Eagles' Miles Sanders eyeing Christian McCaffrey-like impact

Tim McManus
Courtesy of ESPN

PHILADELPHIA -- Running back Miles Sanders -- the 53rd overall pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in last year's NFL draft -- has been asked to announce the Eagles' second-round selection this year, which fittingly is again No. 53 overall. Sanders will do so virtually from his home in Philly, but he warns that if the pick is wide receiver and fellow Penn State alum KJ Hamler, all bets are off.

"I'm going off script and I'm going to be hype on TV," Sanders told ESPN. "I'm going to say, 'With the 53rd pick in the second round the Eagles select KJ,' but I'm going to go crazy."

Sanders has already put in a good word for Hamler with the Eagles brass -- "I text [coach] Doug [Pederson], I don't care," he said with a laugh -- as he has for other prospects he is tight with, including Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, Michigan linebacker Khaleke Hudson and former XFL safety Kenny Robinson.

It's only right that Sanders helps pave the way for the next group of talent in the manner he believes Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey did for him.

It wasn't an endorsement, but rather McCaffrey's perception-bending, versatile style of play that Sanders credits for creating a path for him to the NFL.

"He's the reason why I got drafted," Sanders said. "I kind of know how to catch, and he's the reason why I got drafted, because he changed that look on running backs. So, I'm just trying to get where he's at -- soon."

Sanders wasn't asked to do much in the passing game at Penn State, but the Eagles accurately determined that receiving was a big part of his skill set -- an ability illustrated most vividly in his back of the end zone snare of a Carson Wentz laser in Week 15 last season against the Washington Redskins.

To hone this part of his craft, he studied tape of McCaffrey and New Orleans Saints back Alvin Kamara.

A dual threat out of the backfield, Sanders averaged more than 5 yards per carry and 97 all-purpose yards from Week 8 on -- a surge that pushed him into the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation. He finished eighth in the NFL in all-purpose yards with 1,641.

Atop that list was McCaffrey, whose 2,392 all-purpose yards eclipsed the next closest competitor, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (1,777 yards), by more than 600 yards. The Panthers made McCaffrey the highest-paid running back in NFL history this week, signing him to a four-year, $64 million extension.

"When I look at him, I look at a back that's very hard to stop. I want to be that back," Sanders said. "I want to be that back where you think you can stop me in the run game and then, boom, I'm outside in the passing game and I'm rolling up yards for the team. I want to be that back where there's no way you can really slow me down or stop me or take me out of the game because I'm so versatile. That's the type of mentality and the type of player I want to be."