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Which rookie running backs will get the ball the most?

Around The League predicted Tuesday which rookie quarterbacks would start first for their teams. The article got me thinking about a position that traditionally makes a bigger impact right away.

Running backs have been devalued on draft day, but they still provide immediate and excellent value on the field. Eddie Lacy, Zac Stacy, Giovani Bernard and Le'Veon Bell all transitioned quickly to the pro game last year despite not getting drafted in the first round.

This year's crop of runners doesn't look as promising, with fewer clear paths to big carry totals. Then again, injuries at running back have a way of making mid-summer depth charts look fanciful.

Here's who we project to get the most touches out of the rookie running back crop.

Leader in the clubhouse

1. Bishop Sankey, Titans:Sankey has a versatile skill set that will translate well in the NFL. (Translation: He should be excellent on passing downs and is tough enough to stay on the field.) With only Shonn Greene, Leon Washington and Jackie Battle to deal with, Sankey should be the centerpiece of the backfield. He might be the centerpiece of the whole offense.

Predicted touches: 275


2. Terrance West, Cleveland Browns: The relative unknown from Towson is a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan's blocking scheme, inspiring comparisons to Redskins running back Alfred Morris. The Browns don't want Ben Tate to be a 325-carry type of back. West could wind up in a close timeshare.

Predicted touches: 165

3. Andre Williams, New York Giants: He's a fourth-round pick with a first-round opportunity. Tom Coughlin has a soft spot for Williams because he's a Boston College grad and because his downhill style is what Coughlin dreams about every night (after falling asleep 15 minutes early.) I'm out on a limb with the touches total considering Williams can't play on passing downs, but this is a mediocre Giants backfield with Rashad Jennings, Peyton Hillis and the injury-plagued David Wilson.

Predicted touches: 140

4. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals: The second-round pick is a tough player to project. If BenJarvus Green-Ellisisn't on the roster, Hill should wind up as as option "1B" behind Giovani Bernard. If the Law Firm sticks around, this projection could prove optimistic.

Predicted touches: 130

Clear backups

5. Tre Mason, St. Louis Rams: This wasn't the ideal spot for Mason or Stacy, the Rams' starter. Mason figures to beat out Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead for the backup job, and Stacy might not see as many carries per game.

Predicted touches: 100

6. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers: This feels like a pick intended for 2015 and beyond, more than for this year. For now, Hyde is a rare luxury. He's a true three-down back that can step in as a starter if Frank Gore gets hurt. Kendall Hunter will get his share of work, but Hyde should be No. 2 on the depth chart.

Predicted touches: 90

Best of the rest

7. Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings: Backing up Adrian Peterson is not generally a busy job.

8. Ka'Deem Carey, Chicago Bears: He does a lot of things well, just like Matt Forte, the guy in front of him.

Offseason Dates


The NFL offseason workout program calendar has been released for all 32 teams. Find out your favorite team's schedule. **More...**

9. Dri Archer, Pittsburgh Steelers: He's the Mewelde Moore to Bell's Rashard Mendenhall. (Except Archer is far faster than Moore, and Bell is far more complete than Mendenhall. This comparison fell apart quickly.)

10. Lorenzo Taliaferro, Baltimore Ravens: He's someone to keep an eye on if Ray Rice can't rebound and Bernard Pierce can't get healthy.

11. De'Anthony Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs:Dexter McCluster 2.0 should see most of his initial value on returns.

The "Around The League Podcast" predicts which rookie quarterbacks will start first and what veterans are in trouble after the draft.

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