BY Steve Rudman 06:30AM 02/26/2014

Further review: Lynch (2007) vs. Sankey (2014)

After emerging from their respective NFL combine experiences, Marshawn Lynch (2007) and Bishop Sankey (2014) had remarkably similar statistical comparables.

A rare moment for Marshawn Lynch — he’s on a football field with almost no one around him. Lynch and Washington’s Bishop Sankey had remarkably similar profiles entering the NFL. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Name the only city in America to simultaneously feature the single-season MLB record holder in base hits and the single-season NFL record holder in touchdowns. Many in these parts will know the answer is Seattle, for the period 2004-05, when Ichiro, with 262 hits for the Mariners in 2004, and Shaun Alexander, with 28 TDs for the Seahawks in 2005, were both in their prime.

That brief interlude of statistical rapture ended in 2006 when LaDainian Tomlinson broke Alexander’s record by scoring 31 touchdowns (28 rush, 3 receptions) for the San Diego Chargers.

But now Seattle has a new distinction, one not so easily quantifiable. In fact, it can’t be quantified so a blanket generalization will have to suffice, and it’s this: Seattle is the only pro sports city to have such polar opposites as Marshawn Lynch on one of its rosters and Jesus Montero on another.

“Beast Mode” vs. “Feast Mode.”

An athlete who never quits, Lynch just finished leading the NFL in yards after contact, Montero MLB in banana splits after a PEDs suspension. The difference between the two, obviously, is what — and what is not — between their ears, dramatically underscored this week when Montero, once considered a “four-tool” prospect, reported to spring training 40 pounds overweight, rendering him incapable of bending over far enough to catch a ground ball.

Burp! Now Montero is just a tool.

But that brings us to another comparison, about which conclusions are too early to draw: Lynch vs. Bishop Sankey.

Specifically, the Lynch that departed the University of California in 2007 and the Sankey, a junior last fall at the University of Washington, who just completed testing at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. These are the first pertinents:

Year Player School HT. WT. Last Season
2006 Marshawn Lynch Cal 5-11 215 13 games, 1,356 yards, 15 TDs
2013 Bishop Sankey UW 5-9 209 13 games, 1,870 yards, 20 TDs

Not a lot of difference there. Lynch has/had a slight height/weight advantage, Sankey the statistical edge. Scouts — and in hindsight, properly so — loved Lynch’s upside following the 2007 combine, predicting he would go within the first 15 picks in that year’s NFL Draft. He did, at No. 12 overall to Buffalo. Lynch’s 2007 scouting report:

“The Cal star established himself as the second-best back in the nation after Louisville’s Michael Bush, who also declared early, went down in the first week of the season with a broken leg. Lynch had a huge 2007 campaign and ran away with the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year Award.

“A first-team All-American, Lynch led the conference in rushing with 104.3 yards per game, all-purpose yards (137.3) and touchdowns (15). Lynch is a powerful runner, as he has more than adequate speed for his compact 5-11, 215-pound frame. He is capable of pounding it straight up the gut of defensive lines and can also bounce to the outside where his big-play ability is put on display. Lynch will be the second running back taken in the 2007 draft and should be off the board no later than the middle of the first round.”

A few points: Lynch was, in fact, the second running back taken in 2007 behind Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson, to Minnesota. Sankey averaged 143.8 rushing yards per game to Lynch’s 104.3 and 167.2 all-purpose yards to Lynch’s 137.3. But scouts aren’t nearly as seduced by Sankey, awarding him an overall grade of 5.3 for his generally favorable performance at Indianapolis. According to NFL.com, a grade of 5.3 projects as “NFL backup or special teams potential.” This is Sankey’s NFL.com scouting report:

Strengths: Good vision and balance. Subtle lateral agility to pick, slide and accelerate. Reads his blocks and instinctively runs to daylight. Fluid gate and efficient movement. Runs competitively. Good hands to pull in throws off his body. Was productive with a heavy workload in a pro-style offense. Team captain.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal bulk and functional run strength — not a robust tackle-breaker. Too often grounded by single-tacklers or tripped up by the ankles. Shows some hip tightness. Average explosion, speed and elusiveness. Has shown he can be contained by good defenses. Needs to become a more dependable, physical, fundamentally sound pass protector.

Bottom Line: The Pac-12’s leading rusher, Sankey has an overall average skill set and generally gains what is blocked for him. Is instinctive, competitive and shifty enough to be effective as a complementary zone runner, but must improve in pass protection.

Hard to dispute that. But we dug up Lynch’s so-called measureables from the 2007 NFL combine and it’s remarkable how similar they are to Sankey’s.

Category Lynch / ’07 Sankey / ’14 Best Ever
40-Yard Dash 4.46 4.49 4.12 Bo Jackson, RB, Auburn, 1986
225 Lb. Reps 20 26 51, Justin Ernest, DT, E. Kentucky, 1999
Vertical Jump 35.1 inches 35.5 inches 46.0, G. Sensabaugh, S, N. Car., 2005
Broad Jump 10 ft, 5 in 10 ft, 6 in 11-7, Jamie Collins, So. Miss, 2013
20-Yard Shuttle 4.58 4.00 3.73, Kevin Kasper, WR, Iowa, 2001
3-Cone Drill 7:09 6.75 6.42, Jeff Maehl, WR, Oregon, 2011

Lynch clocked a few ticks better in the 40-yard dash, but Sankey did considerably better in weight lifting, pressing 225 pounds 26 times in a row to Lynch’s 20. Sankey also fared better than Lynch, if only slightly, in his vertical jump, broad jump, 20-yard shuttle time and 3-cone drill time.

And yet, scouts projected Lynch as a slam-dunk first-round pick and now are projecting Sankey as, generously, a third-rounder despite their combine similarities.

The measureables tell us that Sankey has the potential, with additional years of training, to become the physical equivalent of Lynch. Still to be determined is whether Sankey has the passion and mental toughness to elevate his game to the point that Lynch has taken his.

By all accounts, Sankey is a “good-character” guy, so it will be intriguing to watch. While we do, Jesus Montero would ask that we please pass the bon bons.


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    I’ve wondered how the Yankees trading Montero affected him personally. He played 516 games in the minors and didn’t get rushed up and thrown to the wolves the way Zunino has been. They obviously believed in him, invested in him and didn’t want to risk his development. He was told he was the heir apparent to Jorge Posada and when he gets a taste of all that becoming a reality he’s traded to a last place team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2001 on the other side of the US. And they got rid of their most widely recognized player for him so their best offensive player is their ace pitcher. (Remember, Felix hits well in interleague play and has a grand slam on his resume) Did he get discouraged? How can he not when he’s told he’s a lousy catcher and then moved to 1B? When he has on his resume that he caught a no-hitter? (but yeah, I can tell his catching skills need work. Don’t blame the M’s for moving him) Sometimes its forgotten how a trade can affect a player as a person. (I’ve wondered if this is partly Justin Smoak’s issues as well)

    Look no further than Jose Cruz Jr. who was told by the M’s he would solve their long standing issues in LF and was told by GM Woody Woodward they would not trade him. He was thrilled at being a part of the Griffey/Buhner OF and was a Rookie Of The Year candidate. Told that he was traded to Toronto in the middle of a game and was pulled from it, Buhner said after the game he found Cruz by himself in the locker room crying. Not unlike Montero, he was invested in by the club, brought up to believe in them and went from a playoff contender to a team that was rebuilding. In another country no less.

    Desmond Mason went thru the same thing with the Sonics. In his case it was the tean owner himself who told Mason he wouldn’t be traded. The frustration that Mason has expressed even today is understandable. Both Mason and Cruz were good players who ended having extended careers in their respective sports however both understandbly became somewhat jaded and seeing how they were good players but not perenial All-Stars I’ve always wondered if those events affected them enough to where it affected their development. I definitely think if Cruz and Mason stayed with their clubs they would have become those perenial All-Stars. Seeing as how Montero has become a “tub of goo” I question if his trade and suspension caused some sort of depression with him. It’d be interesting to find out when he started using PED’s as well. Was it when he joined the M’s? IIRC, the M’s have had several PED suspensions in the late 90s thru the 2000s in their farm system. Does that culture still exist? Don’t think all this can be taken at face value.

    Right now the best course of for all interested parties is to build up Montero’s confidence and help him get back to where he was a few years ago. Chastising him and wagging the finger never helps anyone and Pete Carroll has shown what positive reinforcement can bring to a player. Montero needs to be accountable and has been, something Brandon Browner hasn’t been for the Hawks, But like the Yankees, the M’s should take this one day at a time. These are all young men with little life experiences getting thrust into a multi-million dollar business. Not all are going to be able to handle it the same way and certainly not like an Alvin Davis, Steve Larget or Fred Brown did. Different eras, different people.

  • Bryan

    Why the random montero link? Remove… :-)

    • Bryan

      Ah, i get it… There needs to be some additional words thrown in to make it read right.

    • jafabian

      Sorry, my bad. Got on a roll. Changed.