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Fantasy Players - Rookie Watch
By Mike Beacom

Rookie Watch – Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee Titans

Maybe there is something to the theory that the NFL is devaluing the running back position. After all, NFL Draft viewers waited an eternity before the Titans took University of Washington star Bishop Sankey at pick No. 54. It’s a long way from the days when backs peppered round one.

Sankey was not supposed to be the first back from this class – most pegged Carlos Hyde to be that guy – but Sankey ended up in a good spot and is now the consensus to be the top fantasy rookie running back for 2014. The Titans parted ways with Chris Johnson, leaving the door open for someone to steal a job Johnson had owned for six seasons. During that time the speed back averaged 21.2 touches in 95 contests. If Sankey is the guy to replace Johnson, he stands to gain a lot.

Dissecting the depth chart: Ah, so nice to slide right to the front of the line, isn’t it? Well, sort of. The Titans still have Shonn Greene on the roster, and the team added Dexter McCluster (what is he, a wide receiver or a running back??) but most seem to expect Sankey will end up with the starting job by the time camp closes – not so much because he deserves it, but because Greene and McCluster probably do not. Greene has averaged less than 4.0 yards a carry in each of the past two seasons. McCluster has amassed 152 carries in four NFL seasons (seriously!). Sankey is the most fit for a featured role.

Just the stats: Sankey gained 3,309 rushing yards combined his last two seasons at Washington. And for those who believe McCluster will steal touches as a situational back, consider Sankey caught 61 passes over those two years – a reason to keep him on the field if he does win the job. He logged three games with 200 or more rushing yards in 2013, including against in-state rival Washington State. Sankey caught five passes and scored two touchdowns against both Stanford and Oregon. His best collegiate content may have been the 2012 Maaco Bowl in which he gained 279 yards from scrimmage against Boise State.

2014 Projection: 209 carries, 903 yards, 5 TDs, 34 receptions, 298 yards, 2 TDs

2013 rookie comparison: Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
Last season, after the departure of Steven Jackson, Stacy emerged from a crowded backfield of unknowns. He was the best value fantasy rookie of the year, totaling more than 1,100 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns.

Interesting fact that won’t help you: Sankey originally planned to attend Washington State but changed his mind and decided to play for the Huskies.

What he’s worth: Fantasy owners are overspending right now, mostly because Sankey is viewed as the best of a weak class of rookie running backs. In reality, he makes a nice No. 3 back in standard leagues – a solid spot starter who has the potential of a big game or two, but someone who will be inconsistent week to week.

Follow Mike Beacom on Twitter @mikebeacom

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