One of the Seahawks' top priorities heading into the 2018 season is improving a running game that has struggled to find consistency over the past two seasons, a task Seahawks coach Pete Carroll described as “hugely important” earlier this offseason.
On Thursday, the Seahawks took a step towards achieving that goal, selecting San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny with the 27th overall pick of the 2018 draft. This marks the first time the Seahawks have used a first-round pick on a running back under Carroll and general manager John Schneider, and just the third time in franchise history, with Curt Warner and Shaun Alexander being the previous two.
"Our formula of the running game being an integral part of it is really the focus," Carroll said last month at the annual league meetings. "We've got to get that done. Without that, then we're still kind of in a mode where we don't feel as comfortable as we want to be. So it's hugely important. Somehow we've got to keep our running backs healthy. In the last few years it just has not been the factor for us, and it's been a problem even going back two years when Russell (Wilson) was hurt the whole year. So that needs to emerge as a significant part of our program, and everything else I think will fall into place. We know what the formula is, we know what it takes, we just have to get ourselves back and feel that continuity. So that'll be a big focus again, and the challenge begins. Here we go."
Penny, 22, led the nation in rushing last season, gaining 2,248 yards and scoring 23 touchdowns on 289 carries. Penny added two more scores receiving and caught 19 passes for 135 yards. He also returned kickoffs, averaging 30.6 yards per return and scoring two touchdowns. Penny, who is 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine.
Asked about potentially helping jumpstart Seattle's running game, Penny said, "I am the right guy for that. I'm excited. I know they need the help and like I said, I'm the guy for it. I'm just willing to do my job to help win, and it's going to be an amazing process. I just can't wait."
Check out photos of San Diego St. running back Rashaad Penny, who the Seahawks selected with the No. 27 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Penny, whose older brother Elijhaa plays for the Arizona Cardinals, categorizes himself as a "very patient runner" who is able to help as a runner, a pass-catcher or on special teams.
"I'm a very patient runner," Penny said on a conference call with Seattle-area reporters shortly after being drafted. "I'm very elusive, I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I can do whatever it takes to help win a game, that's for sure. That's the mindset that I'm bringing to Seattle. I'm bringing that mindset that I'm going to help win games and that's the number one thing. I just want to bring that team back to where it was a few years ago, make a huge playoff run and eventually go to the Super Bowl. That's the goal. I'm just excited and I thank everyone in that organization for trusting in me and I know it's going to be a great transition."
The Seahawks were picking 27th after trading back earlier in the first-round, a move that sent Seattle's original pick, No. 18 overall, to Green Bay. The Seahawks got a third-round pick and a sixth-rounder in that trade and sent a seventh-round pick back to the Packers.