The running back position remains one of the most coveted in fantasy football circles. Due to the lack of depth at the position—in comparison to that of wide receivers—grabbing some talented ball-carriers early in the draft is crucial to a fantasy owner's success. Although, not every back is worthy of an early-round pick—even if his average draft position (ADP) appears to warrant such an action.
Tennessee Titans rookie running back Bishop Sankey is a perfect example of a player who could put fantasy owners in a sticky situation.
Sankey was the first ball-carrier selected in the 2014 NFL draft, and his well-rounded skill set immediately had fantasy owners singing his praises early in training camp. Many expected Sankey to break out this season, much like Giovani Bernard did for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013.
It appears fantasy enthusiasts are still in the same mindset considering Sankey's current ADP is 4.12—a late fourth-round pick in 12-team leagues—according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com. Although, owners taking the rookie with this selection will not be handsomely rewarded.
Heading into the team's third preseason game, Sankey is still sitting third on Tennessee's official depth chart—he's behind both Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster. That isn't a good situation so close to the beginning of the regular season.
One big reason why Sankey is still buried on the depth chart is his ball-security issues. These problems have been well documented, as he's fumbled time and time again during training camp and in the preseason. In fact, John Glennon of The Tennessean noted the frequency of Sankey doing laps at the Titans training facility as a punishment for his lack of ball security.
Head coach Ken Wisenhunt recently spoke of Sankey's fumbling issues with Terry McCormick of 247Sports:
He needs to get as many reps as he can from the standpoint of what he has to do. Protections, and then obviously with putting the ball on the ground, those are things (he needs to work on). He's not a fumbler, he was not that in college. It's technique things, it's footwork things where he hasn't gotten a lot of reps at those, and that can mess with you when you're trying to think about your footwork and not focusing on some of your other things.
While Wisenhunt appears confident Sankey will overcome his ball-security issues, he continued to speak of the importance of the running back getting more reps to correct his bad habits. Until those corrections are made, we may not see too much of Sankey early in the regular season.
Greene isn't an explosive runner, but his between-the-tackles style could afford him the bulk of the team's carries this season. Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus certainly thinks the workload will be in Greene's favor:
If health abides, Shonn Greene will have more carries than Bishop Sankey when the team's Week 9 bye rolls around.— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) August 21, 2014
Unfortunately, Sankey may not even see immediate change-of-pace duties due to the versatility of the explosive Dexter McCluster.
The timeshare between these backs during the first two games of the preseason has been very telling. Rotoworld's Adam Levitan noted the division of first-team reps in the team's first preseason contest:
TEN's first-team offense ran 10 plays Saturday. Shonn Greene started, got 7 snaps. McCluster got 3 snaps (all third downs). Sankey got zero.— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) August 11, 2014
Obviously, things didn't get any better in Week 2 for Sankey due to his fumble on an exchange with rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
This situation makes Sankey a huge risk due to his early ADP. A player selected in the late-fourth or early-fifth round of a fantasy draft should be considered a starter. With starting running backs like Frank Gore, Ryan Matthews, Ray Rice and more—along with plenty of talented wide receivers—potentially available at this point in the draft, taking a flier on Sankey comes with far too much risk.
Going a different route is simply the better option here. If you really want a Titans running back, take a look at Greene—his 13.08 ADP makes him quite a deal for fantasy owners.
Gambling on players during fantasy drafts is a big part of the fun; however, in Sankey's instance, the risk far outweighs the reward.