With the understanding that premier running back draft prospects like Saquon Barkley, Sony Michel and Derrius Guice are not in Mobile for the Senior Bowl Saturday, there are still a couple of intriguing names at the position.
And for the Buccaneers and the Dolphins, who are both also looking for a “running back of the future,” they have been scouting, interviewing and analyzing who’s there.
A name that is not necessarily household to fans in Florida, but has been a fantastic back in the Mountain West Conference and is arguably the best RB prospect in Mobile this week, is Rashaad Penny of San Diego State.
Up front, Penny is not first or likely second round pick prospect, but at 5’11 220 lbs., he’s a 2,200 yard back a year ago with 23 rushing TDs. He also finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting in December.
Penny can also catch the ball out of the backfield, and is a fantastic kick returner, too with eight career kickoff or punt return touchdowns for the Aztecs.
Penny told AL.com from Mobile, AL, that he’s just hoping to get his shot not only in the game Saturday but through this whole draft process, “Most definitely being a team player and trying to fit into an offense,” Penny said. “Just trying to help them win. I think the running back is most important, because most of the teams that are in the playoffs have great running games. It’s a lot to bring to the table, but if you can’t pass-block, you can’t play. That’s something I’m working on right now.”
He has struggled in the workouts this week with a couple of fumbles, including when he was blasted in an 11 on 11 drill by Auburn LB Tre Williams during Tuesday’s practice.
Penny’s teammate last year at SDSU, NCAA rushing record holder RB Donnell Pumphrey, also participated in the Senior Bowl last year, and was eventually drafted in the fourth round by the Eagles. So, that is in Penny’s favor, as teams evaluate someone who is bigger physically from Pumphrey, and who also broke his single season rushing record.
There is also the obvious example of Chiefs rookie RB Kareem Hunt from Toledo, who participated in the Senior Bowl last year, ran for 118 yards and was the MVP of the game. However, Hunt is faster than Penny, and that’s an obvious difference for teams closely evaluating him.
The Bucs and Fins will have opportunities to take other backs earlier, but then again, may find value in back like Penny on the third day of the NFL Draft (rounds 3-7).
Part of that evaluation is the game Saturday, to see if Penny “flashes” some of the talent that made him so successful in San Diego.
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