Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny had surgery on Wednesday morning to fix a broken finger, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets. The recovery is estimated to take 3-4 weeks, which puts the Seahawks’ top running back up against the start of the season, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).
While there is some doubt about Penny’s availability for Week 1, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter links) has received largely positive news about the rookie. One source tells Schefter that Penny “should be ready” for the season opener and another says Penny “would have played with it if this were late season/playoffs.” Schefter also notes that baseball standout Robinson Cano once had the same surgery and he was back in action within three weeks.
Penny, the No. 27 overall pick in this year’s draft, is expected to be the Seahawks’ leading rusher this season. If he misses time, the Seahawks can turn to backups Chris Carson, C.J. Prosise, and J.D. McKissic, but they have not received consistent production from those players in the past.
However, the running back position produces annual mid- or late-round surprises — from Devonta Freeman to Jordan Howard to Kareem Hunt — that end up providing immense value to certain teams. The Giants obviously have an incredibly gifted ball-carrier set to take handoffs from Eli Manning, but which of Barkley’s peers is in the best position to challenge him (and the quarterback contingent) for the OROY honor?
The other two first-round RBs look to be less equipped for a strong challenge due to circumstances.
Sony Michel‘s prospects of being an immediate ground producer may have been better on a different team. While the Patriots boast one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, Bill Belichick notoriously finds myriad usages for his backs and involves nearly all of them. Although, Dion Lewis‘ departure after a 180-carry season opens the door for someone to take over as New England’s primary back. And Michel averaged 7.9 yards per carry on 156 totes at Georgia last season. Rashaad Penny looks to be behind Chris Carsonto start the season, and the surprise first-rounder may be given time to develop for a Seattle team that’s struggled on the ground for a few years now.
After Round 1, however, it becomes a bit more interesting. The Buccaneers did not possess a formidable depth chart at running back prior to investing their second-round pick in USC’s Ronald Jones. In 2017, Jones rushed for 1,550 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns. He could well be an early-season starter, with the likes of Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber in his path toward a first-string role. Chosen just before Jones, Nick Chubb will have to contend with Carlos Hyde in Cleveland this season for the revamped Browns. Chubb, though, notched three 1,000-yard seasons in the nation’s toughest conference.
Kerryon Johnson looks to be set to start in a committee in Detroit, but the Lions have been desperate for a surefire ground producer for years now. And they view Johnson as a three-down back. LeGarrette Blount and Ameer Abdullah reside in the Motor City carries picture, but neither would impede Johnson from a major role if he proves ready from the outset. Derrius Guice could have a quicker path to playing time in Washington. Considered by some the second-best back in this draft, the LSU product fell largely because of character concerns. However, Guice averaged 7.6 yards per carry in 2016 on nearly 200 attempts and is expected to push for the Redskins’ starting job from the start.
Also expected to challenge for an early role: the Broncos’ Royce Freeman. The Oregon-developed talent posted three 1,300-plus-yard seasons with the Ducks, amassing a staggering 947 college carries. With the Broncos having moved on from four-year starter C.J. Anderson, only Devontae Booker (299 rushing yards last season) resides in the third-rounder’s path. Is he a threat to be the 2018 version of Hunt?
As for Barkley, he has the most obvious route to a full-time gig. Despite Jonathan Stewart now being in the Big Apple, the Penn State dynamo will factor in from the start of the Giants’ season. And the three-down back totaled at least 2,300 yards from scrimmage in back-to-back years for the Nittany Lions. The Giants have questions up front, having lost Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, but they added multiple UFAs — spearheaded by Nate Solder — and chose likely Day 1 starter Will Hernandez in Round 2.
So, will Barkley’s situation be too much for the rest of this class to overcome, a la Ezekiel Elliott? Or will one of the later-round picks emerge in Hunt fashion? Is there a Day 3 dark horse in this year’s class in the mold of Freeman or Howard? Take PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!
While the three players selected at pick Nos. 23-25 (Patriots offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore, and Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst) each garnered significant fourth season base salary guarantees, Penny — who was chosen with the 27th overall pick — actually saw his fourth season salary guarantee percentage decrease when compared to 2017’s No. 27 selection, Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White, per Florio.
The NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement implemented slotted rookie contracts which make negotiations a breeze, but there’s a still a bit of wiggle room. First-rounders selected near the end of the first round won’t often get the entirety of their fourth season base salary guaranteed, but that’s an area where agents can press for a bit extra in talks. Penny’s representatives, clearly, didn’t do so, which could now lead other teams with unsigned first-round picks to withhold guarantees.
Here are the unsigned first-round picks chosen after No. 20 overall:
Overall, the amount of fourth season guarantees shouldn’t stand in the way of getting deals for the above players done, as the dollar amounts in question are in the thousands, not millions. But the lack of signed contracts does speak to the small area of available negotiation still left in rookie pacts, and is something to watch as the offseason progresses.
Now that mandatory minicamps have wrapped up around the league and players have returned home for a few weeks, the NFL will experience something of a lull until we get closer to the start of training camp in July. In the past couple of days, however, beat writers have shared some lessons learned during spring practices, offered some insight as to what OTAs and minicamp revealed about the upcoming season, and discussed some questions that remain unanswered. So let’s dive right in:
Slater also indicates that Henry Anderson may have the leg up in the battle for the Jets‘ starting defensive end position opposite Leonard Williams — New York desperately needs someone to take double teams away from Williams — and that Andre Roberts appears to be leading the competition for Gang Green’s punt returner job. He adds that wideout Chad Hansen has impressed this spring after being a non-factor in his rookie campaign last year.
Rich Cimini of ESPN.com also likes what he sees from Hansen, and he says TE Neal Sterling and RB Elijah McGuire are other under-the-radar players to impress for the Jets this spring. Sam Darnold, meanwhile, is very much on the radar, and Cimini says Darnold has done nothing to suggest he cannot be a quality starter in the NFL.
The most important lesson learned during the Eagles‘ spring practices, per Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer, is that Carson Wentz is progressing in his recovery from an ACL tear and could be ready to go in Week 1. However, as Berman points out, the defending champs have plenty of injury concerns outside of Wentz, though no key players appear at risk of missing any regular season time at this point.
Berman also writes that Jay Ajayi is the Eagles’ unquestioned No. 1 running back — in stark contrast to the summer of 2017, when the team was emphasizing a committee approach to the offensive backfield — and he names De’vante Bausby, Nate Gerry, and Dallas Goedert as young talents who have stood out in the spring. Gerry, a 2017 fifth-rounder who converted from collegiate safety to professional linebacker, could compete for a starting LB job this year, Berman says.
Seahawks‘ 2018 seventh-round pick Alex McGough stood out this spring and has a legitimate chance to be Russell Wilson‘s backup this year, per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Condotta also notes that Seattle’s first-round choice, Rashaad Penny, has looked the part and has also shown improvement in his pass-blocking technique, which will help him see more of the field this year.
TE Eric Ebron has been perhaps the most impressive newcomer for the Colts this spring, per Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, who also says 2018 fourth-rounder Nyheim Hines was the most exciting rookie to watch. Hines, a running back from NC State, has the explosiveness and versatility to thrive in new head coach Frank Reich‘s scheme.
Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com says Harold Landry, the Titans‘ second-round draft choice this year, is living up to his draft pedigree and that, while he may have a hard time unseating veterans Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo as a starting OLB, he should see plenty of action as a situational pass rusher to begin his career. Wyatt also says Tennessee’s cornerbacks have been the most impressive position group of the spring.
The Seahawks have signed first-round running back Rashaad Penny, the club announced today.
Like every first-round pick, Penny has inked a four-year deal that includes a fifth-year option for the 2021 campaign. Per Over the Cap, Penny’s new contract should be worth roughly $10.765MM and come with a $5.909MM signing bonus. His 2017 cap charge will come in around $1.957MM.
Seattle traded back from No. 18 to No. 27 in the first round before selecting Penny, picking up an extra third-rounder in the process. Penny, a San Diego State product, should front the Seahawks’ backfield as the team attempts to reinstall the ground-and-pound approach that made them successful earlier this decade. Penny, who stands 5’11”, 220 pounds, posted a whopping 2,248 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns during his final collegiate season.
“Basically what we did, coming into the draft, we had a group of about five guys that we would be very happy with at 24 and we got our pick and three of those guys were there and it was a hard decision between Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore,” Hurney said. “I think that the difference to us is, and we think they’re both excellent wide receivers, is just D.J. Moore gives us a little different skill set than we had.”
Let’s check out some more draft notes from around the league…
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller touched on a number of topics during his post-draft review. Notably, the reporter noted that the most surprising first-round selection was San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny, who was taken by the Seahawks with the 27th pick. Miller notes that opposing teams didn’t value Penny as highly, and the reporter said the highest team grade (outside of Seattle) rated the running back as a second-rounder.
Miller reports that several players failed drug tests, causing them to fall in the draft or go undrafted. This grouping included cornerback Holton Hill, offensive tackle Desmond Harrison, and wideout Antonio Callaway.
Excepting the Eli Manning-for-Philip Rivers exchange, NFL draft trades rarely unfold like NBA draft-night swaps, with teams making picks and then sending players elsewhere. But the Seahawks indicated such an offer emerged on Thursday night. After they’d made their somewhat surprising Rashaad Penny selection at No. 27, John Schneider said (via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times) another team called them to try and acquire the running back. Schneider said that was the first time he’d seen such an offer as an NFL executive. Schneider said he would have authorized a Penny pick at No. 18, which would have been even more interesting since the San Diego State product was viewed as a fringe first-round prospect going into the night, and the Seahawks obviously held onto their new rookie after the surely strange phone call.
Here’s more from the draft world going into Night 2.
Despite talk connecting the Jets to Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and (to a lesser extent) Josh Rosen before the draft, Sam Darnold was the top quarterback on their board, Manish Mehta of the Daily News tweets. The Jets did not expect Darnold to be on the board at No. 3, hence the franchise’s late maneuvering to secure more face time with its top QB prospect.
The Chiefs made two blockbuster trades this offseason, and the team unloading Marcus Peters for second- and fourth-round draft choices deprives Kansas City of what was probably a top-three player on its roster. The now-Brett Veach-run franchise had discussions of moving up from No. 54 and all the way into the first round, and they’ve been reportedly considering a trade-up sequence in Round 2. Albert Breer of SI.com reports the Chiefs discussed moving into the Eagles‘ No. 32 spot last night before the Ravens did so and that a move north tonight will be with a cornerback acquisition in mind. The Chiefs traded for Kendall Fuller and signed David Amerson, but their defense — the No. 30 DVOA unit with Peters — still has a need at this spot.
Some evaluators think that Lamar Jackson‘s best position in the NFL would be at wide receiver, but don’t tell that to Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. When asked about his plans for the Louisville product, he said, “[Jackson] is a quarterback. Done.” (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). He also emphasized that Joe Flacco will remain the team’s starter.
ReggieMcKenzie isn’t worried about butting heads with new head coach JonGruden during next week’s draft. The Raiders general manager said that after having worked with Gruden for three months, the two are on the same page when it comes to prospects.
“I’ve got a feeling for Coach Gruden. We like the same type of players,” McKenzie said (via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com). “Just good football players. It’s not about height, weight, speed or where they come from. It’s about who they are as players, do they love playing football. All those characteristics you truly like about football players.”
The Raiders are armed with a number of picks heading into next week’s draft, including the 10th-overall selection.
Let’s take a look at some other draft notes…
Despite the fact that Lamar Jackson met with the Ravens earlier this week, Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun isn’t convinced that the organization would select the quarterback if he’s available with the 16th pick. The writer cites the fact that owner Steve Bisciotti has stated that the team isn’t worried about finding JoeFlacco‘s successor, and the Ravens have more pressing needs as they look to return to the postseason. While the front office could end up taking a signal-caller at some point during the weekend, Zrebiec believes the team will use their first-rounder on another position.
After striking out on the position last year, Jeff McLane of Philly.com says the Eagles will be eyeing running backs during the upcoming draft. While the organization did end up selecting Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round, the team had been eyeing a number of top-tier prospects, including ChristianMcCaffrey, DalvinCook, AlvinKamara, and KareemHunt (in fact, McLane notes that Philly attempted to trade up for Cook). While the team hasn’t traditionally spent high-round picks on running backs, and while they’re also armed with a relatively deep group (including mid-season addition JayAjayi), the writer believes the team could still be eyeing a future starter at the position.
Speaking of running backs, Bryce Miller of the San Diego Union-Tribune believes San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny could ultimately be the steal of the draft. The offensive weapon is projected to be a late first-rounder or early second-rounder, and he’s labeled as an elite special teamer. The one knock is his pass blocking ability, but Penny believes that’s a misconception. “I could care less about the media talk,” Penny said. “Talking to GMs and head coaches, I know they’re high on me. There’s always going to be a chip on my shoulder. I could be a seventh-round pick, but I can prove it on the field.” Penny is listed 46th overall (sixth among running backs) in NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah‘s recent top-50 prospect rankings.
Dez Bryantwants to sign with the Giants after being released by the division-rival Cowboys last week, but a current New York wideout isn’t on board with that idea. In a now-deleted Instagram story, Giants receiver Brandon Marshall said there was “no room” for Bryant on Big Blue’s roster, as Jaclyn Hendricks of the New York Post writes. Marshall, for his part, bombed during his first campaign in New York, as an ankle injury limited him to just five games and 18 receptions. Viewed as a possible cap casualty heading into the offseason, Marshall has surprisingly stuck on the Giants’ roster to this point. New York could still release Marshall at any point, however, and doing so would save the club in excess of $5MM in cap space.
Here’s more from the NFC East:
The Redskins were busy hosting draft prospects over the past two days, as Georgia running back Sony Michel, Ohio State center Billy Price, and Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea all visited the nation’s capital on Tuesday/Wednesday, according to John Keim of ESPN.com (allTwitterlinks). Michel would join a running back depth chart that already includes Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, and Rob Kelley, while Price could start at either guard or center in lieu of Arie Kouandjio or Chase Roullier, respectively. Vea, meanwhile, would help fill a gap at defensive tackle that the Redskins have already attempted to fill this offseason by showing interest in free agents such as Johnathan Hankins and Bennie Logan.
Southern Methodist wideout Courtland Sutton met with the Cowboys on Wednesday, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Dallas has a gaping need at receiver after cutting Bryant, as their roster is currently littered by second- and third-tier pass-catchers. Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Deonte Thompson, and Ryan Switzer front the Cowboys’ WR depth chart, but Sutton — who is viewed as either a first- or second-round selection — could give Dallas a potential No. 1 wideout. The 6’4″, 215-pound Sutton posted at least 1,000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons.
Landon Collins fractured his arm last December, and the injury is not healing as well as the Giants safety had hoped, reprots Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitterlinks). As such, Collins is now considering another operation to further repair the break. Luckily, a procedure to plate the break would only recover a six-to-eight week recovery period, meaning Collins would likely be available for training camp, per Garafolo, who cautions that while surgery is expected, no final decision has been made. Collins, who earned his second consecutive Pro Bowl berth in 2017, is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Here’s more from the NFL’s two East divisions:
After missing the entirety of his rookie season due to a torn ACL, Patriots edge rusher Derek Rivers has not suffered any setbacks, per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. As should be expected, New England will likely use caution as Rivers reintegrates into football, and the club likely won’t feel the need to push Rivers during offseason activities. But it appears that the third-round pick from Youngstown State will be ready for the start of the 2018 campaign, says Reiss. Heading into last year’s draft, Rivers was viewed as something of a project, a high-motor player who may need time to develop. The Patriots could certainly use help on the edge after finishing just 30th in pressure rate last year, and Rivers could conceivably get a chance at playing time if healthy.
Although the Dolphins have already signed veteran Frank Gore to pair with incumbent Kenyan Drake, the club will be open to selecting another running back in the draft, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Indeed, Miami has been attempting to schedule a pre-draft visit with San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny, but finding an open date has been difficult given that Penny has already set up many meetings with other teams. Penny (5’11”, 220) rushed for a whopping 2,248 yards in 2018, averaging 7.8 yards per carry while scoring 23 touchdowns on the ground.
The New York media market could play a factor in the Giants‘ decision on whether to use the No. 2 overall pick on quarterback, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk opines. If Big Blue drafts a signal-caller, fans and reporters alike will likely be clamoring for that passer to be inserted into the starting lineup if Eli Manning falters. While that doesn’t necessarily mean the Giants shouldn’t consider a quarterback, they should only do so if general manager Dave Gettleman & Co. have no doubts about the prospect, argues Florio. Sitting at No. 2, New York will have their choice of three of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, and Josh Allen (provided Cleveland uses the first overall pick on a quarterback, as expected).