How much you trust rookie running backs in fantasy football may be a personal preference, but the boom-or-bust potential of some of this year’s best could swing your league.
One first-year back worth taking a chance on is Bishop Sankey of the Tennessee Titans.
Elevating his status is the fact that he recently moved up to the No. 2 running back position on the depth chart, behind Shonn Greene but ahead of Dexter McCluster. All three will likely be part of the rotation, their usage determined by opponents and who has the hot hand, but it’s a move in the right direction for Sankey.
We know Sankey can be productive thanks to his college days at Washington. In 2012, he rushed for 1,439 yards, tacked on 249 receiving yards and scored 16 touchdowns, and he improved on those numbers in 2013 when he finished with 1,870 rushing yards, 304 receiving yards and 21 total touchdowns.
He also turned some heads in preseason, including that of safety Michael Griffin, via Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean: “I like Bishop Sankey. But I told him after the game, ‘Congratulations on your first NFL touchdown. Now you have 19 more to go.”
Tennessee and fantasy owners alike certainly hope he has 19 more to go.
It is worth pointing out that the Titans believed in Sankey enough to draft him over the likes of Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill and Tre Mason, among others. His versatility was a big reason why, as Sankey can protect the passer, catch the ball in the flat and hit the holes with a burst as a runner.
Even with Greene and McCluster on the roster, it’s difficult to envision Sankey staying on the bench for long with such a variety of skills.
Still, it’s a crowded backfield, and it will likely take some time for the rookie to earn enough touches to be seen as a No. 1 running back option. RotoWire provided a helpful tip for fantasy players:
Expect Sankey to take over a larger workload over the coming weeks but for now look at Greene. http://t.co/R5k5UBqQh3 http://t.co/gqfe1a0acw2014-9-3 15:13:07
The fact that Sankey will likely see more carries as the season progresses is what ultimately makes him such an intriguing fantasy option. The AFC South was absolutely abysmal against the run last season, and Tennessee plays a division foe only twice in the first seven contests. That means Sankey will start to see a heavier workload right in time for most of the division games.
Houston finished 23rd against the run in 2013, while Jacksonville was 29th and Indianapolis was 26th. Given Sankey’s upside and overall speed, we could see multiple home run plays this season against the division, which are critical for fantasy purposes.
Tennessee will also likely lean on the run throughout the year. It finished 21st in the NFL in passing yards last year, and Jake Locker isn't exactly Peyton Manning under center.
We are not suggesting that you build your entire team around Sankey, especially in his rookie campaign, but it is certainly worth giving the Washington product a look as a third running back or someone to provide depth on the bench for now.
It will likely pay off come the second half of the season.
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