Bishop Sankey Remains Major Fantasy Gamble Despite Productive Preseason Debut

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 12, 2014

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 09: Bishop Sankey #20 of the Tennessee Titans runs with the ball in the second half of an NFL preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at LP Field on August 9, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans won 20-16. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Bishop Sankey fantasy train is beginning to run off the rails already.

Expectations are high for the former Washington Husky after being the first running back taken in the 2014 draft. Following the success of Eddie Lacy and Giovani Bernard—both of whom were second-round picks as well—fans are eager to peg Sankey as this season's can't-miss rookie rusher.

Following Week 1 of the preseason, Sankey's hype is reaching new heights. He ran for 37 yards and caught three passes for 38 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers are even more impressive when you think back to the terrible offensive conditions in Nashville.

Bleacher Report's Eric Mack listed Sankey as the biggest fantasy takeaway from the game:

The involvement in the passing game should help quarterback Jake Locker's development and should be considered a potential coup for fantasy owners, especially in PPR formats. Sankey has the makings of a big-time rookie running back for fantasy, perhaps even a 1,000-yard rusher with 600 yards receiving.

Mack went on to write that if the rookie can earn the starting running back job, he's a potential second-round draft pick in terms of value.

Playing time is one of the biggest variables when gauging Sankey's potential fantasy value at the moment. In addition, not only does he have Shonn Greene to worry about, but Dexter McCluster is also there to eat into his potential number of plays.

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 09:  Running back Shonn Greene #23 of the Tennessee Titans rushes for a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers at LP Field on August 9, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

It's no guarantee that Sankey will be atop the depth chart in Week 1. Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt praised the rookie after Tennessee's 20-16 win but added a small critique as well.

"Bishop Sankey, he did okay," said Whisenhunt, per "He had a couple of things that we’ve got to get cleaned up."

It's worth noting that Greene and McCluster were more efficient on the ground than Sankey, with the former averaging 5.0 yards a carry and the latter getting 6.3 yards a carry. Sankey might have led the team with 37 yards, but that number doesn't sound as good when you consider it came on 13 carries.

He didn't have the kind of amazing game that makes you immediately think that starting job will be his, at least once the important games begin.

For the time being, that unpredictability in terms of his role in Tennessee makes Sankey a bit of a risk if you take him too early. Why use an early pick on somebody who's not even guaranteed to start when the regular season rolls around?

Until Whisenhunt comes about and publicly declares that Sankey is his starting running back, you should be mindful of when you're drafting the 21-year-old in your fantasy league.

Jason and Justin Sablich of The New York Times were nowhere near as bullish as Mack was when it came to Sankey's fantasy value. They listed him as one of five players whose stock dropped:

Sankey’s nifty touchdown reception against the Packers’ backup defenders highlights his P.P.R. allure, but he is not going to unseat the veteran Shone Greene for early down reps without a major improvement on his 2.6 Y.P.C. in the coming weeks. Entrenched in a full blown three-back committee, along with Dexter McCluster, his current ADP of 53 in standard scoring leagues seems overly optimistic.

According to, Sankey's average draft position is 78.5, which seems a bit high but isn't really since he's on average being selected behind Toby Gerhart, Shane Vereen, Steven Jackson and Joique Bell.

If you can nab him in the sixth round and beyond, he's more than worth the possibility that he doesn't play right away. In PPR leagues, his value's even higher because he's such a good receiver.

But don't fall into the trap of drafting Sankey too early because he was the first RB taken in the draft and had one encouraging preseason performance. Don't try and be the smartest guy in the room.