Welcome to the third piece in a three part series that looks at the top rookies heading into the NFL 2014/2015 season. The first part of the series looked at the top rookie quarterbacks and the second article looked at the top wide receivers. With the regular season upon us, some members of the crack Sports Unbiased staff got together to look at the 2014 NFL rookie running back class. While not as touted as the quarterback or wide receiver classes, the running back class still has players with impact potential.
The following writers participated in this piece-Jared Cortes, Jason Culley and Chris Markham. Each writer, through hours and days of evaluation, came up with their top two. Those results are captured below and a consensus has been determined. The top pick on each of their lists received two points and their second selection received one point. Lets jump in and see who will be the best rookie running back during the 2014/2015 NFL season.
Who will be the best rookie RB in 2014?
Jason Culley – Number 1 – Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans
Sankey was the first running back selected in the 2014 NFL draft. He was selected with the 54th overall pick by the Tennessee Titans and entered the best possible situation of all rookie running backs. Chris Johnson was released by the Titans in the off-season, with Sankey more or less being handed the starting position. Shonn Green and Dexter McCluster will battle Sankey for some playing time, but I think youth has the advantage here.
Jason Culley – Number 2 –Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
He is considered a bit undersized by the experts at 5-8 and 208 pounds, but the Atlanta Falcons didn’t seem to mind and selected him in the fourth round of the draft. Current Falcons running back, Steven Jackson is 31 years old and in the twilight of his career. Freeman will have to battle Jacquizz Rodgers in the pre-season for the right to back-up Jackson. If he can win the job, he is only an injury away from being the main man in Atlanta.
Jared Cortes -Number 1 – Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans
With Chris Johnson out in Tennessee, second round pick Bishop Sankey will compete for a starting job over veteran Shonn Greene. Sankey didn’t impress with his yards per carry average but showed good pass catching ability and tons of effort, even catching a touchdown pass in their preseason win over Green Bay. Sankey will have the most opportunity of any other rookie halfback in this year’s draft and I see him capitalizing on it.
Jared Cortes – Number 2 – Andre Williams, New York Giants
With the tragic loss of David Wilson and an injury to Peyton Hillis, Andrew Williams has just newly acquired Rashad Jennings to beat out. He’ll be a goal line option for most of the year with his incredible size, so look for a lot of touchdowns out of the former Boston College sensation. His 5.9 yards per carry average through two preseason games doesn’t look to bad either.
Chris Markham – Number 1 – Andre Williams, New York Giants
Williams was an underrated story of last year’s college football season. The Boston College star was in the Heisman running before suffering a season-ending injury. He was leading the nation in rush yards before his injury and was just begin to peak. Williams was drafted into a recovering offensive system in the New York Giants who are in need of a solid running back, especially after the loss of one of their primary wide-outs, Hakeem Nicks. It might be a long shot, but Andre Williams could have a breakout year.
Chris Markham – Number 2 – Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans
The Washington Husky was the first running back taken in an otherwise thin running back draft. Sankey is on my list not only because of his ability to play ball, but also because he is in a favorable situation. With Chris Johnson out, the job being the go-to guy out of the backfield in Tennessee is up for grabs. Shonne Green is currently atop the depth chart, but expect to see Sankey get a majority of the yards in a split-back system.
Bishop Sankey is the vote point getter in this final three-way writer prediction. Could it be his expected heavy playing time right of the gate that puts him over the top? It will be interesting to watch the running back competitions complete and to witness, throughout the regular season, each running back ability to understand their new NFL systems. But how many of them will see enough playing time to make a difference? We will be back at the end of the year to see who was correct. Did you agree or disagree with the analysis. Please vote and leave your comments below.