O’Neil: If Seahawks pick Rashaad Penny works out, it will be rare 1st-round RB success

Apr 26, 2018, 11:26 PM | Updated: 11:27 pm
New Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny led the nation in rushing yards in 2017. (AP)...
New Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny led the nation in rushing yards in 2017. (AP)

Most people were concerned about the player Seattle chose in the first round of the NFL Draft.

I’m worried about the position.

Seahawks’ draft tracker | NFL Draft home page

Running backs aren’t as valuable as you’d think in a game where every coach talks about the need to establish the run. They’re not as valuable in the free-agent market. They’re not as valuable in the draft, chosen less frequently in the first round over the past decade.

It’s the reason why I hoped the Seahawks wouldn’t choose a running back in the top 20.

Instead, they chose one with the 27th pick, selecting Rashaad Penny with a pick that originally belonged to New Orleans but had been acquired by Green Bay.

The first round is where most NFL teams try to find their franchise quarterback.

It’s where the Seahawks are determined to fix their running game.

That’s a big part of why they picked Germain Ifedi in the first round two years ago, and it’s the only reason the zeroed in on Penny, a player that general manager John Schneider said they would have chosen at No. 18 had they not traded back to No. 27, picking up a third-round pick in the process.

Seattle’s selection surprised everyone, including the guy the Seahawks picked.

No, wait – especially the guy Seattle picked.

“We didn’t expect this,” Penny said in a conference call with reporters at the Seahawks headquarters. “It’s amazing.”

That remains to be seen.

The rationale for Seattle’s selection was pretty straightforward. Their run game was beyond bad last season. Quarterback Russell Wilson led the team in rushing yards and accounted for three of the team’s four rushing touchdowns. The running backs gained a net total of zero yards on carries inside the 10-yard line.

“We know the running game helps every aspect of our team,” coach Pete Carroll said.

Which meant the Seahawks were stuck last year.

Huskies DT Vita Vea goes 12th overall to Tampa Bay

There’s no doubt about Seattle’s intentions: The Seahawks want to run the ball like they did back when Marshawn Lynch was setting the tone.

There’s no guarantee this will be effective, though.

Over the past 20 years, running backs chosen in the first round have not been more likely to excel than backs chosen in later rounds. Stars are as likely to be found in later rounds as they are in the first. Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rushing with 1,327 yards. He was a third-round pick out of Toledo. New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was a third-round choice, too.

Seattle’s best running back last season was Chris Carson, a seventh-round pick who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in October.

Once he went out, any sense of momentum in the ground game vanished. Eddie Lacy was costly and ineffective. C.J. Prosise was injured, and while Mike Davis returns after having the most rushing yards of any running back on the team last season, that’s faint praise.

So the Seahawks went and added the nation’s top collegiate rusher, having gained 2,248 yards last season for San Diego State. He also scored 23 touchdowns, has returned seven kickoffs for touchdowns in college and scored on a punt return, too, for good measure.

General manager John Schneider said a team called him after the Seahawks selected Penny, offering to trade for the running back. It was the first time Schneider could remember that happening, and it speaks to the fact that people who felt the Seahawks chose a player who would have been available in the third round don’t know what they’re talking about.

The Seahawks got the running back they wanted. Saquon Barkley of Penn State – the second player taken in the draft – was the only running back off the board when the Seahawks picked.

Now, we’ll have to see if he can be the increasingly rare running back who proves himself worthy of a first-round pick.

More from Danny O’Neil

Danny and Gallant Show

Danny ONeil

Seahawks Quandre Diggs...
Danny O'Neil

O’Neil: Seahawks have uncertainty with a player ‘holding in,’ but it’s not Quandre Diggs

While Quandre Diggs appears to be the third Seahawks player to "hold-in" during training camp, Danny O'Neil writes that it's Duane Brown whose future is up in the air.
1 year ago
Follow @dannyoneil...
Danny O'Neil

AZ Good AZ it Gets

SPONSORED – Phoenix was the place where the rest of the country found out that Seattle fans took their enthusiasm on the road with them. That was 2013. It’s also the place where I discovered how restorative a desert vacation can be. That was 2015. Let’s start with the screaming. That’s what caught everyone’s attention […]
1 year ago
Mariners Jarred Kelenic...
Danny O'Neil

O’Neil: Mariners aren’t handing the spotlight over to Seahawks just yet

This is the time of year that Seattle tends to shift its focus to the gridiron, but the Mariners are still commanding attention.
1 year ago
Seahawks Duane Brown...
Danny O'Neil

O’Neil: When Seahawks decide not to extend players, they’re rarely wrong

If you think the Seahawks must sign Duane Brown to an extension, when's the last time they opted against re-signing someone and it came back to bite them?
1 year ago
Follow @dannyoneil...
Danny O'Neil

Oh, LA, LA!

Week 15, Dec. 19: Seattle at Los Angeles Rams, SoFi Stadium, 1:25 p.m. Pacific SPONSORED – Maybe it was fitting that the opening act for the first pro-football game I covered in Los Angeles was a rock band I loved as a teenager. There’s no place that makes me think of growing up more than […]
1 year ago
Follow @dannyoneil...
Danny O'Neil

Star in a Lone Star Adventure

Week 14, Dec. 12: Seattle at Houston Texans, NRG Stadium, 10 a.m. Pacific SPONSORED – Enchiladas and greatness. That’s what I think of in Texas. The enchiladas are pretty straightforward. They’re so delicious at El Tiempo Cantina that it’s hard to take a bite without closing my eyes. There are three locations though the one […]
1 year ago
O’Neil: If Seahawks pick Rashaad Penny works out, it will be rare 1st-round RB success