Fantasy Football Player Debate: Rashaad Penny

Aug 10, 2018

Rookie running backs have changed expectations in recent years, proving the consensus wrong and showing that first-year rushers can have an immediate impact. Still, identifying which rookie running backs will boom or bust is quite a task.

We recently examined the case of Ronald Jones II, and we’ll follow that up with another rookie rusher, Rashaad Penny. Two of our writers, Ryan Melosi and Jon Munshaw, debate Penny’s current ADP, each taking a different side to the debate.

Penny is the RB22 in PPR leagues according to our consensus ADP.

Of the 78 experts that have submitted PPR rankings, 28 have Penny as their RB22 or better, while the rest disagree with his current PPR ADP.

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Ryan: I know the “Chris Carson has looked great in camp!” narratives are out in full force already, but the fact remains this guy was a seventh-round pick that had one decent game against a bottom two or three (at the time) team in the league. My question is, if the Seahawks and their coaches and scouts loved him so much, why are they drafting Rashaad Penny in the first round? They got to watch Carson up close through the entire training camp, preseason, and first four weeks and they still didn’t think he showed enough promise to not use premium draft capital on a running back. Penny is current going as RB22 in drafts. I have him as my RB16. Obviously you have him lower or this wouldn’t even be an article, but where do you have him?

Jon: I have Penny ranked as my 28th running back right now. There are other guys I’d much rather have at that point in the draft. Penny is currently being drafted in the late third/early fourth rounds of most drafts, according to our ADP, which I think is far too early. It doesn’t have anything to do with the Carson hype, either, it’s with the team as a whole. First off, let’s start with the offensive line. Duane Brown at left tackle is the only guy who doesn’t scare me in that group. Seattle is going to push on with the Germain Ifedi experience for another year and plan on playing D.J. Fluker at right guard – a position that he was put in by the Chargers back in 2015 after they moved him out of his natural right tackle spot. I am giving pause to drafting Russell Wilson this year because of that line – let alone a rookie running back. Guys like Mark Ingram, Derrick Henry and Ronald Jones are far more appealing to me at that point in the draft and have a better supporting cast – and a better path to touches.

Ryan: Oh man. I need to disagree on your last sentence first. I can see Mark Ingram having a better supporting cast, but he’s also suspended for the first four games and has Alvin Kamara there. I recognize they both thrived last year, but his upside is capped at least a little bit by both factors. But I have to take a hard disagreement on Derrick “My Team Isn’t Sold On Me So They Signed Dion Lewis” Henry and Ronald “Who Knows Who My QB Is” Jones having a better supporting cast. Both teams could easily finish last in their division, and Penny has the X-factor going for him: perennial MVP candidate Russell Wilson.

I recognize the Seahawks offensive line is bad, but Baltimore (Allen, Collins), Miami (Ajayi, Drake), San Francisco (Hyde), and Houston (Lamar Miller was an RB1 when Watson played) all had bottom 10 offensive lines going into 2017 according to PFF. The Chargers and Melvin Gordon had the 21st ranked line, and he’s been a fantasy stud for years now despite below average real-life talent. Bad offensive lines don’t automatically disqualify a team from having a good (fantasy) running back, and none of those teams, except for maybe the Chargers, had a quarterback as good as Wilson.

Even if we’re still worried about the situation and line, I’m not sure how the fantasy community can rank guys like Mixon, Drake, or Collins ahead of Penny considering they’re also running behind bad offensive lines with worse quarterbacks than Wilson.

Jon: All of those are fair points, but I will still support Henry and Jones. Lewis was signed to be a third-down back in Tennessee, so I have no worries about him on earlier downs and goalline touches. I also think Ryan Fitzpatrick is a fine backup quarterback, so even if he plays half the year, I wouldn’t be worried about the Bucs’ offense falling off a cliff, and Jones doesn’t have many challengers. But, this conversation is about Rashaad Penny, not them.

I agree that Wilson is a top-tier quarterback who can raise the play of the backs around him, but let’s look at the last few seasons of Seahawks running backs. Since Marshawn Lynch left in 2015, the Seahawks have only had three running backs on the roster who have averaged more than four yards per carry: C.J. Prosise (only had one game that year when he had more than four carries), Chris Carson (still on the roster and has positive feedback from camp so far) and J.D. McKissic (only started one game in his career). The Seahawks just can’t seem to stick with one guy in the backfield. Granted, a lot of that has to do with injuries. But McKissic, Prosise, and Carson are all still on the roster. I don’t foresee the Seahawks keeping four running backs heading into the start of the season, but these are guys who have all flashed in some form or another over the past two years. If they are all somewhat healthy, I don’t see Penny getting a lion’s share of the touches.

Ryan: Last year was definitely a lost season for Seahawks running backs, but it’s not as if they had an abundance of talent on the roster. They had a washed up Eddie Lacy and oft-injured Thomas Rawls as their top dogs. In 2016, perennial fantasy darling Christine Michael had finishes of RB6, RB8, RB11, RB22, RB25, RB30 and RB32 in the 7 games he started. This team can certainly support a fantasy-viable RB2.

I have zero concerns about Prosise, Carson or McKissic. They might be okay players but the Seahawks staff has seen these guys up close every day and didn’t think enough of them to not use their premium draft pick on a running back. If they really wanted any of these three to compete for a significant share why not just draft an RB on day two or three? I hear the coaching staff’s words (which, by the way, has praised Penny and his pass protection skills which were thought to be lacking coming out of college), but actions definitely speak louder than words for me when it comes to draft capital.

Jon: Speaking of Christine Michael, there’s no way he doesn’t end up with one crazy game for the Colts this year, right? I feel like that’s the Christine Michael way of things. I think the RB2 conversation is just exactly where we differ. Prosise, Carson, and McKissic all give me pause. Seahawks reporter Greg Bell reported a few days ago that, “Through two practices and Saturday’s first off day of training camp, Carson is so far ahead of where he was at any point in his impressive rookie year. And he’s clearly ahead of Penny.” I understand it’s training camp still and there are all kinds of reports floating out there, but it’s enough for me to knock Penny down a few spots.

Also, to your point about Penny being drafted in the first round, I would point you to the 2013 Denver Broncos, when they drafted Montee Ball in the first round and Knowshon Moreno finished the year as the fifth-ranked running back in the fantasy, or even Devonta Freeman, who was being drafted behind Tevin Coleman in fantasy before he had his breakout year.

Ryan: Monte Ball is a valid point, but there’s going to be an exception to every rule, and we had to go back five years to find it. I’m going to bet the baseline every time, and that is Penny getting most of the work. For what it’s worth, Coleman was injured in training camp and still came back to out-touch Freeman 22-14 in Week 1 before getting hurt. I’m not going to let you use him as an example!

In the end, it comes down to what you’re going to believe with Penny: a reporter’s words or the team’s actions. I’ll go with the latter.

Thanks again to Jon and Ryan for taking part in this debate. Let us know what you expect from Rashaad Penny in 2018 @FantasyPros.

Fantasy Football Player Debate: Julio Jones
Fantasy Football Player Debate: Tyreek Hill
Fantasy Football Player Debate: Joe Mixon
Fantasy Football Player Debate: Ronald Jones II

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Jon Munshaw is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Jon, check out his archive and follow him @jon_munshaw.

Ryan Melosi is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Ryan, check out his archive and follow him @RTMelosi.

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