Bishop Sankey was an incredibly dynamic running back for the Washington Huskies as a sophomore. He was extremely productive and became the center piece for their offense last year. Sankey was slightly undersized but really had a natural ability to run the football and a great feel for how to attack holes, when to make moves, and when to lower the shoulder and try to gain extra yardage.
This year, Sankey is only listed 3lbs heavier but he is playing with a lot more strength and no longer looks undersized, which suggests he improved the composition of the weight he had. He is running with more power and when he lowers his shoulder and runs with more power, it has a greater impact. He is still developing a receiving threat and still struggles as a blocker, but he is a huge weapon and as good of a back as there is in the PAC-12. Sankey looks the part off a top 75 pick right now but as he gets better rounded and with the physical potential he still has, he could push into the top 50 and possibly higher.
Vitals & Build
Sankey is listed 5’10” 203lbs and possesses great quickness, fluidity and body control. He is stronger than he was last year and it shows but he still has room to continue adding strength and filling out his frame. His acceleration and agility are impressive and his speed is good but not great. It is more than enough to allow him to be a play maker and big play threat, but he is not an outstanding speed back. He appears to have a good amount of potential physically as he can add bulk and looks able to get up to 210
Sankey is an incredibly natural runner who has great vision, patience, and has a good sense for angles and how to make the most of runs. He gets behind his pads when he is going to try to use power and he can use jump cuts and quicker cuts to make guys miss. Sankey has a great sense of following his blocks and rarely looks hesitant in the backfield with the ability to get skinny to take advantage and fit through small creases in the line without sacrificing much speed. He has the explosive first step to take advantage of an opportunity as he sees it, the speed to make big runs count with the potential to score.
Sankey is at his most effective when he is really attacking the middle of the field between the tackles and exploding through holes up the middle. He certainly has the ability to get outside and use his speed, but there are times when he seems to fall in love with trying to bounce it outside which can get him in trouble. This does not tend to last terribly long and he is able to refocus and get back to attacking inside.
The added power he has gained in this offseason has showed up and only added an extra element to his game. He can win when he gets behind his pads and pick up extra yards and potentially knock guys back and continue running. Sankey, to his credit, has really embraced this and made good use of it so far, making him that much more complete as a runner.
Sankey’s vision and instincts are exceptional and he is extremely patient with how he runs. There are times when he looks to be corralled but does not rush it and is able to gain yardage and make opponents miss. He can be extremely subtle while being so shifty with how he sets up blockers and makes opponents miss. Sankey really seems to have an advanced understanding of how to run the football.
He will get tackled for losses behind the line, but he tends to make up for them as the game rolls along. Sankey can lull opponents to sleep because he tends to make one guy miss per run, pick up some yards and go down. It seems like it is only a matter of time before he eventually gets a handoff and takes it for a huge gain if not all the way. The key with Sankey is that he is consistent and patient and not trying too hard to hit the home run. He lets it come in the natural flow of the game for the most part, so every play seems to look pretty run of the mill until Sankey is in the secondary and running down the field. His speed to go the distance is solid but not overwhelming and he seems to be quicker than fast.
Washington incorporates a lot of pro-style offensive looks and plays that he will run in the NFL, so he could have a relatively seamless transition at the next level with the ability to come in and make an instant impact.
Route Running & Technique
Sankey is a pretty decent route runner at this point and Washington has him run a number of different routes that allow him to make plays. There are plenty of examples where he sells a block before releasing out of the backfield, but he can also make plays on screen passes. After showing a good amount of potential as a receiver, the Huskies have upped the amount of passes to him already and are making him a bigger part of their passing game, which is paying off in a big way.
Sankey has natural hands and is comfortable snatching the ball out of the air, but he has not been asked to make too many ambitious catches and will go with his body if he is unsure of the situation or think he will be exposed to a big hit that might jar the ball loose. He is able to adjust after making the catch relatively quickly but could make a smoother transition from pass catcher to run after the catch. Sankey is much quicker making that transition when is able to make the catch with his hands as opposed to the body.
Carrying the football, Sankey is pretty reliable when it comes to protecting it and carries the ball relatively securely, but he can give up the ball if he is caught by surprise and takes a hit he is not expecting. Again, this could improve if he continues adding strength, but he has been pretty good to this point and this does not appear to be a concern.
Run After Catch
When he catches the ball with his hands, he is a dynamic threat out of the backfield and it becomes an extension of the running game and just changes where he is running the ball from, providing a huge opportunity. The times when he catches the ball with his body slow him down, but if he has the space to adjust, he can make a huge play there as well. Especially near the sideline with fewer defenders in front of him, Sankey can make a big play but if the Huskies call more plays where he can catch the ball at the second level, he could make exploit the lack of a defensive presence there and take it to the house, especially if he catches the ball while going down the field.
Sankey is extremely inconsistent in this area and while there are times where he does a good job, gets his feet set with his feet shoulder width apart with good balance. There are then some awful chop block attempts and examples where Sankey will throw his body into the opponent sideways and fall harmlessly to the side. Sankey clearly has shown that he can block; he just has to do it. This is the last major hurdle for Sankey to clear to really make himself a complete back and up his stock. There are plenty of teams that will be hesitant to use a back if they do not trust him to function in their blocking schemes. And plenty of quarterbacks have the sway to keep them off the field.
The style that appears the best fit for Sankey at this point is a zone blocking scheme that will allow him to see and pick holes he can attack and exploit. He has great vision and knows how to attack creases when they appear so running a scheme that is designed to create options for a running back to choose where he will go is a good move with Sankey. He can run out of a single back or behind a fullback and can contribute as a receiver out of the backfield. There are also some times when they have put him in the backfield in a Wildcat formation. Sankey has got to do a better job blocking and protecting the quarterback so he can be an every down threat.
More and more, Sankey is looking like LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles. He does not appear to be quite as athletic as McCoy but in terms of how quick he is and how well he can work inside and out while avoiding team’s best shots to just keep working and gaining yardage is extremely similar. Both appear to be real receiving threats out of the back field and can be a terrific weapon at the next level.
Bishop Sankey looks the part of a top 75 pick now, but could secure himself a spot in the top 50 or even higher. He is an extremely natural runner who seems to be expanding his game as a receiver, but his blocking is a problem that needs addressing. Sankey does still seem to have substantial physical potential and if the next offseason is anything like this past one, it could make a huge difference.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com