San Diego State
5’11, 220 pounds
Projection: Rounds 2-3
Penny has the ideal build for an NFL running back. He takes quick, short strides, making him hard to take down. He turns corners well with his good agility and acceleration. His feet never stop moving. Penny runs with great power, and often falls forward and takes defenders with him to the ground. He is a very patient runner. Sets up his blocks well, and knows which hole to hit. Penny can make you miss with a variety of cuts, jukes, and spins, and will run through you as well. His impressively strong lower body allows him to shrug off weak arm tackles. He is an elite kick returner; despite his lack of breakaway speed, he uses the same patience and vision to set up big kick returns.
Despite his good quickness close to the line of scrimmage, Penny does not have good burst or breakaway speed to finish long runs. For his frame and strength, he does not break tackles as consistently as you would like. Good tacklers will bring him down on first contact. His vision is average at best; Penny will often miss opportunities to cut back or burst through an open hole in favor of dancing around in the backfield and trying to make something out of nothing. He is not a great pass-catching back. Penny’s hands aren’t anything special, and his route running is not sharp.
Like the Eagles, Frank Reich may elect to run a “running back by committee” style of offense with the Colts which worked so well in Philadelphia. Assuming Frank Gore does not return to Indianapolis, the Colts will be left with Marlon Mack and Robert Turbin as their primary backs. Turbin is an underrated short yardage and pass blocking back, but he is not enough to carry the load. Mack had a very good rookie campaign, but it is still to be seen if he will grow to the feature back the Colts hope he will be. Penny can step in and be a three-down back right away. His tough running style compliments Mack’s more elusive style based on home run plays.
This year’s running back class is so stacked that it would be best for the Colts to wait to select a tailback. If they draft Penny in the third or maybe even fourth round, they can focus on bigger needs early, such as EDGE, guard, or linebacker. Penny was incredibly productive in college, leading the nation in rushing yards (2,248) and second in rushing touchdowns (23). Penny has the body and the skillset to translate his production to the next level on some scale. His combine and pro day performance will be vital to his draft stock. His motor will allow him to be a workhorse in the NFL for many years to come.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_ and @FPC_Colts.