The Seahawks were able to trade down and address a need. Pete Carroll’s first words upon entering the media room after the pick: "I don’t mind telling you, this pick fired me up.”
The Seahawks couldn’t abide their great void in the second and third rounds of the draft, and predictably traded down from No. 18 to stockpile at least one extra third-round pick, via Green Bay.
But they also couldn’t abide a running game that in recent years has been the antithesis of everything they stand for. And so when it came time, at No. 27 overall, to possibly trade down again and hoard even more inventory, they did something out of character.
They picked. That’s right – against all odds, Roger Goodell went to the podium and announced an actual Seahawks’ first-round selection, something that most people felt was the longest of shots considering their absence of early picks.
They chose a running back, which the Seahawks haven’t done in the first round since Shaun Alexander in 2000. It was Rashaad Penny of San Diego State, and it was another strong message from Pete Carroll and John Schneider that this offseason is about rediscovering the Seahawks’ core principals.
One of them, which has been slipping away, is an attack built around an explosive running game. Since Marshawn Lynch left after the 2015 season, the Seahawks have been searching in vain for a group of running backs who could, en masse, provide the same sort of intimidation and production.
Since it was the Seahawks, of course the name they came up to augment that mix was a slightly confounding one – not the more heralded names like Sony Michel or Derrius Guice, both of whom were available, but rather a back in Penny whom many projected as a third-rounder, or second round at best.
But the Seahawks proved long ago they don’t care at all what the so-called experts think. They have earned a reputation for doing the unexpected in the draft, making selections that few had forecast. Their M.O. is to make a mockery of mock drafts, and reveling in it.
Which is why Carroll’s first words when he came into the media room was, “I don’t mind telling you, this pick fired me up.” He later described himself as “tickled” and described it as “a beautiful pick.” Schneider said he was “super-excited,” revealing that another team had immediately offered to trade for Penny after the pick.
“Isn’t that cool?’’ he said.
The Seahawks believe they have found the man to revitalize their running game – cited by Carroll as a prime goal after the 2017 season ended without a playoff berth — in the 5-10, 220-pound Penny. In a conference call from his home in Norwalk, Calif., an exuberant Penny expressed delight at landing with Seattle. He answered affirmatively when asked if had followed the career of Lynch.
“He was a great running back who brings juice, energy,’’ Penny said. “I’m excited to try to follow his footsteps of what he did in Seattle. He was amazing. I want to carry on that tradition. I just want to help win games. I think that’s why they picked me. They know I have the ability to do that.”
The thought of going 102 draft spots without making a pick, as Seattle was set up to do without a second- or third-round pick, might have sent Schneider and Carroll into hyperventilation.
So when they went on the clock at No. 18, they did what we knew, deep down, they were destined to do all along. They sent the pick to Green Bay in exchange for the Packers’ pick at No. 27 overall and the real prize, a third-rounder, along with a sixth-rounder.
But the lure of Penny proved too great when No. 27 rolled around, which Penny said made him happy – “unexpected happy,’’ he added with a laugh.
On the other hand, it didn’t come totally out of the blue. Penny had met with the Seahawks at the combine, and running-backs coach Chad Morton had recently been in contact. Yet his name had not been associated with the Seahawks in the swirl of draft coverage that has been inundating the airwaves and internet.
Round 1 | Pick 27 | No. 27 overall (via GB)RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
Round 3 | Pick 12 | No. 79 overall (via PIT)DL Rasheem Green, USC
Round 4 | Pick 20 | No. 120 overallTE Will Dissly, Washington
Round 5 | Pick 4 | No. 141 overallOLB Shaquem Griffin, Central Florida
Round 5 | Pick 9 | No. 146 overallDB Tre Flowers, Oklahoma State
Round 5 | Pick 12 | No. 149 ovr (via DEN)P Michael Dickson, Texas
Round 5 | Pick 31 | No. 168 overallOT Jamarco Jones, Ohio State
Round 6 | Pick 12 | No. 186 overall (via GB)LB/DL Jacob Martin, Temple
Round 7 | Pick 2 | No. 220 overall (via PIT)QB Alex McGough, Florida International
“I realized the mocks and predictions don’t mean anything,’’ he said. “This is real. It doesn’t matter what the projections say.”
Penny described himself as a patient, elusive back who can catch the ball out of the backfield and does whatever it takes to help the team win. He expressed a desire to help the Seahawks get back to their dominating ways “and make a huge playoff run.” He admitted to needing work in pass protection but vowed to do that work, and in fact said he’s already focusing on that.
“I know I have to protect that million-dollar man back there, Russell Wilson,’’ he said.
In other words, Penny hit all the right notes. Of course, the proof will come on the field, not the quote sheet. The Seahawks produced just one touchdown from their running backs last year, a statistic that epitomizes how far their running game has fallen.
“That definitely means they need someone in there to come in willing to help, and I’m the right guy for that,’’ Penny said. “I’m excited. I know they need help, and I’m the guy for it. I’m just willing to do my job to help us win. It’s going to be an amazing process. I can’t wait. I just can’t wait.’’
Penny comes with sparkling credentials – a nation-leading 2,248 yards last year with 23 touchdowns as well as great success in the return game, a lure for the Seahawks. And any question about the level of competition in the Mountain West was erased for Schneider at the Senior Bowl, where Penny shined.
“We know the running game helps every aspect of our team,’’ Carroll said. “He’s coming in here to compete; we’re not going to just hand him the job. But he’s such an exciting player, so versatile and dynamic, we know every time we hand him the ball he can score a touchdown.”
In the end, there was just something special, an X factor, about Penny that enticed the Seahawks. It seems to have been a mixture of humility and fire.
“His demeanor is quiet, but he has this sparkle in his eyes, and he really wants it,’’ Schneider said.
And the Seahawks wanted Penny, and what he represented, so badly they couldn’t wait any longer.