NFL scouts sometimes get a little hyperbolic when discussing draft prospects, and two anonymous scouts brought up one of the greatest running backs in NFL history when discussing Washington running back Bishop Sankey.
"He's got a little bit of Emmitt Smith in him," one scout told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He's like a poor man's Emmitt Smith. He can run everywhere. He's just not a real burner. But he's got quickness and vision, and he's a hell of a kid. He's tougher than (expletive)."
Another scout: "He's not as strong as Emmitt but looks the way Emmitt looked when he came to the Cowboys." But that scout also said, "I just don't think he will be big enough to take the every-day pounding."
Sankey (5-foot-9½, 209 pounds) is almost a replica of Smith when it comes to size; Smith was listed at 5-9 and 210 pounds. And, like Smith, Sankey played three years of college ball; their yardage stats were similar, with Smith rushing for 3,928 yards and 66 TDs at Florida and Sankey rushing for 3,496 yards and 37 TDs for the Huskies.
Smith was a first-round pick, going 17th overall in the 1990 draft; he went on to become the leading rusher in NFL history. Sankey seems a likely second- or third-round pick in this draft.
Another scout compared Sankey to Gio Bernard, who was a second-round pick by Cincinnati in last year's draft. "He's not dynamic, but the kid's got great feel and is quick as hell," that scout said, calling him "real similar" to Bernard.
The running back rankings are the most jumbled of any position in this draft. Sankey is the No. 1 back in NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock's position rankings, followed by Ohio State's Carlos Hyde, LSU's Jeremy Hill, Auburn's Tre Mason and Boston College's Andre Williams. Senior analyst Gil Brandt has Sankey as the No. 3 back (behind Hyde and Hill) and No. 51 overall player in his list of the top 100 prospects. But fellow analyst Bucky Brooks doesn't have Sankey going in the first four rounds in a recent mock draft; Brooks does have nine other backs going in those rounds, though, with Hyde and Hill the first two off the board.
NFL scouts seem to be mixed on Hill and Hyde, too.
One scout told the Journal-Sentinel that Hill is "a complete back. He can be an every-down player and carry the load." But another said, "He's soft for a big guy. Some people say he's strong. He's not at all. He's got athletic talent and he's big, but he's a soft runner."
As for Hyde, one scout told the newspaper that he's "powerful" and "a great athlete." Another said, "He doesn't have the burst or acceleration to be a difference-maker. He doesn't have much juice."
For good measure, the scouts also are mixed on Mason and Williams.
One scout on Mason: "He maximizes all the talent he's got. Runs hard. Gives you everything he's got. Knows how to run." Another: "He's not real elusive. Doesn't break enough tackles."
Finally, one scout on Williams: "Not real elusive, but once he gets out there he just makes plays." And another: "Worst hands I've ever seen. I never even saw them pitch it to him. You would be crazy to pitch it to him. It's so bad, you feel bad for the kid."
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.