NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Titans finally ended the record wait for the first running back selected in the NFL draft grabbing Bishop Sankey of Washington with the 54th pick overall.
How well they do in place of Chris Johnson remains to be seen.
It’s the latest in any draft for the first running back to be taken, and the Titans made the move Friday night after releasing Johnson in April after six seasons l to avoid paying him $8 million. They already had Shonn Greene and signed Dexter McCluster in March, but Sankey brings versatility and the ability to play all three downs in new coach Ken Whisenhunt’s offense.
“I think this guy is solid and will handle that really well and just completely different as a back,” general manager Ruston Webster said. “Their skill set is not the same, so when you see them on the field, it’s not going to look anything like Chris and he’ll make his own mark.”
Tennessee originally was slotted to draft at No. 42 overall but traded with Philadelphia sliding down 12 spots swapping positions. The Titans also picked up the Eagles’ fourth-round pick, giving them seven in this draft and helping make up for the third round pick traded last year to draft receiver Justin Hunter.
The Titans’ move for Sankey started a run on the position, and Sankey said it felt awesome being the first running back drafted. He said he had a feeling Tennessee would take him after being the only team to fly him in for a visit.
Asked about Johnson, Sankey called the man called CJ2K a tough act to follow.
“We’ll see,” Sankey said. “Only time will tell. No one really knows what tomorrow is going to bring. It’s up to us to prepare the day for whatever situation we’re put in. that’s something that I’m going to do. Just worry about myself and control that I can control and be the best football player that I can be.”
The 5-foot-9, 203-pound Sankey did most of his work in his past two seasons at Washington with 3,309 of his 3,496 yards rushing coming in that time. He scored 37 touchdowns and averaged 5.43 yards per carry overall. His two-year total is the best back-to-back total at Washington since Napoleon Kaufman had 2,689 yards in 1993 and 1994.
“Really what he brings to us is a great deal of versatility, vision, feet, ability to catch the football, which is what we’re looking for,” Webster said. “The important thing for us in picking one of these backs was to get the right fit for coach’s offense and versatility, the ability to play on three downs was really one of the main criteria.”
The Titans now have used their top two selections on offense after selecting left tackle Taylor Lewan of Michigan at No. 11 overall, and they went into this draft looking for a running back after releasing Johnson in April. Johnson ranked second for most yards rushing in the NFL during his six seasons with 7,965 yards, and he left as the franchise’s third-leading all-time rusher. He also never missed a game due to injury.
Scout Marv Sunderland praised Sankey for not missing practices, being a leader and his ability to run both inside the tackles and break long runs. Sankey had a long run of at least 60 yards in each of his last two seasons. But Sankey will be limited this offseason to the Titans’ rookie minicamp this offseason because his class will not be wrapped up at Washington.
Whisenhunt said Sankey will be able to keep up with his team-issued iPad that the running back can take with him, which also will allow the rookie to access video from practices.
“So hopefully that’ll help,” Whisenhunt said.
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