Miles Sanders Could Be a Three-Down Back for the Eagles
It's been a busy offseason for the Philadelphia Eagles' backfield.
With the 52nd pick of the NFL Draft, the Eagles selected Penn State junior running back Miles Sanders, who comes into the league after rushing for over 1,200 yards and taking over full time for Saquon Barkley in 2018.
After Barkley's transition to the NFL from college, Sanders has NFL scouts eager to see if he can follow up the legendary leap his former teammate made to the next level.
Fit With the Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles suddenly find themselves flush with talent in their backfield. On March 28, the Eagles acquired Jordan Howard from the Chicago Bears. Behind Howard on the depth chart are Corey Clement, Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, Boston Scott, and Donnel Pumphrey.
Despite the loaded backfield in Philadelphia, Sanders could have an edge. Sanders possesses the traits of an all-around running back who can handle the ball on all three downs. Whether he will get that chance initially seems unlikely.
Sanders’ 1,274 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns were good enough for a second team all Big Ten selection in 2018. His 5.8 yards per carry average came on a workload of 220 carries and showed his ability to handle the load at the college level, albeit in only one season as the guy.
Sanders: A Three-Down Back?
At 5’11” and 211 pounds, Sanders grades out in the 45th percentile in height and the 40th percentile in weight among running back prospects, via MockDraftable. He's not massive, but he still could handle the every-down work of an NFL running back.
And based on his ability to catch the football out of the backfield, he is likely to get his chance to prove his feature-back abilities in the NFL.
After catching 24 passes for 139 yards (5.8 average), Sanders showed off his versatility and ability to stay the field as a three-down back, playing almost 700 snaps for Penn State last season, via PFF, and he showed an ability to be decisive with his touches.
Mixed Thoughts on Sanders
At the combine, Sanders ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash and had a 36-inch vertical jump and 124-inch broad jump. But it was Sanders' 3-cone drill (6.89), which was tops in the running back class, that drew praise from ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.
“It’s always an outstanding time if you can get in the 4.4 seconds as a running back and he’s got pretty solid size,” McShay said. “The 36-inch vertical, over 10-foot broad jump, 4.19 is awesome for a short shuttle result and his 3-cone was the best 3-cone out of all the running backs. It’s tough to have a better workout than Sanders had.”
"He can clearly create yardage for himself, but he has average acceleration and might need to expedite his downhill process as a pro," Zierlein said. "Sanders is more skilled than explosive, but he has the size and talent to develop into a future starter with every-down potential."
numberFire's editor-in-chief, JJ Zachariason, initially projects Sanders for 147.0 carries, 602.8 rushing yards, and 3.0 rushing touchdowns to go along with 36.0 targets, 27.0 receptions, 197.1 receiving yards, and 1.0 receiving touchdowns.