How well they do in place of Chris Johnson remains to be seen.
It's the latest in any draft for the first running back to be taken, and the Titans made the move Friday night after releasing Johnson in April after six seasons to avoid paying him $8 million. They already had Shonn Greene and signed Dexter McCluster in March, but Sankey brings versatility and the ability to play all three downs in new coach Ken Whisenhunt's offense.
"I think this guy is solid and will handle that really well and just completely different as a back," general manager Ruston Webster said. "Their skill set is not the same, so when you see them on the field, it's not going to look anything like Chris and he'll make his own mark."
Tennessee originally was slotted to draft at No. 42 overall but traded with Philadelphia sliding down 12 spots swapping positions. The Titans also picked up the Eagles' fourth-round pick, giving them seven in this draft and helping make up for the third-round pick traded last year to draft receiver Justin Hunter.
The Titans' move for Sankey started a run on the position, and Sankey said it felt awesome being the first running back drafted. He said he had a feeling Tennessee would take him after being the only team to fly him in for a visit.
Asked about Johnson, Sankey called the man called CJ2K a tough act to follow.
"We'll see," Sankey said. "Only time will tell. No one really knows what tomorrow is going to bring. It's up to us to prepare the day for whatever situation we're put in. that's something that I'm going to do. Just worry about myself and control that I can control and be the best football player that I can be."
The 5-foot-9, 203-pound Sankey did most of his work in his past two seasons at Washington with 3,309 of his 3,496 yards rushing coming in that time. He scored 37 touchdowns and averaged 5.43 yards per carry overall. His two-year total is the best back-to-back total at Washington since Napoleon Kaufman had 2,689 yards in 1993 and 1994.
"Really what he brings to us is a great deal of versatility, vision, feet, ability to catch the football, which is what we're looking for," Webster said. "The important thing for us in picking one of these backs was to get the right fit for coach's offense and versatility, the ability to play on three downs was really one of the main criteria."
Among other running backs selected, the Bengals took Jeremy Hill from LSU with the 55th pick, showing their commitment to run the ball under new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
Hill didn't lose a fumble at LSU. He also can catch the ball, something Cincinnati values in its West Coast offense. Green-Ellis caught only four passes last season, while Bernard caught 56.
"I think I'm the most complete back in the draft," Hill said. "I can do it all. I'm a bigger back, but I can also score 50-yard touchdowns and make long runs and accelerate and finish runs. I can do the short-yardage stuff and get the tough yardage. I'm a great pass-catcher. ... The best way to describe my game is 'complete.'"
The biggest concern involved Hill's off-field problems. Video showed Hill punching a man outside a bar in April. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to community service. He already was on probation from a misdemeanor involving a sexual relationship with a girl at his high school.
The Niners acquired Miami's choice that came via San Diego after sending the 56th pick to Denver only minutes earlier. San Francisco added a potent runner to complement Frank Gore.
"They feel that my skill set can help them out and get that trophy," Hyde said. "They have Frank Gore, and that's a guy I compare myself to."
The 30-year-old Gore is entering the final year of his contract. He is coming off his seventh 1,000-yard season and third straight in his nine-year career.
In 20 career starts for Ohio State and 41 games that also included playing fullback, Hyde generated 3,516 all-purpose yards, rushing for 3,198 yards on 523 carries.
Mason, 5-foot-8 and 207 pounds, rushed for 195 yards in the national championship game loss to Florida State. He was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection running behind tackle Greg Robinson, who the Rams took with the second overall pick on Thursday night.
Information from ESPN Bengals reporter Coley Harvey, ESPN 49ers reporter Bill Williamson and The Associated Press was used in this report.