With Chris Carson on injured reserve and Alex Collins banged up following a punishing game against the Steelers, the Seahawks will turn to Rashaad Penny to bolster their rushing attack for Monday night’s critical matchup with the New Orleans Saints.
“This is the right time for him to come roaring back, and I’m hoping that he will have a chance to be a big factor in the game,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Thursday.
If Monday’s game projects as something of a win-or-else proposition for the Seahawks to avoid falling dangerously behind in the playoff race, it also represents what might be the last real shot for Penny to change the perception of his career.
And with it, the legacy of the Seahawks’ 2018 draft class.
Penny was their first pick in that draft, taken 27th overall, a selection that was controversial at the time and that hasn’t changed.
Wrote draft analyst Danny Kelly of The Ringer in a comment typical at the time: “With its first-round pick, Seattle took San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny, a move that most analysts considered a reach.”
In part because of the selection of Penny and the Seahawks having no pick in the second round thanks to the Sheldon Richardson trade, their 2018 draft class mostly got grades in the C range with a few B-minuses.
“Not a bad draft overall, I just wonder if they could do more with the first-round pick, and the loss of that second-rounder hurt,” wrote ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who gave it a C-plus.
While fans love the stories of the times draft analysts get it wrong — such as with the Seahawks’ famed 2012 class — any objective view would be that the 2018 class hasn’t won over the doubters.
Penny has 831 yards in just 28 games, having missed another 26 because of injury. That’s fewer yards than eight running backs drafted after him. Cleveland’s Nick Chubb, who was taken eight spots after Penny at 35th overall, has 4,080 yards.
Of the eight position players taken, none have made it to a Pro Bowl, with only three emerging as a full-time starter for as much as a season.
True, injuries have been a factor (more on that in a minute). And true, expecting every class to live up to the famed groups of 2010-12 is a lot to ask. And the Seahawks have gotten some production (also more in a minute).
After waiving cornerback Tre Flowers, whose 40 starters are the most of any position player in the class, only one player seems a given to be with the team in 2022 — punter Michael Dickson.
Penny and the rest who remain — end Rasheem Green, tight end Will Dissly and offensive lineman Jamarco Jones — can be free agents at the end of the year as the Seahawks passed on the chance to enact a fifth-year option in Penny’s deal last spring.
But if Penny can run to the Seahawks’ rescue in a time of need, maybe those grades can inch up a bit.
Here’s a look at each member of the 2018 draft class and where they are now:
RB Rashaad Penny, 27th overall: Penny has had some big moments, such as a 58-yard TD that helped clinch a road win at Philadelphia in 2019, glimpses that show why the Seahawks felt compelled to take him. But oh those injuries, the irony is that Penny had a reputation for durability at San Diego State, something the Seahawks valued after a 2017 season when their running-back corps was decimated by injury.
DE Rasheem Green, 79th: Green has been serviceable with 13 career starts. But the high hopes for a breakthrough 2021, thanks to a strong performance in the preseason, have not come through. Green has just three QB hits and one sack on 176 pass-rush snaps this year, with two hits and the sack coming in the opener against the Colts.
TE Will Dissly, 120: The pick of Dissly hardly looks bad and would look much better had he stayed healthy. Achilles and knee injuries have cost him most of two seasons. He’s off to a decent start this year with 10 catches for 118 yards and a TD, and would seem the most likely of anyone on this list to keep after the season.
LB Shaquem Griffin, 141: Griffin’s emotional selection to rejoin his twin brother Shaquill was one of the highlights of the draft. But after a strong rookie preseason and a start in his first game, Griffin spent the next three years as a reserve and special teamer and spent time on the practice squad. The Seahawks did not re-sign him last offseason and he landed in Miami. He was released off the Dolphins’ practice squad earlier this week and is a free agent.
CB Tre Flowers, 146: The much-maligned Flowers was initially a shining light in this class, making the switch from college safety to corner where he started his first two years. Flowers’ weighted career approximate value of 12 by Pro Football Reference is four points higher than anyone else on this list. But he struggled this season and was waived last week. He is in Cincinnati where he was inactive Sunday.
P Michael Dickson, 149: There was much snickering when the Seahawks traded up to take Dickson. But that may prove to be the best move in this draft as Dickson has emerged as one of the best punters in the NFL. He’s made one Pro Bowl and All-Pro team, the only of either such honors for anyone on this list. Dickson signed a four-year extension worth $14.7 million in June, keeping him with the Seahawks through 2025.
OL Jamarco Jones, 168: Jones may not have emerged as the left tackle of the future, as some hoped. But he’s been a serviceable and versatile backup, starting six regular-season games — having played both guard spots and both tackle spots — as well as both playoff games in 2019 at left guard. Another you’d assume they will want back.
LB Jacob Martin, 186: Martin was regarded as a throw-in in the Jadeveon Clowney deal before the 2019 season. But he’s turned into a dependable player with the Texans with 7.5 sacks in two-plus seasons. He’s a regular in the team’s defensive-line rotation with 25 or more snaps in every game with Houston this year.
QB Alex McGough, 220: McGough has had two stints with the Seahawks, including being in camp this year, as well as with the Jaguars and Texans, but has never played in an NFL game and is a free agent.