go on day two of the draft, though with all of the movement in free agency, there are a lot of running back holes being filled. Penny could go to a team that has a good pass-protector in the stable, but one who can use a workhorse on first and second down. Because of that, the Lions would be the perfect landing spot for him. They aren’t pleased with Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick is essentially a slot receiver. They’ve said that they will address the running back position in the draft.

NFL Comparison
The player who I’m most often reminded of when watching Penny is the Browns new running back, Carlos Hyde. He moves extremely well for his size, which is comparable to Hyde who is 6-foot-tall and 230 pounds. Both are able to bounce off tacklers due to the way they get low when approaching contact. He’s not going to break as many tackles as Hyde, but he will break more big plays due to his speed. Neither is an elite pass-catcher, but both are competent. The offense he lands in will determine whether or not he’s someone you want to target in fantasy football.

Don’t miss the other Scouting Profiles on top prospects below:
Saquon Barkley (RB – Penn State)
Derrius Guice (RB – LSU)
Ronald Jones (RB – USC)
Sony Michel (RB – Georgia)
Nick Chubb (RB – Georgia)
Royce Freeman (RB – Oregon)

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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