2022 Fantasy Football: Pete Carroll says Rashaad Penny will get ‘first shots’ as Seattle’s starting RB

PALM BEACH, Fla. — When a reporter at the NFL Annual Meeting asked Pete Carroll about backup running back Travis Homer, the Seahawks coach took it as an opportunity to talk about Rashaad Penny.

And talk. And talk.

Claiming he’s as excited about his run game as any other part of his team, Carroll effectively named Penny the team’s starter going into training camp.

“He’s going to get the first shots,” Carroll proclaimed. “He deserves it, he’s earned it.”

Carroll backed up his reasoning with what we all saw late last season: an explosive streak of rare athletic talent. Penny totaled 692 yards and scored six times on 97 touches (92 carries, five receptions) over his final five games. Fantasy managers who had him in their lineups enjoyed a 21.4 PPR per-game average — just in time for the Fantasy postseason.

“If we can get him and Chris (Carson) back and battling, that one-two punch is all I could hope for,” Carroll added. “It’s what we’ve envisioned; we just have n’t been able to see it as much. And he’s been frustrated about it, but that frustration has put a chip on his shoulder from him that is exactly the type of chip that you like.”

Going off of Penny’s medical history, it’s easier said than done to count on Penny for the long haul.

The 26-year-old has missed 28 games over four seasons, including seven in 2021 with calf and hamstring issues. He tore his ACL in 2019, missed nearly all of 2020 because of it and needed clean-up surgery on it as recently as last June. He’s also broken a finger and strained a hammy in practice.

Obviously, Carroll’s aware.

“It’s no different than with other running backs we’ve had over the years,” he said. “They’re not always the same guy in every game, for whatever reason. That’s what we’ve learned, so we go with whoever’s hot. But hopefully we’ll do that really well and we’ll take care of him and bring him through the process to make sure that by the time we start playing games he’s ready to go.”

Carroll has to follow the same sort of thinking with Carson, who’s working his way back from neck surgery. Saying his veteran back of him is feeling “pretty good,” Carroll said he thinks Carson is “going to be able to pull it off” regarding a return, but he wo n’t know for sure until he starts practicing.

It creates quite an opportunity for Penny, but the challenges go beyond him staying healthy. The Seahawks play NFC West teams for six games and AFC West teams for four more. Tack on the glaring need for the Seahawks to solve their passing game after trading Russell Wilson, and anyone who runs for Seattle figures to see tough sledding.

It leaves Penny as one of Fantasy’s biggest risk-reward considerations. If he overcomes the tough schedule and stays healthy, he can be a league-winner. If he falls into a pitfall that has stopped him before, he’ll be a runaway bust. It’s enough to keep him outside of the top-50 selections on Draft Day… until late August. If Penny stays fine through training camp and the preseason, Fantasy managers might be more willing to scoop him up before Round 4 ends. For now, Round 5 is worth the risk.

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