Miles Sanders’ career at Penn State was quieter than many expected, which had to do with timing more than anything. As the top running back in his class, he proved he could contribute immediately, playing throughout his true freshman season in 2016. However, his touches were limited because he played behind Saquon Barkley, who almost never came off the field since he...well, is Saquon Barkley.
As a true freshman, Sanders finished with 184 yards with a very impressive 7.4 yards per carry. He was also the team’s primary kick returner, where he averaged 20.8 yards per return, ranking second in the Big Ten. His sophomore year was similar, finishing with 191 yards on the ground and a 6.2 average. Once Barkley declared for the draft, the job was all Sanders after a very patient two years waiting in the wings.
Sanders handled the nearly impossible task of breaking out of Barkley’s shadow as a junior, even gaining more rushing yards than Barkley did the previous year. He also became more involved in the passing game with 24 catches, which helped him finish third in the Big Ten in yards from scrimmage. He finished the season with five 100-yard plus rushing efforts that included 200 at Illinois, 159 against Wisconsin, and most impressively, 162 yards with a 9.5 yards per carry average against a ferociously stingy Michigan State defense.
What You’re Getting
Sanders is a true all-purpose back, which should translate into a long NFL career (at least in terms of the running back position). He does about everything well- he has the speed to bounce it outside and breakaway when he has room to run. While he isn’t a pure power back, he can run between the tackles and pick up tough yardage when needed. He has excellent hands, and proved to be a force in the passing game. Any NFL offensive coordinator would be happy to have him, as he can be used in a variety of ways to find holes in the defense. One of his best assets is his vision, which helps him regularly elude would-be tacklers to pick up extra yardage.
He’ll also never quit on a play and keep his legs churning, when combined with his ability, can result in plays like this:
The biggest weakness in Sanders’ game is his ball security, and something that must be fixed at the next level.
Whichever team selects Sanders will also get a top-notch locker room guy as well. It couldn’t have been easy for Sanders to come in as the top running back in his class, only to see sparse playing time. He could have grown impatient, especially considering he would have played a large role in any other offense that didn’t have a generational talent like Barkley. But he kept his head down, put in the work and made the most of his opportunities.
If you’re reading this after your NFL team selected Sanders, be happy because they just added someone who is an easy guy to cheer for who is also bound to add plenty of value to the offense with some game-changing plays this fall.