With the 53rd pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Eagles selected running back Miles Sanders out of THE Pennsylvania State University (We Are!) to provide some spark which will nicely complement the power brought by fellow newly acquired running back, Jordan Howard. Before you can discuss why Sanders will be a great addition to the Eagles, you first must see how he played with the Nittany Lions.
While Sanders begins his freshman year ready to play, he buried on the running back depth chart by a guy named Saquon Barkley. Sanders didn’t allow this to hold him back, however, as he set the school record for most kickoffs returned with 33 in one season. Sanders was rewarded for his hard work with 67 offensive snaps. With those snaps, Sanders was able to take 25 rushes for 184 yards (7.4 YPA), 125 of which came after contact. Had he not been behind one of the best RBs in the nation, Sanders would have likely earned more touches his freshman year.
In his sophomore season, Sanders continued where he picked up. In limited offensive touches, again being limited by Barkley, he was able to gain 7 yards per attempt, 5.8 of them coming after the contact. Again, this was a small sample size, but the results looked promising nonetheless. Unfortunately, Barkley also took over primary kick return duties leaving Sanders with just one.
Come junior year, the team was finally his. Sanders was naturally compared to Barkley all season and for good reason. Look at how similar numbers the two put up.
207 Rushes for 1225 Yards (5.9 YPA ranked 69th)
14 rushes of 15+ yards
49 Avoided Tackles (47 rushing + 2 receiving)
9 Total TDs (9 Rushing + 0 Receiving)
200 Rushes for 1135 Yards (5.7 YPA ranked 71st)
18 rushes of 15+ yards
48 Avoided Tackles (36 rushing + 12 receiving)
21 Total TDs (18 Rushing + 3 Receiving + 1 Passing)
Clearly, Barkley was much more involved in the passing game during his final season with PSU than Sanders was, and Barkley found the endzone more frequently, but some of the other numbers are remarkably similar. Both showed the ability to break tackles and make big plays.
Now, as a Penn State alumnus myself, I am biased; I must admit this. With that said, I love this pick. Sanders is a shifty runner capable of breaking big plays. While his stats don’t show him as a pass-catching threat, he has worked out as a receiver this spring and looks more than capable to play from the outside. While Sanders likely could be a third-down back from the get-go, it seems more likely that he’ll be used as a complement to Jordan Howard. It’s hard not to be excited about this pick.