Occasionally in college football, there are phenomenal talents that never see the field because of the players ahead of them on the depth chart. It’s rare, but this is what happened with Miles Sanders of the Penn State Nittany Lions.
You may have heard of a former college football standout at Penn State who was ahead of Sanders on the depth chart. He was drafted #2 overall in 2018 to the New York Giants: Saquon Barkley. Barkley was a transcendent talent coming out of college and he proved to be worth the draft stock invested in him in his rookie year.
In the wake of Barkley’s departure from Penn State, Sanders was slated to step into Barkley’s shoes as the starting running back. Not only did he perform well, but he also exceeded expectations and had a great 2018 college season.
Holy crap, Miles Sanders. pic.twitter.com/cwwUi7Knoo
— Kyle Yates (@KyleYNFL) February 20, 2019
Sanders has all the traits that NFL teams look for in a starting running back. However, not only does Sanders display the intangibles needed to succeed at the next level, he’s an elite athlete to go along with it.
NFL Scouting Combine Overview
|Height/Weight||40 Yard Dash||Bench Press||Vertical Jump||Broad Jump||3 Cone Drill|
|5'11"/211 Pounds||4.49 Seconds||20 Reps||36 Inches||124 Inches||6.89 Seconds|
Sanders was a late riser through this pre-draft process. Originally projected as a fifth-round NFL draft pick, Sanders made some money with his dominant performance at the combine. His top end speed on tape was backed up by his 40-yard dash time, while his lateral agility and short-area quickness were evidenced by his superb 3-cone drill time.
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 2, 2019
Sanders, a former 5-star recruit out of high school, is a good football player who seems to only be scratching the surface of his potential. While his college stats won’t wow anybody due to lack of playing time (for reasons mentioned above), they do show that he exceeded when given the opportunity.
|Year||Rushing Yards||Yard Per Carry Average||Rushing TD's||Receptions/Receiving Yards||Receiving TD's|
His first two seasons at Penn State, Sanders only received a total of 56 carries. Barkley utterly dominated the touches out of the backfield at Penn State and very little was left for Sanders. However, this past season Sanders carried the ball 220 times and showed that he can succeed when relied upon.
Miles Sanders or Saquon Barkley?
Can't tell pic.twitter.com/GL9Asv40PX
— Barstool Penn State (@PSUBarstool) September 17, 2017
Sanders displays incredible balance, physicality, athleticism, and patience when you watch his tape. All of these traits are indicative of success at the next level and translate very well to fantasy football.
For everything Sanders does well, there are a few flaws that can prove harmful at the next level.
- Fumbling problems.
- Relies on his athleticism a little too much sometimes.
- Can be “overly patient” behind the line of scrimmage instead of hitting his gap right away.
Sanders dealt with ball security issues this past season and fumbled the ball five times in 220 carries. NFL coaches may be hesitant to continue giving him the ball if he can’t keep it secure (looking at you, Alex Collins). He also has the tendency to try to be like Saquon sometimes and attempt things his body will not allow him to do. This can put him in some very vulnerable positions from time to time and that will need to be cleaned up at the next level.
With all that being said, Sanders is a great prospect in this year’s running back class and is projected to go somewhere in the 2nd-3rd rounds. This will most likely lead to a prominent role and significant touches on an NFL team. With the combination of his upside and athletic profile, Sanders has the makings to be a dominant force for fantasy football.
And the best part? His best is certainly yet to come.