Round 2: San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny – 5-11, 220 – 4.50 – Senior
Previous pick: Georgia RB Sony Michel
There’s actually a good chance after the NFL Scouting Combine that Michel could slip into the bottom of the first round if he tests well as expected. He is a complete running back that can be effective in all three downs much like New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara displayed last year in his Pro Bowl rookie season.
So the pick for Tampa Bay in the second round is Penny, who was the Co-Offensive MVP of the Senior Bowl as he was the leading rusher with 64 yards on nine carries (7.1 avg.), including a 34-yard jaunt that showed his explosiveness through the hole. Penny also had a 73-yard touchdown reception that showed his versatility and game-breaking speed.
Penny didn’t have a great start to the Senior Bowl practices as he had a couple of fumbles, a false start and showed some tentativeness in the first two practices as he got adjusted to his surroundings, a new offense and a new offensive line to work with. Thursday was Penny’s best day of practice and Saturday’s performance in the game helped him boost his stock coming out of the Senior Bowl.
Despite leading the nation in rushing with 2,248 yards and 23 touchdowns on 289 carries (7.8 avg.), Penny was snubbed for the Doak Walker Award, which is given annually to the best running back in college football, as well as the Heisman Trophy. Penny played in the shadow of Donnell Pumphrey, the FBS all-time leading career rusher, for his first three years at San Diego State. But despite Pumphrey rushing for over 2,000 yards in 2016 as a senior, Penny still managed to rush for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns on 136 carries (7.5 avg.) as a junior.
“I think it’s a joke,” said SDSU offensive coordinator Jeff Horton about Penny’s snub for the Doak Walker and Heisman Trophy awards. “I think it’s a disgrace. How you can have the leading rusher in the nation and leading all-purpose yardage guy, and what’s he second in touchdowns in the nation? To not have him as one of the finalists, to me it discredits the award. … The kid’s done more than anybody else on the field at that position.”
Penny’s San Diego State Career Rushing Stats
2017: 289 carries for 2,248 yards (7.8 avg.) with 23 TDs and a long of 95 yards
2016: 136 carries for 1,018 yards (7.5 avg.) with 11 TDs and a long of 73 yards
2015: 61 carries for 368 yards (6.0 avg.) with 5 TDs and a long of 55 yards
2014: 2 carries for 22 yards (11.0 avg.) with 0 TDs and a long of 21 yards
Penny’s San Diego State Career Receiving Stats
2017: 19 catches for 135 yards (7.1 avg.) with 2 TDs and a long of 33 yards
2016: 15 catches for 224 yards (14.9 avg.) with 3 TDs and a long of 41 yards
2015: 8 catches for 120 yards (15.0 avg.) with 1 TD and a long of 33 yards
Penny’s San Diego State Career Kickoff Return Stats
2017: 17 returns for 521 yards (30.6 avg.) with 2 TDs and a long of 100 yards
2016: 20 returns for 624 yards (31.2 avg.) with 2 TDs and a long of 100 yards
2015: 24 returns for 804 yards (33.5 avg.) with 3 TDs and a long of 100 yards
2014: 20 returns for 500 yards (25.0 avg.) with a long of 57
Penny’s San Diego State Career Punt Return Stats
2017: 2 returns for 70 yards (35.0 avg.) with 1 TD and a long of 70 yards
That set up a breakout season in which Penny broke Pumphrey’s single-season rushing record at San Diego State and propelled him to the Senior Bowl as a second- or third-round draft prospect. Penny finished his senior season with six 200-yard rushing games, including five straight at the end of the 2017 season, including the Aztecs’ bowl loss to Army to tie the FBS record shared with Marcus Allen (USC, 1981), Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State, 1988) and Jamario Thomas (North Texas, 2004). In his final college game, Penny rushed for 221 yards and four touchdowns on 14 carries (15.8 avg.). Penny’s 2,248 rushing yards ranks fifth on the FBS all-time single-season rushing list behind Sanders (2,628), Melvin Gordon (2,587), Kevin Smith (2,567) and Allen (2,427).
Penny’s playmaking ability would instantly upgrade the Bucs’ backfield, which is in desperate need of speed and a back that could take a run the distance. He has better hands than he’s given credit for, despite the lack of opportunities in the passing game at San Diego State.
Where Penny needs to improve is banging in between the tackles instead of always looking for daylight runs and bouncing plays to the outside. There will be plenty of instances in the NFL where the holes he enjoyed running through in college won’t be there and he’ll have to plow ahead for three or four yards. Penny’s north-south approach to running will serve him well in this area.
Yet Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, a likely first-rounder, thinks Penny showed plenty of power in rushing for 175 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries (5.5 avg.) in a 20-17 upset over the Cardinal.
“What did he weigh today – 220?” said Phillips at the Senior Bowl. “He felt a lot bigger than that. That’s a credit to him and how hard he runs. I know he’s a really good guy just from knowing him here and playing against him. You’re going to get a person who is going to work hard and probably be a captain in a few years for your organization. He definitely felt bigger and stronger than 220 pounds – he’s probably just one muscle.”
If the Bucs, who are expected to cut Doug Martin this offseason, sign Cleveland running back Isaiah Crowell, Minnesota’s Jerick McKinnon or New England’s Dion Lewis this offseason and pair any of those players with Penny, Tampa Bay would have a much more dynamic running attack in 2018. Penny needs work in pass protection, and that may initially limit him to first and second downs as an NFL running back, but where he can help is on special teams. Penny tied the FBS record with seven kickoff returns for touchdowns and also scored on a 70-yard punt return.