INDIANAPOLIS — Bishop Sankey’s greatest on-field gift, he says, is his vision.
“Just seeing where to go, whether to keep it inside or bounce it to the outside,’’ he said Friday during his session with the media here at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I think it’s a great attribute for a running back to have.’’
Now the trick is for the former Washington star to make himself be seen amid a thick crop of running backs.
“The two positions there are an abundance of are running back and wide receiver,’’ said NFL.com draft analyst Gil Brandt, also a longtime executive with the Dallas Cowboys.
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In fact, the 36 running backs here outnumber linebackers by one among the 335 players on hand.
And that comes at a time when the conventional wisdom in the NFL is that a good running back can often be found later in the draft, and when many teams are throwing increasing resources into passing attacks.
In 2013, no running back was taken in the first round for the first time since 1963, accentuating a trend that has seen just five taken in the first round the past three years.
“Today, with all the spread offenses and teams throwing the football 60, 70, 80 percent of the time, there’s been a completely different emphasis in how you draft offensively,’’ said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. “You know, it starts at quarterback, it goes to wide receiver. It goes to a left tackle and even lately it’s gone to what kind of tight ends can you draft that can stress teams vertically on defense. … I think that’s where the league has gone, and I think that’s where it’s going to continue to go.”
Mayock, though, says if Sankey can show he has good hands during his predraft workouts that he can maybe sneak into the second round as one of the first running backs taken.
“I kind of felt like he’s a great combination of make-you-miss, and north and south production,’’ Mayock said. “He’s tough, but he can make you miss in the open field.’’
Sankey rushed for 3,496 yards in just three seasons, third-most in Washington history, including a school-record 1,870 yards as a junior in 2013.
And with his legacy secure as one of the top running backs to play at UW, Sankey announced three days after the season that he would bypass his final year of eligibility to declare for the NFL draft.
“I just felt like I was ready,’’ he said. “It just felt like ‘If not now, then when to go out?’ Coming off a bowl-game win, we had a 9-4 season, it just felt like it was the right time.’’
Sankey said thoughts of where he might land in the draft played no real role in his decision, nor did the experience of former Husky teammate Chris Polk, who decided to stay following the 2010 season and then, despite another good season that saw him end up as the second-leading rusher in school history, go unselected in the 2011 draft, forced to sign as a free agent with the Eagles.
“Really, I made the decision because I just felt like it was time for me to take my chances at the next level,’’ said Sankey, who joins tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins as the two Huskies participating this week at the combine. “I feel like I am fully capable of making an impact in this league.’’
Sankey, who measured 5-feet-9 and 209 pounds Friday, said he plans to participate in every drill at the combine. Depending on the results, he then might not participate much in a Pro Day at UW later in the year. Cornerback Desmond Trufant followed a similar plan a year ago, deciding to rest on solid combine numbers, and ended up taken in the first round by the Atlanta Falcons.
Assuming Sankey is drafted, he will become the first UW running back to be selected since Rashaan Shehee went to the Kansas City Chiefs in the third round in 1998.
If Sankey gets into the second round, he would become only the second Husky RB taken that high since 1995, when Napoleon Kaufman was taken in the first round. Corey Dillon was selected in the second round by the Bengals in 1997.
“It really is a dream come true,’’ Sankey said as he stood at a podium at the combine. “It’s crazy to think that just last year I was at home watching the combine and this year I have a great opportunity to participate in it. I’m just thankful and embracing it.’’
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699