Seahawks take SDSU RB Rashaad Penny in first round

posted by Curtis Crabtree, Adam Loewy - 

New Mexico v San Diego State

RENTON -- Pete Carroll has been adamant about his desire to fix the rushing woes of the Seattle Seahawks this offseason.

Taking San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny with their first round pick speaks to the commitment they have to getting the ground game back on track.

"I don't mind telling you this pick fires me up!," Carroll said Thursday night. "I am jacked about this pick. ... Let it be known this is an exciting pick."

Penny was the second running back selected on Thursday night behind only Penn State's Saquon Barkley. Seattle viewed Penny as the solution to their running back problems over other options such as LSU's Darrius Guice, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb from Georgia, Ronald Jones of USC or Oregon's Royce Freeman. 

"He had some really interesting analytics stats about him with durability and run after contact, run after first contact. He actually, of this group (of running backs), was first in both categories," general manager John Schneider said.

Added Carroll: "Hasn't been overworked but he can still carry the load. His running game, too, is very similar to things that we do. He's run some of the exact same plays so we've seen him run behind the fullback. We've seen him run downhill and the perimeter stuff. Just everything just fit. It's just a beautiful pick."

Penny led college football with 2,248 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns last season for the Aztecs. He was a first-team All-American and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in his only year as a full-time starter. He also tied the NCAA record with seven kickoff return touchdowns in his career. He only returned two punts in his career, but he took one of those back for a touchdown as well.

Penny is also the highest running back selection made by Seattle during the Carroll era. Christine Michael was a second-round pick in 2013. C.J. Prosise was a third-round pick in 2013 and Robert Turbin was a fourth-round pick in 2012. Alex Collins (5th, 2016), Spencer Ware (6th, 2013), Zac Brooks (7th, 2016) and Chris Carson (7th, 2017) were the other running backs selected in the last eight seasons. Penny is the first running back selected by Seattle in the first round since Shaun Alexander in 2000, No. 19 overall, and just the third first-round running back in franchise history. Curt Warner was a first-round pick in 1983.

Schneider claims that they had a team that called they attempting to acquire Penny in a trade after they selected him.

"A true rarity is that we had a team call us after we selected him to try to acquire him. I've never experienced that," he said.

The Seahawks had just one rushing touchdown last season from the running back position, a 30-yard romp from J.D. McKissic against the Indianapolis Colts. Their other three rushing touchdowns came from quarterback Russell Wilson.

Penny said he's the guy for the job.

"That definitely means that they need someone in there to help and I am the right guy for that," he said. "I'm excited. I know they need the help and like I said, I'm the guy for it. I'm willing to do my job to help win and it's going to be an amazing process. I just can't wait."

Chris Carson showed promise before an injury ended his season in early October. C.J. Prosise was banged up for a second straight season. Thomas Rawls and Mike Davis had limited effectiveness in their time in Seattle's backfield, and J.D. McKissic is effective but best used in a limited role. The Seahawks will hope Penny can help get the team back to the capable rushing attack they saw during Marshawn Lynch's time in Seattle.

Penny's durability isn't something to be overlooked. Given the injuries sustained by Lynch, Rawls, Carson and Prosise in recent seasons, Seattle is really hopeful to have a running back they can expect to be on the field every Sunday.

"It was really an important element of his background and his makeup. It was great," Carroll said.

It didn't take much experience watching Carroll and Schneider operate on draft day to know that having a gap of more than 100 picks between selections would not be acceptable. So it came as little surprise when Seattle traded back in the first round to pick up additional selections.

The Seahawks traded back from No. 18 to No. 27 overall with the Green Bay Packers. By sliding back seven spots in the draft, Seattle was able to acquire the No. 76 pick in the third round and the No. 186 pick in the sixth-round. The Seahawks also sent a seventh-round selection, No. 248, to Green Bay to complete the deal.

The trade ensured that Seattle wouldn't sit idle on day two of the draft on Friday.


Photo Credit: SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 24: Rashaad Penny #20 of the San Diego State Aztecs eludes Bijon Parker #4 and DaQuan Baker #37 of the New Mexico Lobos for a rushing touchdown during the second half of a game at Qualcomm Stadium on November 24, 2017 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

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