clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Can Miles Sanders Step Out Of Saquon Barkley’s Shadow?

New, comments

Hogs Haven takes a look at 2019 NFL Draft prospects that could contribute to the Redskins

VRBO Citrus Bowl - Kentucky v Penn State Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Miles Sanders, Running Back
School: Penn State | Conference: Big-10
Experience: Junior | Age: 21
Height / Weight: 5’11 / 211 lbs
Projected Draft Status: Round 3-4
NFL Comparison: Lamar Miller

College Statistics

Sanders also had 38 kick off returns (20.1 average), including 33 returns as a freshman.

Player Overview

Miles Sanders entered Penn State as the #1 ranked high school Running Back in the 2016 recruiting class. As a Pennsylvania native, Sanders went to Penn State despite offers from all the top schools in the country. Through his first two seasons at PSU, he only saw 56 carries due to being stuck behind Saquon Barkley. Finally given the starting job after Barkley entered the NFL, Sanders enjoyed a breakout season in 2018. Despite only being a one year starter, Sanders decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.

Read more on his background here.

Athletic Traits/Comparison

Listed at 5’11/212 Sanders’ is about the same size as Lamar Miller’s pre-draft measurements. While Sanders ran a laser-timed 4.58 in high school, in the winter of 2017 he was said to have clocked a 4.46. How he does at the NFL Combine will be important, but the Penn State trainers have helped churn out a number of good Combine performances (more on that below).

Like Sanders, Miller also was stuck behind other backs, while at Miami, and only really had one productive season before turning pro. In fact, Miller’s junior final season statistics is almost identical to Sanders. Finally, Miller was drafted 97th overall (2012) which I believe to be the approximate draft value for Sanders.

The Film

Sanders draft stock might be rising ...

Sanders final game

Highlight tape:

See more of his work

Strengths

  • A slasher, with the full array of jukes, jump cuts, and spins.
  • Size, length, and speed are all up to NFL standards.
  • Effective between the tackles, and in the open field. Perhaps a more patient and nuanced runner than Saquon Barkley, he is able to string together several moves.
  • Showed good hands in the passing game, including occasionally lining up in the slot.
  • Generally, showed awareness and effort in pass-protection and was even used as a run blocker for the PSU QB.
  • Will enter the NFL without any significant injury.

Weaknesses

  • Issues with ball security, including fumbling 5 times in 2018, losing 4 of them.
  • Sanders has a small sample size, with just one season as a starter at Penn State.
  • Similar to Saquon Barkley, he sometimes bounces to the outside too much, when he should just put his head down and push forward.
  • May not have that one trump card to hang his hat on. Not necessarily powerful nor a top-tier athlete.

What Others Are Saying

Fran Duffy writes “If you’ve been following the Combine in recent years, however, one thing has consistently been true – Penn State players always test like freak shows. Whether it’s been Barkley, Mike Gesicki, or Troy Apke last year, or Chris Godwin the year before that, PSU has shown out in this event. This is a stab in the dark, but I bet Sanders tests better than most expect.”

ESPN draft analyst Steve Muench - “It sounds worse than it is, but I don’t think he’s special in any category,” Muench said. “I think he’s a middle-round back. That’s a guy who’s good enough to play in the NFL, but I don’t think he’s going to be anyone’s primary ball-carrier.”

The Draft Network’s Brad Kelly - “He struggles to interpret zone flow, manipulate second level defenders, and make split-second decisions when faced with backside pursuit. His eyes and his mind are not yet in perfect tune with his body, which is why his tape is peppered with one electric long run for every two plays that could have been so. Miles Sanders projects as a Year 3 starter in the NFL who can only handle some change-of-pace responsibilities in Year 1.”

How He Would Fit On The Redskins

Despite what some fans believe, the Redskins’ running back depth chart is unsettled. Now armed with 10 picks (4 compensatory) picks for the 2019 NFL Draft, Washington should absolutely use one of them on the running back position.

While he only has 32 career catches (24 last season) Sanders was heavily involved in the passing game and regularly lined up in the slot. He ran a variety of routes for a college running back, and showed better than average abilities to hold up in pass-protection.

For those that subscribe to the “has more tread left on his tires” theory, only three prospect have less than Sanders’ 276 career carries - Elijah Holyfield (215), Josh Jacobs (251), and Dexter Williams (257).

There’s a lot of potential for Sanders and the Redskins may see him as good value at the end of round three (#96).