If you were looking for a buzz word that seemed to pop up anytime you talked about running backs prior to the 2014 NFL Draft, the easy answer would be "devalued."
That seemed to play out during the draft as we saw a running back go later than ever before the Tennessee Titans selected Bishop Sankey with the 54th overall pick in the second round. Despite what appeared to be a lack of respect during the draft process, running backs are still a key part of the NFL game and some of the rookies from this year's class will be asked to become their team's primary ball carrier.
NFL Media analyst Charles Davis thinks the highest drafted of the lot -- Sankey -- has a chance to be an impact player for the Titans for just that reason, even if he is high on a number of others who can contribute.
"CJ2K has left the building. Bishop Sankey was drafted to be the featured guy," Davis said on NFL Network's "Path to the Draft". "With that offensive line they've put together, then adding Taylor Lewan, that team has a real chance at establishing a solid run-first base. Sankey will get plenty of carries and he'll catch the ball out of the backfield as well."
Sankey was a do-everything tailback at Washington who set a host of school records during his time at Montlake. He played in a pro-style system so it shouldn't be that much of a transition for him to the NFL, and he's proven to be more than capable of carrying the load after being a workhorse for the Huskies who put up big numbers on a consistent basis.
Investing a second-round pick in Sankey shows that the Titans are committed to him being one of the guys in the rotation in the backfield, but there might be more pressure on him than others. While Ken Whisenhunt used several tailbacks last season when he was running the offense in San Diego, he won't have the same quality or quantity of backs with the Titans. Shonn Greene is a bit of an unknown after two knee surgeries in the past year and free-agent signee Dexter McCluster figures to only get a handful of carries a game as a smaller player.
Throw in some uncertainty with Jake Locker as the starting quarterback and it's easy to see why the newest running back in Tennessee will be asked to do a lot in 2014.
"Sankey is at the top of the list," NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah added. "Not sure what they're going to get out of the quarterback position there so I think they're going to run the ball there. It will be a big load for Bishop Sankey."
Senior analyst Gil Brandt agrees and even thinks enough of the Titans second-round pick to tab him as his preseason NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The running back position might be devalued in the NFL draft, but when it comes to production teams like Tennessee will be counting on a strong ground game to help win football games this upcoming season.