Will Rashaad Penny Live Up to the Hype? (2019 Fantasy Football)

Jul 21, 2019

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There’s absolutely nothing more disheartening than unmet expectations. The sting of hype outweighing production is a sharp one that can leave a scar-just look back at the final season of Game of Thrones. With the opportunity to conclude one of the greatest shows of all time (and the last monolithic communal series of our era), the HBO titan failed to deliver in epic fashion. It’s gut-wrenching, soul-crushing and all the other painful expressions taken to the 10th power.

That feeling is even worse in fantasy football in which you have real skin in the game. Nothing is more of a devastating setback than a highly-touted draft pick busting miserably and taking your whole team down with him. That’s where we found ourselves with Rashaad Penny — the 2018 first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks — who came into last season bundled in hype only to finish as RB66 in PPR.

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But fret not ye running back needy owners, for there is reason to hope. I, for one, believe Penny can turn it around in Year 2.

Over the last six years, first-round running backs have averaged 283.4 touches in their rookie season. Penny carried the ball just 85 times while catching only nine passes as Chris Carson and Mike Davis led the Seattle backfield. But football, and especially fantasy football, is all about regression to the mean. Statistical anomalies are rare occurrences that often course-correct year-over-year. Expect the second-year first-rounder to be significantly more involved in the offense in 2019.

For starters, Mike Davis and his 146 touches are now in Chicago, freeing up space on the depth chart behind Carson who is coming off knee surgery. The pathway to volume might as well be the Yellow Brick Road, especially on the run-heavy Seahawks. Seattle ran the ball 49.5 percent of the time last season, tops in the league. In fact, they’ve run at the highest-rate in the NFL since Russell Wilson’s rookie season. With Doug Baldwin retired and a slew of unproven question marks behind Tyler Lockett at receiver, do you see that changing this year? I didn’t think so.

If Penny were just some standard bust, we could easily move on. But he passes the eye test, and if you dig a bit deeper into his numbers, you’ll find a valuable running back. Penny averaged a 15-plus yard run every 9.4 carries, the best rate in the NFL and evidence that he’s more explosive than his 230-pound frame would suggest. His 4.9 YPC and 8.3 yards per reception bested both Carson and Davis last year, though those figures admittedly came on limited volume. In five of his last seven games, he averaged north of 5.5 YPC, including a 12-carry, 108-yard performance against the Rams in Week 9.

Seattle ranked sixth in points per game last season so, at worst, Penny will be an extremely valuable handcuff and a fantasy-relevant flex with RB2 upside a la Austin Ekeler or Tevin Coleman. At best, he’s the talented top back on the league’s most run-heavy team. There’s really no downside at his current mid-round ADP.

In 2019, Penny should finally live up to the hype.

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Brandon Katz is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Brandon, check out his archive and follow him @great_katzby.

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