Rookie Rundown: RB Miles Sanders, Penn State

Rookie Rundown: RB Miles Sanders, Penn State

NFL Draft

Rookie Rundown: RB Miles Sanders, Penn State

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(Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports)

Penn State running back Miles Sanders finally received his chance in 2018 and did not disappoint. He sat behind phenom Saquon Barkley during Sanders’ first two years with the Nittany Lions, and once given an opportunity, Sanders … wait for it … ran with it.

He would go on to be named the team’s Most Valuable Player and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. Sanders was a top-25 recruit coming out of high school.

Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 211 pounds
40 time: 4.49 seconds

Most of his work came from the shotgun formation and in a read-option system. He favorably compares to retired NFL back Edgerrin James in many ways, which is quite the lofty comparison for a player with one year of collegiate work as a starter.

Table: RB Miles Sanders, Penn State — statistics (2016-18)

Year
Att
Yards
Avg.
TD
Long
Rec
Yards
Avg.
TD
Long
Fum
2016
25
184
7.4
1
57
2
24
12
1
21
0
2017
31
191
6.2
2
31
6
30
5
0
7
0
2018
220
1,274
5.8
9
78
24
139
5.8
0
29
0

Sanders maintained a quality average as a starter and contributed in a number of ways before becoming the primary back. Prior to starting, he found the field on special teams as a kickoff return man.

Pros

  • Runs with low center of gravity and displays quality balance after contact
  • Keeps his legs churning to fight for extra yardage
  • Displays an intriguing blend of power and elusiveness — crafty with a sense of feeling traffic in tight quarters
  • Patient with plus vision to find the right lanes — sees the field well
  • Only 276 NCAA touches on the odometer
  • Capable receiver with three-down potential
  • Special teams experience
  • Possesses the ability to get out of trouble via jump-cut agility
  • Upside to be a better blocker in pass protection

Cons

  • Lacks another gear in the open field — most of his production came with modest chunk runs
  • Workout explosiveness doesn’t evenly translate to the field, especially on edge runs and when met with second-level contact — restarting leaves much to be desired
  • Tends to dance too much when presented a decision
  • Separation in the passing game is rarely seen — best used on screen passes that create the space for him
  • Limited ceiling in the pros — try-hard guy whose frenetic style around the line of scrimmage burns too much energy
  • Struggled mightily vs. Michigan (14 yards), Kentucky (51 yards) and Ohio State (43 yards)

Fantasy football outlook

The Chicago Bears. Doesn’t it seem like a perfect fit? Jordan Howard is now an Eagle, and the Bears need a big-body guy to offset the minute Tarik Cohen, whose game is best suited for the passing attack. Chicago’s affinity for the zone-read and shotgun make Sanders a natural fit. And after being tormented by an all-time great with the same surname, it would only be fitting to add the PSU product….

Sanders should go in the neighborhood of the third or fourth rounds of the draft, and even if he doesn’t wind up in Chicago, his game can translate to other offenses. He would have been a good fit in Philadelphia before the Howard trade, and KC could be an option. The Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders may be in play. The same goes for Tampa Bay, although Sanders doesn’t profile as a great fit for Bruce Arians’ system.

In the right location, with the ideal offensive fit, Sanders could be a weekly flex consideration in 2019. There is arguably a greater chance he ends up subbing in or riding the pine, however. Proper offensive fit will be of high importance to dictate his worth.

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