3 Must-Own Rookie Running Backs With Massive Upside in Fantasy Football
Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans
When Bishop Sankey landed with the Titans in the 2014 NFL Draft, the fantasy community was excited. In May, Sankey's stock had climbed as high as 3.11 in 12-team league drafts, but with the former Washington Husky struggling in training camp and the preseason, his ADP has fallen into the sixth round according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com.
It's easy to understand why fantasy football owners were excited for the prospect of Sankey in Tennessee. Despite Chris Johnson finishing 30th out of 47 players with at least 100 carries in Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) last year - a measure of how effective a player is in terms of real-life points added or subtracted - the Titans offensive line was actually pretty good last season. According to Pro Football Focus, the Titans' line ranked 17th overall and 13th in run blocking in 2013.
Even though Johnson was so ineffective last season, the Titans still finished ninth in the NFL in team Rushing NEP at 12.77. CJ?K's less-than-stellar play in spite of good blocking, which is well documented on numberFire, prompted Tennessee to let him walk in free agency. Now, with Johnson out, Sankey's only competition for lead back duties will be Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster, who had a combined 85 carries last season.
Although Greene wasn't bad on the ground in 2013 (ranking 20th out of 57 running backs with at least 75 carries in Rushing NEP at 0.04), he has never shown he has what it takes to be a feature back. Only 14 of the plodding Titans' 899 career carries have gone for 20-plus yards, and he has only managed to catch 71 balls in four seasons. Contrarily, McCluster is more of a scat-back type, averaging 4.4 yards per carry over his career and catching 172 passes in just four seasons. The problem with McCluster is that he is only 5'9" and 165 pounds, and only has one season where he has carried the ball more than 18 times (114 in 2011).
Unlike the other two Titans running backs, Sankey has the right combination of raw talent and versatility to be an every-down back in the NFL. In three seasons in the Pac-12, he averaged 5.4 yards per carry and 8.5 yards per reception with 67 receptions and 38 total touchdowns in 38 games. He has the talent, he has the skill-set and he's in a decent situation to bring a lot of upside as a rookie runner. If Greene doesn't impress early in the season, the Titans' rookie could be an extremely valuable piece for your fantasy team this season.