The 2018 NFL Draft Prospect series breaks down draft-eligible players, highlighting their college production as well as their NFL potential. Daily fantasy players should know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
This piece is on San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny.
For more on all the other backs in the class, see our 2018 NFL draft running back rankings.
Updated as of Mar. 3.
Senior | 5’11″ and 220 Pounds | Born February 2, 1996 (Age: 22) | Projection: Rounds 3-4
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.46 sec | bench reps: 13 | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: 32.5 in | broad: 120 in
Ever since Ronnie Hillman ran all over the Mountain West as a redshirt freshman, the Aztecs have had an unbroken string of uber-productive lead backs with fringe NFL ability: Hillman (2010-11), Adam Muema (2012-13), and Donnel Pumphrey (2014-16). Unlike his predecessors, however, Penny has legitimate professional potential. While Hillman (5’9″ and 200 pounds), Muema (5’10” and 202 pounds), and Pumphrey (5’8″ and 176 pounds) were all too small to be reliable lead backs in the NFL, Penny has the body to handle a full workload. Also, he amazingly has a versatile skill set that his forerunners lacked: He’s not only a capable receiver with 34 receptions since 2016, but he’s also an elite return man with seven kick return touchdowns and one punt return score since 2015. For a guy of his size to have the elusiveness and long speed to break that many returns for touchdowns is unreal. To put this in perspective: The last college running back of Penny’s size to have rushing, receiving, and kick and punt return touchdowns in the same season was Penn State dominator Larry Johnson (2001), who had one of the best two-year stretches in NFL history with 4,292 yards and 40 touchdowns from scrimmage in 2005-06.
Although Penny served as a backup to Pumphrey for the first three years of college, he forced his way into a timeshare as a junior, rushing for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns and averaging 4.8 yards after contact per attempt. As a senior Penny was an absolute wrecker, rushing for 2,248 yards and 23 touchdowns, leading all draft-eligible backs with 80 missed tackles forced and an elusive rating of 128.6 (Pro Football Focus). In total, over his two final seasons Penny averaged 134.3 scrimmage yards and 1.63 all-purpose touchdowns per game. Given his age, physical profile, production, and versatility, Penny has the capacity to be a featured back in the NFL.
Penny reportedly had an uneven week of practice at the Senior Bowl — Pro Football Focus identified Penny as someone who helped himself out at the event while Matt Miller of Bleacher Report listed him as someone who raised questions — but regardless of how he performed in practice he absolutely produced during the game, turning 10 touches into 137 yards and a touchdown as he led all backs in rushing and receiving yardage and scoring. As a big-bodied multi-talented athletic non-Power Five runner, Penny has some Kareem Hunt — or maybe even David Johnson — potential as a prospect.
As noted by Emory Hunt on a special backfield-focused edition of The Daily Fantasy Flex, Penny is one of the top backs in the draft.
Matthew Freedman is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs. He has a dog and sometimes a British accent. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he’s known only as The Labyrinthian.