Running back may not be considered a primary need for the Los Angeles Chargers as we head toward the NFL draft, but wide receiver wasn’t a primary need last season and the team still drafted Mike Williams at No. 7 overall.
The teams that draft best go with a best-player-available approach, taking the top guy on their board regardless of position.
The running back that everyone wants to talk about this year (and rightfully so), is Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, but don’t sleep on San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny.
Penny is a talented running back coming off an excellent college career in which he finished at No. 4 on the school’s all-time rushing list with 3,643 yards. For those who don’t find that impressive, SDSU is a school that has had Marshall Faulk, Ronnie Hillman and Donnel Pumphrey all play running back. Pumphrey ranks as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher.
But Penny is a much better player than Pumphrey, able to contribute as a receiver out of the backfield and as a kick returner on special teams. During his college career, he returned seven kicks for touchdowns while averaging 30.2 yards per return.
The Chargers could use a guy who can do all of that.
Walter Football has Penny ranked as the No. 14 running back in the class with a draft grade between rounds three and five, possibly making him a day three pick. For me, he’s grossly underrated.
He only added to his stock with his performance at the combine, which included a 4.46 40-yard dash. Among running backs, only Barkley and North Carolina State’s Nyheim Hines posted a faster time. He also had a 32.5-inch vertical jump and a broad jump that hit 10 feet on the nose. His performance on the bench press (13 reps) left much to be desired, but a good strength coach can help him there.
Penny, who was named co-MVP of the Senior Bowl, is an electric player who is flying under the radar. Former Chargers great LaDainian Tomlinson agrees, as he specifically named Penny as a player who could help the team when speaking with Ricky Henne of the team’s official website.
Walter Football may have Penny as their No. 14 running back, but I dare say he should be considered the second-best behind only Barkley.
Some team is going to get one of the steals of this draft by choosing the former Aztec.