RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Once again, John Schneider and Pete Carroll left observers a little surprised by the Seattle Seahawks‘ first selection in the NFL draft.
This time, it included the player they picked — San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny.
“I’m one of those guys I came from a realistic program with a realistic head coach. He always said I was going to be the best player on the field. But then you start looking at all the mocks and the projections,” Penny said Thursday night. “But then as the process started going on and on I started to realize the mocks and the projections don’t mean anything. Now I see it’s real. It don’t matter what the projections say. It’s just unexpected.”
The Seahawks used the No. 27 selection in the first round to strengthen their commitment to an offense based around the run and put less of the offensive onus on quarterback Russell Wilson. Penny will help affirm that focus, even if the pick came with a number of other players available that could have helped Seattle at other positions, including along the defensive line and in the secondary.
He joins rare company as just the third running back selected in the first round of the draft in franchise history, along with Curt Warner (No. 3 in 1983) and Shaun Alexander (No. 19 in 2000).
“He has truly run a lot of stuff that we want to run with him,” Carroll said. “That’s great in the evaluation. He’s also been a shotgun runner at times, too. We’ve seen the moves and the cuts he needs to show us (in) that stuff we like to do in a big way that includes Russell’s factor. There’s no limitations, there’s just no limitations.”
Seattle traded the No. 18 pick and a seventh-round selection to Green Bay to move back nine spots. The trade landed Seattle a coveted third-round pick and a selection in the sixth round. Seattle entered the draft without any picks on the second day of the draft.
Penny was one of the elite running backs in college football last season as he became a full-time starter for the first time. He led the nation with 2,248 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns for the Aztecs. Penny rushed for at least 200 yards in each of the final five games to close out the 2017 season and had 13 rushing TDs during the stretch. He also showed his versatility as a pass catcher out of the backfield, and had two kickoff return touchdowns and another TD on a punt return.
Penny was a first-team Associated Press All-America selection and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. His credentials are significant and he enters the NFL without having a heavy load of carries in college, which helped separate Penny from some other running back options.
“I just think the fact the guy doesn’t have quite as much wear and tear, can score from anywhere on the field, great hands,” Schneider said.
He will join a backfield that has no clear starter going into the season and that needs to rediscover a run game that has struggled since the end of Marshawn Lynch’s time with the team. The Seahawks had one rushing touchdown by a running back in 2017. Wilson was the leading rusher with 586 yards, 346 more than any other player.
Seattle had hopes for promising rookie Chris Carson, but he was sidelined by an ankle injury early in the season and never made it back. The lack of a running game affected Wilson as a passer as well, as defenses didn’t have to commit an extra safety to stopping the run, leading to smaller throwing windows and some tentative decisions by Wilson.
Seattle also has Mike Davis, who flashed in brief stints last season, and C.J. Prosise, who has struggled to stay healthy throughout his brief career.
“I know they needed help and, like I said, I’m the guy for it. I’m just willing to do my job and whatever it takes to help win. I can’t wait,” Penny said.
Penny was the second running back selected after Penn State’s Saquon Barkley was taken No. 2 overall.