Rashaad Penny to be Lead Back? Seahawks’ Backfield Outlook (2022 Fantasy Football)
It’s never too early to check in on player news ahead of the 2022 season, and our news desk has you covered. Let’s take a look at the latest news and notes around the NFL. Rashaad Penny is reportedly the early favorite to be the Seahawks’ lead running back in 2022. What does that mean for Penny and 2022 second-round pick Kenneth Walker? Let’s check out the fantasy football impact of the latest Penny news.
Penny has a long injury history, but he finished the 2021 season on an absolute tear, leading the league in rushing over the final five weeks. Penny’s main competition for carries appears to be rookie RB Kenneth Walker with veteran Chris Carson’s health status sounding more doubtful than questionable as we approach the season. Walker was the 2021 Doak Walker award winner as college football’s best RB, but Penny has 1st round pedigree as well. This will be a backfield that fantasy managers will want to monitor closely throughout training camp, as Seattle is one of the most run-heavy teams in the league, and whoever wins the lead role could provide plenty of fantasy appeal.
By Sam Ryner
Rashaad Penny 2022 Fantasy Football Outlook
The Seahawks drafted Kenneth Walker III in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but there’s no guarantee that he supplants a healthy Rashaad Penny from Day 1. Penny was brought back on a one-year deal worth $5 million (12th-highest cap hit) after an impressive end to the 2021 regular season. He was the fantasy RB1 over the final five weeks of the season.
Seems more likely than not that the team rides Penny till the wheels almost certainly fall off to start the season, then turn to their rookie RB down the stretch. That makes Penny enticing as a late-round RB target for those looking for immediate production out of the gates.
– Andrew Erickson
Kenneth Walker III 2022 Fantasy Football Outlook
Kenneth Walker III made a massive splash upon transferring to Michigan State in 2021, leading his class in rushing yards (1,634), missed forced tackles (89) and explosive runs (46) en route to winning the Doak Walker Award – an honor bestowed upon college football’s best running back.
His success earned him a 34% dominator rating, which considers the number of touchdowns and receiving yards a player commands within their offense.
The number is solid considering Walker commanded just a 4% target share in his junior year, catching 13 passes for 80 receiving yards.
His massive accomplishments this past season were inevitable after he rushed for 13 touchdowns as PFF’s 15th-best graded running back in 2020 as a sophomore at Wake.
With the second-most missed tackles forced over the past two seasons – trailing only Iowa State’s Breece Hall – and third-most rushing yards after contact, Walker possesses the groundwork to be an effective rusher at the next level. Breaking tackles and creating after contact in college translates to the pros extremely well, as seen most recently by Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams.
Williams led the nation in missed tackle rate (48%) in his final season at North Carolina and would go on to lead the NFL in the same metric at the conclusion of his stellar rookie season.
Elusiveness is just one trait Walker has in common with Williams, as both skipped their senior years to enter the draft. Declaring early is a positive sign for a running back in dynasty formats, as they save themselves from another year of wear and tear.
The lack of work in the passing game is really the only major blemish on Walker’s prospect profile because his testing at the NFL scouting combine was also exceptional. He weighed in at 211 pounds and ran a 4.38 40-yard dash (96th percentile).
“The player I am avoiding is running back Kenneth Walker III. With a rookie draft ADP in the top-3, it’s just too steep a price to pay for a running back that is projected to be used heavily on early downs on an offense that easily projects to be bottom-5 in the NFL led by the unsurprising duo of Drew Lock/Geno Smith at quarterback.
Even if Walker can carve out a first-year workload similar to that of Chris Carson circa 2020 – 16.4 touches per game, 56% snaps share when healthy – it’s still going to be a massive uphill battle for him to be a fantasy producer in Year 1.
Pete Carroll has a stable of backs including Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas who all figure to work in at some point despite Walker’s Round 2 draft capital.
Again, even when Carson was the RB1, he was splitting snaps.
Penny was brought back on a one-year deal for $5 million (12tth-highest cap hit), Chris Carson – if healthy – is due $6.1 million (10th-highest cap hit) and Homer/Dallas have routinely worked as pass-catchers out of the backfield.
Seattle also finished dead-last in targets to the RB position last season, creating serious doubt that Walker will be used in that fashion in any capacity as a rookie. Part of that is on Russell Wilson’s lack of juice in the screen game, but the offense itself doesn’t predicate much RB pass-game usage. Geno Smith posted a meager 12% RB target rate (three per game) in his three starts last season. Drew Lock was at 17%.
The Seahawks have the chance to be a running back by committee and dumpster fire on offense this season for all the reasons I’ve laid out, which is why I am adamantly against paying the premium for Walker. If this team falls behind in games, there’s no telling which RB will even be on the field.
I feel so much better about going with one of the many rookie WRs selected in Round 1 ahead of Walker based on his landing spot.
Hopefully, opportunities should open in this backfield in Year 2 for Walker with Penny likely leaving in free agency. But does he get replaced with another Day 2 running back? Will Seattle’s offense even be efficient in 2023 and beyond? So much uncertainty with this entire situation has me hesitant.
– Andrew Erickson
2022 Consensus Best Ball Rankings
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