Miles Sanders Fantasy
Last year Penn State gave us Saquon Barkley, this year they are giving us Miles Sanders. No, Sanders is not the next Barkley, but he has all the tools and promises to become a fantasy viable option right out the gate. Sanders has a great mix of size and speed and could become an every down back if drafted by the right team in April.
Sanders has the size of a prototypical workhorse back standing at 5-11 and 215 lbs. Forgoing his senior year to enter the NFL draft, Sanders only had one strong season of production in college. Over three college career years, he totaled 276 attempts for 1649 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also pitched in 32 receptions for 193 yards and a touchdown. These are lackluster career stats but when you consider the fact that he sat behind Barkley for two years, and only had the Penn State backfield to himself in his final year, his single year numbers look much better.
Sanders 2018 stat line was 220 attempts for 1274 and 9 touchdowns with 24 receptions for 139 yards.
- Height: 5-11
- Weight: 211 lbs
- Age: 21
Miles Sanders had more rushing yards in his last year than Saquon Barkley did in his senior year. Granted it was only by four yards and Barkley double the number of TDs Sanders scored. Sanders should have had better rushing numbers but QB Trace McSorley poached almost 800 yards and 12 TDs on the ground. Another fun fact is that if Sanders had caught 2 more passes he would have been tied for the second most receptions on the team in 2018. As it was, his 24 receptions were the fifth most on the team.
NFL Combine Results
- 40 Yard Dash: 4.49 seconds
- Bench Press: 20 reps
- Vertical Jump: 36 inches
- Broad Jump: 124 inches
- 3 Cone Drill: 6.89 seconds
- 20 Yard Shuttle: 4.19 seconds
Sanders showed up and showed off at the NFL combine. He was a favorite among all of the running backs at the combine and his results will certainly boost his NFL and Dynasty draft capital. His 4.49 second 40 Yard Dash time tied as 6th best in the class. This answered scouts’ questions about his top end speed. But his most impressive results were in the 3 Cone Drill and 20 Yard Shuttle which test change of direction and ability to get up to speed after changing direction. He blazed the 11th best time of everyone at the combine (6.89 seconds) in the 3 Cone Drill and he posted the 3rd best RB time (4.19 seconds) in the 20 Yard Shuttle.
RB 40 times by historical percentiles:
Mike Weber 4.38 95%
Justice Hill 4.42 87%
Miles Sanders 4.45 82%
Damien Harris 4.49 70%
Trayveon Williams 4.5 64%
Darrell Henderson 4.5 64%
David Montgomery 4.62 26%
Benny Snell 4.65 18%
Elijah Holyfield 4.76 4%#NFLCombine2019
— Travis May (@FF_TravisM) March 1, 2019
Strengths and Weaknesses
Sanders is a proven first and second down back. Even though Trace McSorley poached yardage and touchdowns, Sanders still finished as the 15th best in the nation in rushing yards. A career 6.0 yards per career and final year 5.8 yards per carry are also respectable. The best part of his game is his explosive movements, getting to the line and bursting through the hole. On film, he seems to always make the first man miss. He has enough wiggle to make defenders miss in the open field and in the alley but he can and will lower his shoulders. He also has a knack for falling forward after each tackle. He has decent vision and patience at the line but can occasionally bounce runs outside too early and too often. He lacks the top speed to outrun everyone on the field so bouncing outside at the pro-level could be a concern. He does have a great jump cut and ability to plant, make a single cut and get up the field for plenty of yardage.
At the combine, Sanders put to bed some of the weaknesses that showed up in film sessions. Most importantly was his top-speed and hands. He was able to run a 4.49 second 40 Yard Dash which will help make him more versatile. During the field drills Sanders looked smooth and balanced throughout each drill but what was really nice to see was his focus in the receiving drills. He made solid grabs and was able to track the ball nicely especially on the deep ball. At Penn State Sanders was not called on to catch a ton but was able to reel in a respectable 24 catches for 139 yards. His pass blocking should get the nod from NFL scouts to help make him a 3-down back if he can show he can catch. As a pass blocker, he was able to pick up both interior and exterior blitzers with good balance and hand use without overextending.
Best Fit: A Run-First/Play-Action Scheme
Sanders is going to be a later day two or day three pick in the NFL draft which will open the door for him to end up on just about any NFL team. I would most like for him to end up on a team that has established themselves as a run-first team or a team that uses a lot of play-action. For instance, the Ravens could use Sanders as a three-down back and a dangerous option to pair with rushing QB Lamar Jackson. According to Footballoutsiders.com, Philidelphia ran play action 31% of the time (3rd highest in the NFL). The Eagles are in need of a workhorse back and Sanders could make a living in this play-action heavy scheme. Another interesting option would be the Kansas City Chiefs, where his pass blocking would make him more versatile in the early down passing game that Andy Reid utilizes. Or, on first and second down, he could make defenses pay for not stacking the box out of fear of Mahomes and the Chiefs’ passing attack.
I really like Sanders’ upside from a fantasy perspective especially if he can show he is at least effective on third down and as a pass catcher. Don’t expect him to be Christian McCaffrey as a pass catcher but I’d be surprised if he is Jordan Howard. As someone who would rather take the immediate impact of a running back over the possible 3-year wait for a wide receiver, I’m targeting Sanders in most drafts and if he is lucky enough to get a good landing spot I’ll be drafting him all over the place. His 2018 stats would have netted him 205 PPR points which would as the 15th RB between Kenyan Drake (206 PPR points) and Chris Carson (201.4 PPR points). Given a decent landing spot, I think it’s fair to project him to finish as a late RB2 or Flex play in 2019. However, if he goes to a crowded backfield or a poor system/team you could be looking at more of a Jordan Wilkins or Jamaal Williams range of production.
Based on pre-combine rookie mocks from the Gridiron Experts Team, Miles Sanders was going in the middle of the third round. This could be a huge steal if his landing spot has a clear path to the starting role (as he would if drafted by the three teams listed above). After a combine in which he looked like one of the best backs available, the only question left is the landing spot. This year there is no draft-defining running back at the top of the class. There is a clear top tier but after that, there is a massive gaggle of almost everyone else’s “favorite” back. So, I could see Sanders’ moving all the way up to the backend of the first round of rookie drafts if he goes to that “perfect” landing spot.
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Thanks for Reading
When Seth was staying home to care for his newborn twin boys, he decided to take his passion for football and fifteen years of fantasy football experience to the next level. This was the birth of “the at-home dad”. For the past five years, Seth has been writing and podcasting about all aspects of football. He writes the weekly RBBC article as well as being a co-host of the Fantasy FAQs podcast.