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