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Kenneth Walker III or Rashaad Penny: Who To Draft for Fantasy Football?

Rashaad Penny - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

In the first season that the Seahawks will embark on in the post-Russell Wilson era, the biggest real-life story is who will replace him at quarterback. In fantasy football, the biggest story regarding the Seahawks is which running back should be drafted higher between Rashaad Penny and Kenneth Walker III.

The fantasy football debates are already raging online between experts and analysts. The Penny backers point to his tremendous play down the stretch in 2021, when Penny performed better than any running back in the NFL.

The detractors and Walker backers point to Penny’s extensive injury history and Seattle’s decision to draft a running back in the second round.

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Kenneth Walker III Is The Early Preference for Drafters

The early returns from high-stakes players indicate that Walker is the slightly favored draft choice of the two despite Penny looking like a fantasy superstar late last season. In the FootballGuys Players Championship format on the Fantasy Football Players Championship platform, Walker has an Average Draft Position of 74.8., while Penny is at 91.

Fantasy players will often opt for the newcomer with upside, and when an NFL team drafts a running back in the second round, that is often regarded as a signal that he will be a significant contributor very early in his NFL career. Running backs have been devalued in the NFL Draft in recent seasons, so any time a team spends a higher pick on one, savvy fantasy players take notice.

Walker indeed may be the best pure runner in the 2022 NFL Draft Class. He has good vision, can make defenders miss in short space, breaks tackles, and can take off for big gainers once he reaches the second level of defenders. As Pete Carroll looks to re-establish a strong running game as a focal point of the Seahawks' offense, Walker can certainly be a significant contributor as a rookie.

Walker’s promise will not prevent Penny from being a major part of the Seattle offense again. At this point, there isn’t a real need to remind you just how well Penny played late last season, but we will drop in a notable stat just to provide the proper statistical backing.

For the first time in Penny’s career, he was utilized as a featured back over an extensive period, and he delivered with obviously outstanding results. Penny was also a more complete runner than he was earlier in his career. He had flashed big-play potential before, but the 2022 version of Penny was also a more physical inside runner, as he learned the art of being a banger from future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson, who joined the Seahawks last December and reportedly had a real impact on Penny as a player/coach figure.


Chris Carson Out, Kenneth Walker In

It does seem that Chris Carson, who often performed admirably as the lead RB for the Seahawks from 2018 through 2020, won’t be part of the RB picture this year. He and Penny were frequently not available at the same time during those three years. The hope was that when both were healthy, the Seahawks could employ an impressive one-two punch at RB, with Carson wearing down defenses with his physicality and Penny picking up good chunks of yardage in the perimeter and in open space.

“I feed off him,” Penny told me in December of 2018 for Seahawks.com regarding his on-field partnership with Carson. “He’ll get the defense tired and then all I have to do is run by them.” The ideal running back plan appeared to be to have Carson and Penny complement each other and overwhelm defenses over the course of games.

Now it appears that Walker can possibly replace Carson as part of a featured Seahawks RB pairing that can function as a focal point of the offense. Ideally, Penny and Carson may work in what can be a very impressive timeshare. If Penny can stay healthy and Walker makes a comfortable adjustment to the NFL while sharing some work, the Seahawks could prove to have one of the best RB duos in the league.

That’s not what fantasy players want to hear, but it makes a lot of sense for the Seahawks. Utilizing both running backs will challenge opponents, as it keeps both runners fresher and can wear a defense down. Having the two RBs share carries also exposes them less to injuries, and can keep Penny on the field for more games after he missed 26 games over the past three seasons.

Penny did make it clear last season that more consistent carries boosted his confidence and helped him get into a better rhythm. Yet his injury history remains a major concern, so the Seahawks added Walker to serve as a terrific depth option if Penny misses any more time in 2022.


Penny Is Also A Bargain At His Current ADP

After finally making the most of his first real opportunity to shine late last season, Penny should enter the season as the No. 1 running back on the depth chart. He earned that status, and Carroll and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron would very much like to see him build on the momentum of the 2021 campaign, even if he carries less every week.

Penny also emerged as a highly improved pass blocker last season, another reason that he should initially stay on the field more than Walker, who may need to work on refining that part of his game as a rookie. The Seahawks do have Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas as other third-down options. Homer is a good blocker and Dallas can catch passes, but neither should be used much if Penny remains available to be the third-down guy.

Those who are drafting Walker higher than Penny are banking on more missed time from the latter, which is understandable. If Penny misses a lot of time again this season, Walker could at least put up quality fantasy RB2 numbers with a possible ceiling of back-end RB1 production.

However, when both RBs are available, the situation could possibly drive fantasy players crazy. The Seahawks coaching staff may ride with the “hot hand” in any given week, and predicting who will perform better every week might be a very difficult task. Penny could operate as the 1A to Walker’s 1B, and Penny may be the more productive fantasy player of the two when they share work. Both RBs will be more comfortable to roster in best ball formats than in seasonal leagues.

The two Seahawks running backs should be approached as upside low-end RB2 types, but they can certainly cut into each other’s production when both are operating in the same backfield. Penny has already shown us he can perform at a very high level and re-installed the organization’s confidence in what he is capable of when he can play. If Penny gets off to a hot start in 2022, Walker may play a secondary role in the Seattle offense. Walker does need time to acclimate to the league and a prime version of Penny gives the Seahawks their best chance to win any games they can this year.

Seeing Walker drafted over 16 spots ahead of Penny is not surprising and makes sense given the apparent injury concerns about Penny. However, the returning veteran is also playing on a one-year deal and has a newcomer threatening his playing time. Those will be significant motivators for Penny to build on his late 2021 run, and he could prove to be a very good value play this season. It would not be shocking to see him overshadow Walker this year.

We may see Rashaad Penny work as the clear lead RB for the Seahawks if he doesn’t miss too many games this year, but Walker can be a great play at his current ADP if injuries continue to be an issue for Penny. It is also possible that they eat into each other’s production. Drafting Penny or Walker is a gamble on upside that can pay off well. Drafting both, if possible, could give you the fantasy keys to whichever one succeeds more from the Seattle backfield, and is also worth consideration.

Of course, this will be a new-look Seattle offense that will be without Wilson for the first time in over a decade. The running game will be essential to maintaining offensive respectability. So both Penny and Walker are viable targets ahead of their current ADPs by a round or two. If you are not depending on them as your initial projected RB2 starters coming out of the draft, then waiting for one to emerge over the other this season can pay off well. At the same time, we can make no overconfident assumptions about how the situation will turn out. The initial projection is to expect a timeshare at the beginning of the season, with a lean towards Penny.

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