Rashaad Penny likely vaulted his plug-and-play streamers to the fantasy football finals this week, posting 135 yards and a touchdown on seventeen carries. This marks his second game with over 130 yards in his last three weeks since really taking over the starting running back role in Seattle. But, with our fantasy football championships on the line, should we really lean into Rashaad Penny? Can we start Rashaad Penny in our fantasy football finals?
Well, if you relied on James Robinson, Miles Sanders, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, or James Conner so far, and somehow you squeaked into your finals, you might not have a choice but to go with Rashaad Penny. But, what if you do have a choice? Well, let’s go back to 2018 when the Seahawks took Rashaad Penny. Penny went at the end of the first round and was exactly the type of back that Pete Carroll seemed to want to replace Marshawn Lynch with, after all, the incumbent, Chris Carson, had a similar profile. Penny dominated touches at San Diego State, getting an incredible 98th-percentile dominator score. His 50.1% dominator score meant that Penny alone accounted for over half of the Aztecs’ production. That’s likely because his size-speed combination (5’11”, 220 pounds, 4.46 40-yard dash), were all great. Nobody really doubted that he could contribute at the NFL level.
Then, disaster struck. And it struck again, and again. Penny’s Sisyphean career arc so far is one punctuated by injury. Penny couldn’t make it out from behind Chris Carson his rookie year; Penny then missed 20 games between 2019 and 2020. Penny isn’t a bust, people like to say that he’s a bust. He’s just an extremely talented player with a stretch of bad luck that helped hide his overall production throughout his career.
Rashaad Penny is good, and he always has been. Penny has eleven career games of double-digit touches, IN those games, he averages 85 yards per game. Almost half these contests are in the low-double digits, as well. At 12+ touches, his average goes up to 110 yards per game, with just one game under 100 total yards. If Rashaad Penny gets touches, he produces. If Rashaad Penny is on the field, he gets touches, as well. Penny has eight games over a 40% snap share, and he had single-digit touches just one time. He gets the ball and does well with it. It’s as simple as that. He’s shown that in the last three games, as well, notching 106 yards per game on 16 touches per game since he’s taken over as the lead back in Seattle the last three games, taking advantage of good matchups against the Texans and Bears.
And, given the Seahawks’ current offensive woes, it will be a lot of Rashaad Penny next week against… The Detroit Lions.
The Detroit Lions are the third-best matchup in one very specific category, and it’s the one you want to attack for your fantasy football matchups: Defensive Points Over Average (POA). BRoto’s DPOA measures the fantasy points allowed to opponents above their average. If you’re the Jaguars and you get a gauntlet of Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, and… uh… Rex Burkhead… then you will obviously end up in the top half of fantasy points allowed to running backs, no matter how well you play them. But if you keep JT and Henry below their averages, then that’s something to note.
The Lions rank as the third-best matchup by POA. They allow 28.4 running back points per game, which is 28.3% over average, per BRotofantasy.com’s wonderful metric. That means there aren’t many better matchups this week, and considering the #2 team is Penny’s own squad, then that means that Penny has the second-best possible matchup in the fantasy football finals.
So yes, start Rashaad Penny. It’s a hard justification to keep him outside of the top-fifteen running backs this week, and he’s a guy who has a lot of bad juju surrounding him due to his injury history. Ignore the vibes and lean into the shown talent with Penny in a bad matchup. Fortune favors the bold, and starting Penny, a man with zero week-over-week production in his past, in your finals is one of the bolder moves that you can make.