From now until the 2018 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#20 Rashaad Penny / RB / 5’11 220 lbs
– Low center of gravity, small but stocky, able to bounce off tackles
– Cut back runner
– Reads his blocks well, great vision between the tackles
– Great contact balance
– Quick footwork, able to freeze defenders
– Able to squeeze through tight spaces
– Powerful stiff arm
– Quality hands as receiving option
– Kick off and punt return experience
– Lacks top end speed
– Struggles in pass protection
– Will struggle to become three down back unless pass protection skills are improved
– Runs upright
– Led the FBS in rushing in 2017 with 2248 yards
– Finished fifth in Heisman voting (2017)
– 2017 First Team All American and Mountain West
– Career: 488 carries, 3656 rushing yards, 7.5 yards per carry, 39 TDs
– 42 receptions for 479 yards and 6 receiving TDs in college career
– 7 kick return touchdowns and one punt return touchdown in college career
Leading the nation in rushing yards sure is an amazing accolade to have under your belt. Finishing fifth in Heisman voting would be an incredible feat to accomplish as well. Most college athletes are lucky to claim even one of those achievements. But San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny isn’t just any college athlete, accomplishing both feats during the 2017 season. Built like a battering ram, Penny used his one cut running style to gash the nation for over 2000 yards rushing last season and will be a rising prospect come this year’s draft.
There’s nothing complex to what Penny does on a football field. He is a one cut runner who often cuts back against the direction of a play to catch the defense at their weakest point. And though, Penny’s style is hardly difficult to figure out, no defense has been able to stop him. Watch above how Penny sets up his blockers and coaxes the defense in before cutting back to an open lane to pick up quality yardage.
Penny is as smart as running backs come. The San Diego State running back patiently waits for his blocks to settle and for the opposing linebacker to bite before cutting into his intended cut back lane. Flashes of former Houston Texans running back Arian Foster emerge when watching Penny abuse defenses with his one cut style.
At 5’11 and 220 lbs, Penny’s size makes him an incredibly difficult target to tackle. With great contact balance and strength, Penny routinely keeps his wheels turning after contact. Arm tackles are useless against Penny, watch above how the running back drags a Hawaii defender with him for almost 10 yards. That is for clarity, a 220-pound running back, running 10 yards with an additional 200 plus pounds of dead weight pulling him, an unbelievable showing of strength.
Penny is also gifted with incredible quick feet, which he uses to change direction easily. Though he is an upright runner, Penny’s quickness makes him difficult to square up. The Army defense learned that very quickly as it seems that the Army linebacker has Penny locked in his sights. That illusion lasts for less than a second as Penny scampers around the linebacker and is able to take his 3rd and 18 handoff for a long touchdown.
Another plus that makes Penny an intriguing prospect is his special teams value. Penny is a terrific return man and has experience returning both kick returns and punts. The same traits that make Penny an excellent running back are also the same traits that fuel his abilities as a return man. The running back has a great feel for his return lanes and blocking and once he has found a vulnerability in the opposing team’s coverage, it is almost impossible to stop him.
One area that Penny does struggle in is pass blocking as the running back struggles both mentally and physically in pass protection. Watch above how Penny is blown up by Stanford linebacker Bobby Okereke, leaving his quarterback hung out to dry against the blitz. Penny will have to learn how to anchor better at the next level and use his signature strength. Should Penny improve his blocking, there is little standing in his way to become a three down back. The running back shows soft hands and was a major weapon for San Diego State as a screen pass option.
Among a deep running back class, Penny may find his name forgotten at times but for the team who selects him come draft day, he will represent great value. With the right scheme and system, Penny could develop into a major name at the next level the same way he produced at San Diego State.
Projection: Late Day Two – Early Day Three (Rounds 3-4)
Games Watched: vs Stanford, vs Army, vs Fresno State, vs New Mexico