The Philadelphia Eagles selected Penn State running back Miles Sanders with the No. 53 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Howie Roseman really talked up the team’s selection by saying that Sanders was a “staff favorite, a coaching staff favorite, a personnel staff favorite, all of us, front office favorite.”
In order to learn more about Sanders, I reached out to SB Nation’s Penn State blog: Black Shoe Diaries. Nittany Lions writer Jared Slanina was kind enough to answer my questions.
1) Can you sum up what Sanders’ college career was like?
Sanders had the talent to contribute immediately as a true freshman in 2016 as a reserve running back and the primary kick returner. However, his touches were limited since he was behind Saquon Barkley, who almost never came off the field. The same can be said for the 2017 season. He stepped into the starting role this past fall, and actually had more rushing yards than Barkley did as a junior. He also contributed 24 receptions, proving himself as a complete back.
2) What are his strengths?
Sanders is a true all-purpose back. He has the power to pick up tough yardage between the tackles, the speed to bounce it outside for a big gain, and the hands to be a factor in the passing game. He also has an excellent combination of balance and vision, making him a threat to turn a short gain into a long one of the defender isn’t careful about wrapping him up. He’ll regularly pick up additional yards by keeping his legs churning.
3) What are his weaknesses?
Sanders has a broad skill-set, so his only glaring weakness is his tendency to put the ball on the ground. It wasn’t a regular problem, but his fumbles seemed to almost always come at inopportune time. Last season, he fumbled right before halftime as Penn State was leading Ohio State 13-0. The Buckeyes would capitalize with a very short scoring drive, and ultimately come back in the fourth quarter to squeak out a one-point victory. Later in the season, Sanders fumbled on the five-yard line as the Nittany Lions were just about to put the game away against Iowa. This allowed the Hawkeyes to nearly pull off a dramatic comeback, that fortunately was thwarted at the last second.
4) Are you surprised where he was drafted? Higher or lower than expected? Just right?
The middle of the second round is exactly what I was thinking for Sanders. If he had the same skill-set at another position, he would have gone higher and possibly heard his name called in the first round. But considering NFL teams approach the running back position, middle of the second round seems just about right for Sanders.
5) How do you see his NFL career playing out?
As long as he stays healthy, I could see him becoming a staple of the Eagles offense for the forseeable future with a couple Pro Bowls appearances. He’s an overall talented player who came to Penn State as the top-rated running back in his class. The lack of wear and tear from sitting behind Barkley in ‘16 and ‘17 should benefit him greatly and add time to his NFL career, where running backs often have too short of a shelf life.
6) Anything to know about him off the field?
From all accounts, Sanders is an all-around great guy. His work ethic was always lauded, and he never once complained about sitting and waiting his turn. He was highly respected by teammates who will be an asset in the locker room. He was also grinning ear-to-ear in any picture I’ve seen of him off-the-field, and just seems to be a good dude to have around. I could see him quickly becoming a fan favorite as long as he’s producing on the field.
Relative athletic score:
With the 53rd pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the #Eagles select Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 27, 2019
Miles Sanders posted a Elite #RAS with Okay size, Great speed, Great explosiveness, Great agility at the RB position. pic.twitter.com/rjLUjuDIo1