NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Among many attributes, the Tennessee Titans like the way former Washington running back and second-round draft pick Bishop Sankey catches passes and think he'll have no trouble catching up with the offense or handling any task within it.
The Titans traded down 12 spots in the second round on Friday, but were able to start a brief run on running backs when they selected the versatile Sankey, who decided to enter the 2014 NFL Draft with a year of college eligibility remaining. Tennessee moved from the 42nd to 54th overall spot and received a fourth-round pick (122nd overall) from Philadelphia.
"It just feels awesome. I got a great feel when I went down (to Tennessee) on my visit," Sankey said during a conference call after he was drafted. "All the coaches there were great. It was a place that I definitely wanted to be. It really is a true blessing just to be the first running back taken off the board. I'm just ready to get to work."
Sankey's selection marked the latest spot from which the first running back has been selected in an NFL Draft, but the Titans were pleased to be first in line when they went on the clock for the second time in the second round. Cincinnati followed Tennessee by taking LSU running back Jeremy Hill at 55, and San Francisco drafted Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde at 57.
"We wanted to add a running back in this draft and targeted a few of them, with the first one being Bishop Sankey," Titans general manager Ruston Webster said. "Really what he brings to us is a great deal of versatility, vision, feet, ability to catch the football. The important thing for us in picking one of these backs was to get the right fit for (new Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt's) offense. Versatility and the ability to play on three downs was really one of the main criteria."
Sankey totaled 3,309 rushing yards in the past two seasons as Washington's primary running back, including 1,870 on 327 carries in 2013. It was the fourth-highest total in FBS last year and broke Corey Dillon's school record for yards in a season (1,695 in 1996). Sankey had 20 rushing touchdowns this past season, ranking sixth in FBS and second in school history behind Dillon's 24 in 1996. Sankey took pride in adding 28 receptions for 304 yards and a touchdown in 2013.
The Titans traded down 12 spots with the Eagles in the second round, but still snagged Washington RB Bishop Sankey. (AP Photos)
"I think it's really important for a running back, especially in this day and age, to be able to contribute in the passing game," Sankey said. "I think that's something that I've been able to do in my time at the University of Washington and not only that, at the combine and pro day, I didn't drop a pass. I feel comfortable with my hands, and I think I can contribute."
Sankey will be completing school work at Washington during the Titans' organized team activity practices later this month and in June, but he'll receive an iPad playbook when he attends a rookie minicamp next weekend to take back to Washington.
Whisenhunt said the Titans will be able to update the playbook, and Sankey will have access to film from practices until he returns to Tennessee. It could be an extensive amount of plays because Tennessee believes Sankey is capable of playing all three downs and in base and sub packages and will be capable of pass protection responsibilities on certain plays.
"That was one of the things that was attractive about him," Whisenhunt said. "We felt like we had seen on tape that he was able to do that and do it well. When we looked at these backs, one of the things that were important in evaluating them was their ability to do that because that's a tough deal. It's an important part of it. Obviously, we will look forward to getting a chance to see him do that here, but that was one of the things that we felt he was good at."
Scout Marv Sunderland said Sankey consistently performed on the field and demonstrated that he's a good student during the scouting process.
"He will be able to pick up whatever you give him. He is a smart guy and talking to their academic people, he is a top student," Sunderland said. "He can run whatever you want to run. He will be able to pick everything up. The guy that he most reminds me of is a guy from when I was with the Giants, we had Tiki Barber. He runs a lot like Tiki. Tiki put the ball on the ground, this kid doesn't.
Sankey said some people have compared him to Giovani Bernard, who was the first running back drafted in 2013 (second round, 37th overall by Cincinnati).
"I know he had a good season his rookie year," Sankey said. "Another running back people talk about is LeSean McCoy. I've even heard comparisons to Emmitt Smith. Any comparison I feel like to a great, successful pro running back is a good one. I'm just excited to get to work."
TRADE ENCORE: Friday's trade with the Eagles (who drafted former Vanderbilt star receiver Jordan Matthews at 42nd) marked the second straight year in which the Titans have executed a draft-day trade in the second round.
Last year, the Titans moved up six spots in the second round in a trade with San Francisco to select former University of Tennessee star receiver Justin Hunter. The 49ers received the Titans' second and seventh-round selections in 2013 and their third-round spot in 2014.
Titans general manager Ruston Webster said before the draft that he's pleased with the potential Hunter showed as a rookie but wanted to add another selection this year if possible. Webster said he was glad Sankey was still available when Tennessee went back on the clock.
"You never know when you are moving back what's really going to happen," Webster said. "There were a lot of players on the board so we felt that we had a chance to get a running back if we move back and we were able to do so. It was nice to be able to move back, pick up the back, and also get a pick with it."
ELSEWHERE IN THE AFC SOUTH: Houston began the second round by drafting UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo with the 33rd overall pick. The move occurred a day after the Texans tabbed South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick.
The Texans also selected Iowa TE C.J. Fiedorowicz with the first pick of the third round (65th overall) and Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III with the 83rd overall pick Friday.
Jacksonville selected Southern Cal receiver Marqise Lee with the 39th overall pick and Penn State receiver Allen Robinson with the 61st overall pick in the second round. Lee and Robinson should provide young targets for QB Blake Bortles, who was drafted by the Jaguars with the third overall pick on Thursday. The Jaguars drafted Miami guard Brandon Linder with the 93rd overall pick in the third round.
Indianapolis didn't have a first round selection this year. The Colts drafted Ohio State tackle Jack Mewhort with the 59th overall pick in the second round and Mississippi receiver Donte Moncrief with the 90th overall pick in the third round.