Don't Sleep on Rashaad Penny in Fantasy Football in 2022
Taken 27th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, Rashaad Penny has had a unique career that's been littered with injuries. When healthy he has been very efficient, averaging 5.6 yards per carry in his career. Despite the Seahawks drafting Ken Walker in the second round this year, Penny has the opportunity to still play a big role. His five-game stretch at the end of 2021 won many fantasy gamers their championships as he racked up 100 yards or a touchdown in every game. Even though he left a good last impression on fantasy players, he is being drafted far too low at pick 114.56 as the RB37.
Penny's a Late Bloomer
Penny was drafted in the first round by the Seattle Seahawks in 2018 but received fewer carries than both Chris Carson and Mike Davis as a rookie. The following year, he once again played behind Chris Carson who out-carried him 275 to 65. This wasn’t just a timeshare, Rashaad Penny was comfortably shacking up in Pete Carrol’s doghouse. Penny tore his ACL towards the end of the 2019 season and only played in three games in 2020. Once again in 2021, he suffered an unrelated hamstring injury that cost him five games to start the season. After a slow start to the season in 2021, he became the Seahawks' bell-cow back from Weeks 14-18. In those five games, he was the overall RB1 in all formats with 21.5 half-PPR points per game. For reference, 21.5 points per game is more than the RB1, Jonathan Taylor, averaged last season.
Looking at his career as a whole, Rashaad Penny has received more than 12 carries in seven games. In those games, he racked up 943 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s an average of 134 rushing yards, and 1.28 touchdowns per game. From a fantasy perspective, it ends up being 24.1 half-PPR points per game. If he is healthy and given a reasonable workload, Penny has been a lethal fantasy scorer. Despite his gaudy numbers when healthy and given a workload, there is a reason he’s being drafted in the 10th round.
Despite Penny’s stellar efficiency, the loss of Russell Wilson is troubling for the entire outlook for the offense. It lowers Penny’s touchdown ceiling and the move from Wilson to either Drew Lock or Geno Smith might have been the biggest quarterback downgrade of any team this offseason.
In the four games Geno Smith started last season, Seattle scored 17, 20, 10, and 31 points. Their best outing came against the hapless Jaguars so I wouldn’t put too much stock into that. With the change at quarterback, the Seahawks made a clear change to focus on their running game as they drafted Charles Cross at No. 9 overall and Ken Walker in the second round.
The bear case for Penny is pretty simple as he will have a lot more competition on a less efficient offense. That being said, history repeats itself. We literally just watched Pete Carroll glue Penny, their highly drafted rookie, to the pine for multiple years, letting UDFA Chris Carson shine. Everyone has penciled in Walker as the starter but I wouldn’t be so sure. I truly think it will be up to how they play in training camp. Chris Carson is also expected to be cut by ESPN beat writer Brady Henderson.
Projection and expectation
With Penny and Walker duking it out for touches on a team that will prioritize the run, I think we see a 1A/1B situation with Penny as the 1A. If Walker struggles during camp or is dinged up at all, Penny will likely be the clear No. 1. This means you are likely looking at around 12+ touches per game for Penny in either scenario. For fantasy purposes, Penny has standalone value, plus reasonable upside if he sees the bulk of the work.
We currently have Penny projected as the RB35 in half-PPR leagues with 704 rushing yards, and 6.1 touchdowns on 123 carries. This is slightly ahead of his ADP which is RB37 in Underdog Drafts. You aren’t drafting him for his median value, but the upside for “what if Walker isn’t a factor.”
- Rashaad Penny had a stellar end to 2021 but his deflated ADP at 114th overall is explained by the Seahawks losing Russell Wilson and drafting Ken Walker in the second round.
- When healthy, Penny has been a fantasy-scoring machine, averaging 24.2 PPR PPG in games he has 12-or-more carries.
- Penny is a low-risk draft pick in the 10th round with standalone value and legitimate upside if he handles the bulk of the workload.