While Saquon Barkley is the obvious top fantasy rookie (and will be worthy of a first round pick in drafts this season), next up are Rashaad Penny and Sony Michel, rounding out the three running backs taken during the first round of this year’s draft. The Seahawks selected Penny with the No. 27 pick, and while the team clearly needed to upgrade its backfield, Seattle bypassed many other pressing issues (and other RBs many others predicted would go higher) to grab the San Diego State runner, so they clearly are high on him.
While Penny won’t have a great offensive line blocking in front of him, he’ll benefit from the elusive Russell Wilson at QB, and most importantly, he should receive a heavy workload immediately. Penny needs to improve his blocking and as a receiver, but he’s fast (his Speed Score was in the 92nd percentile), breaks a lot of tackles and should fit well in Seattle’s zone-blocking scheme. He scored 25 touchdowns last season and finished his collegiate career with an impressive 7.5 YPC mark. The competition for touches is weak, so Penny should be able to make an immediate impact. I’ve initially put him in the 15-20 range on my running back board.
The Patriots surprised everybody by also taking a running back with the No. 31 pick (passing on Lamar Jackson for the second time in the process), and while Sony Michel likely immediately moves atop New England’s depth chart, he also carries some negatives. He has some medical red flags with a bone-on-bone condition in his knee according to The Ringer’s Mike Lombardi (although more of a long-term concern). He also had a bad fumbling problem in college and caught just nine balls last year. But he clearly has big time talent, and the team bolstered its offensive line by drafting Isaiah Wynn earlier in Round 1. It’s easy to get excited about a high-pedigreed back featured in the Pats’ system.
It’s not exactly an ideal situation given they have a few capable RBs, but none are standouts. Michel likely projects best as a committee back anyway, and there’s no better place for that than in an explosive, uptempo offense like New England’s. I penciled in Michel one tier below Penny, but we’ll know much more as summer progresses. These two backs actually landed in pretty exciting situations.
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