Bishop Sankey

Quarterbacks rule, but running backs are still important

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For the second straight season, no running back was drafted by an NFL team in the first round. The emphasis on evolving passing offenses is one of the reasons fewer NFL teams seem to want to invest big money on a running back, but so is the expected lifespan of a running back’s career. This most recent NFL Draft saw the longest wait before a running back was taken off the board, with Washington’s Bishop Sankey being the first running back selected with the 54th overall pick by the Tennessee Titans. Given the trends in how the game is played and the most recent draft results, could we start to see less of an emphasis on the running back in the college game as a result?

Running backs are still important to any football team, college or pro. Some teams in the college game will rely very little on running the football but the ability to pound the football and pick up a few yards on the ground is something that helps separate the great teams from the good or average teams. Take a look at Florida State, the reigning national champions. The Seminoles ranked third in the ACC in rushing offense in 2013, trailing only a Georgia Tech team that operates almost entirely on the run and a Boston College team that featured a Heisman finalist in Andre Williams rushing for over 2,000 yards. Florida State had a Heisman Trophy quarterback in Jameis Winston, but the supporting cast in the running game was not to be overlooked. Would Florida State have been able to succeed at the level it did in 2013 if not for a dependable running game? Probably, but it may not have been as dominant.

And look at the team Florida State faced in the BCS National Championship Game, Auburn. The Tigers ran away with the SEC championship, somewhat figuratively and literally. The strength of the running game allowed Auburn to wear down opponents and make-up for an average passing attack.

And do not let the 2014 NFL Draft fool you. There were 19 running backs drafted. There were even three fullbacks picked up by NFL teams through the draft, leaving a glimmer of hope for some that the days of the fullback are not extinct just yet.

A successful football formula has always included having a star quarterback behind a dependable offensive line. A top-flight running back may not be the ultimate difference — see Barry Sanders and the Detroit Lions — but it can still be a vital part of an offense.

NFL Draft: Three 2013 Heisman finalists still on the board on final day

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The 2013 college football season was a bit of a unique one when it came to the Heisman Trophy. Ina  season that had a number of worthy candidates to at least make the trip to New York City, six players were invited to the most prestigious award ceremony in college football, if not all of sports. With the final day of the 2014 NFL Draft hours away, there are three Heisman finalists from last fall still waiting to hear their names called.

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Boston College running back Andre Williams and Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch have yet to hear their names in the first three rounds. Will today be the day?

McCarron is one of a handful of quarterbacks from the SEC that could be drafted in the final four rounds. LSU’s Zach Mettenbeger and Georgia’s Aaron Murray are also waiting patiently. There have already been five quarterbacks drafted in the first three rounds, with none being chosen in the third round. Where McCarron falls will be interesting. He is certainly confident, explaining his reasoning for skipping the Senior Bowl by saying he would let his résumé speak for itself. Lynch may be hoping more for a team to take a chance on him as a running back, although the need for running backs has clearly been reduced if this year’s draft is any indication.

No running backs were drafted in the first round for a second straight season and this year marked the longest the draft went on before a running back was drafted. Washington’s Bishop Sankey was the first running back off the board with the 54th overall pick in the second round (Tennessee Titans). A pair of running backs from the FCS were drafted later in the third round, leaving Williams in waiting.

Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, a 2013 Heisman finalists and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, was drafted 22nd overall by the Cleveland Browns. Auburn running back Tre Mason, a 2013 finalist, was drafted by the St. Louis Rams with the 75th overall pick Friday night. Of course, the other finalist is still playing football this fall for Florida State. Quarterback Jameis Winston won the 2013 Heisman Trophy and led the Seminoles to an ACC and BCS championship. He will be back in Tallahassee this fall and perhaps enter the NFL Draft in 2015.

NFL Draft: SEC wins round two by edging Big Ten and Pac-12

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The SEC led the way in round one of the 2014 NFL Draft with 11 players drafted by NFL teams. In the second round the SEC once again pumped out more NFL talent than just about every other conference, but the Big Ten left a significant mark as well. The SEC turned in seven draft picks, edging the Big Ten when the Seattle Seahawks drafted Missouri offensive tackle Justin Britt with the final pick of the second round.

It took a while before we finally saw some running backs drafted (three of them, in fact) but the second round focused on wide receivers and linemen.

Here is the full round two breakdown, by conference.

SEC: 7

42. WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
44. OT Cyrus Kouandijo, Alabama
51. DT Ego Ferguson, LSU
55. RB Jeremy Hill, LSU
60. DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
63. WR Jarvis Landry, LSU
64. OT Justin Britt, Missouri

Big Ten: 6

37. DT Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota
56. WR Cody Latimer, Indiana
57. RB Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
58. CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska
59. OT Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
61. WR Allen Robinson, Penn State

Pac-12: 6

33. OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA
38. TE Austin Seferia-Jenkins, Washington
39. WR Marqise Lee, USC
45. WR Paul Richardson, Colorado
47. DE Trent Murphy, Stanford
54. RB Bishop Sankey, Washington

Mountain West: 5

34. DE Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State
35. OT Joel Bitonio, Nevada
36. QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
44. C Weston Richburg, Colorado State
53. WR Davante Adams, Fresno State

ACC: 3

41. CB Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
48. DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
50. LB Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech

 

Independent: 3

40. LB Kyle Van Noy, BYU
46. DT Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
52. TE Troy Niklas, Notre Dame

Big 12: 1

49. TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech

Non FBS: 1

62. QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois

Which positions were drafted in the second round?

Defensive Line: 7

Wide Receiver: 7

Offensive Line: 6

Tight End: 3

Running Back: 3

Cornerback: 2

Linebacker: 2

Quarterback: 2

Tide’s Sunseri one of record 98 players declaring for draft

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A draft-eligible Alabama rumored to be headed to the NFL — or not — will indeed be a part of a record-breaking pool this May.

Tide defensive back Vinnie Sunseri was one of 98 players included on the NFL’s official list, released Sunday, of players “who have been granted special eligibility” for the upcoming draft.  It was reported a week ago that the safety was leaning toward making the early leap into the NFL, although there was some vacillation as the redshirt junior waited until right up until the Jan. 15 deadline — plus the three additional days allotted to reconsider, provided there’s no signing with an agent — before making his final decision.

Sunseri is still rehabbing a torn ACL, which he suffered in a mid-October win over Arkansas.

The 98 players granted special eligibility by the NFL is a record, shattering and/or obliterating the old mark of 73 set just last year.  That standard broke the record of 65 set the year before that.  In 2004, just 43 players with eligibility remaining left school early.

For the second consecutive year, LSU led all schools with seven early entrants.  In 2013, the Tigers saw 10 players leave early.  Sunseri gave the Tide five players leaving early, the same number as USC and one-win Cal (?).  Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame and South Carolina each saw four players take the early jump into the NFL.

2014 marks the sixth consecutive year that the number of early entrants has increased.

The number could have actually topped the century mark as four players who have left school early but have already graduated were not included in the NFL’s official count: Southern California defensive back Dion Bailey, Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard.

You can view the complete, official list of early entrants into the NFL draft:

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An unofficial list of underclassmen who declared for the NFL draft

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The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is upon us. It looks like we’ll have a record 92 (at minimum) declarations this year, easily topping last year’s record of 73. This draft should be among the most talent-laden in recent history.

Why the sudden exodus? Blame the new rookie wage scale, which rewards less money to first round draft picks and delays the big payout until a player’s second contract. That means the more time spent in the league, the better. A lot of these players want to get moving on proving themselves, even if they are a late round pick at the start.

Here’s the unofficial list of early entries as of the Jan. 15 deadline. The NFL will have an official list on Jan. 19:

Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
George Atkinson III, RB, Notre Dame
Dion Bailey, S, USC
Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
Kapri Bibbs, RB, Colorado State
Brendan Bigelow, RB, California
Russell Bodine, C, North Carolina
Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Chris Boyd, WR, Vanderbilt
Carl Bradford, DE/OLB, Arizona State
Bashaud Breeland, DB, Clemson
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DB, Alabama
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
Isaiah Crowell, RB, Alabama State
Jonathan Dowling, S, Western Kentucky
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU
Mike Flacco, TE, New Haven
Cameron Fleming, OT, Stanford
Khairi Fortt, LB, California
Austin Franklin, WR, New Mexico State
Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
Xavier Grimble, TE, USC
Vic Hampton, CB, South Carolina
Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
Adrian Hubbard, LB, Alabama
Kameron Jackson, CB, California
Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
Storm Johnson, RB, UCF
Henry Josey, RB, Missouri
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State
Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
Aaron Lynch, DE, USF
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Marcus Martin, C, USC
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon
Viliami Moala, DT, California
Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
Adam Muema, RB, San Diego State
Jake Murphy, TE, Utah
Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Jeoffrey Pagan, DL, Alabama
Ronald Powell, LB, Florida
Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
Kelcy Quarles, DL, South Carolina
Darrin Reaves, RB, UAB
Ed Reynolds, FS, Stanford
Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Richard Rodgers, TE California
Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Yawin Smallwood, LB, UConn
Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
Jerome Smith, RB, Syracuse
Willie Snead, WR, Ball State
Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State
Xavier Su’a-Filo, OL, UCLA
De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Trai Turner, OG, LSU
George Uko, DL, USC
Pierre Warren, FS, Jacksonville State
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Terrance West, RB, Towson
James Wilder Jr., RB, Florida State
David Yankey, OL, Stanford