Miles Sanders Is NFL Draft's Big Winner and Ready to Take Off in 2020

Brad Gagnon
Courtesy of Bleacher Report

Jordan Howard left as a free agent, wasn't replaced. Darren Sproles retired, wasn't replaced. The Philadelphia Eagles acquired six veterans via free agency or trade. None were running backs. They drafted 10 players last month. No backs among them. 

While they did sign two undrafted free agents at the position and re-signed reserve back Corey Clement, the Eagles' actions this NFL offseason strongly indicate they're all-in on 2019 rookie sensation Miles Sanders

The back-less draft despite the loss of Howard confirmed it: Sanders will have a chance to become an all-out superstar in 2020.

This week, The Athletic's Zach Berman wrote that the 2019 second-round pick is "entrenched atop the depth chart—more so than any running back since [Doug] Pederson became head coach in 2016."

It's easy to understand what the team is thinking. Beyond Week 7, Sanders was one of just eight backs to average more than 5.0 yards per carry, and he and Aaron Jones of the Green Bay Packers were the only two who accomplished that while compiling more than 250 receiving yards

Ultimately, the 23-year-old was one of just six players to accumulate more than 500 yards on the ground and through the air. So even though he was hardly used as a receiver at Penn State, it's obvious he's successfully molding himself to become the next Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey. 

Sanders caught just 30 passes and scored only one receiving touchdown in three years in the Big Ten, but there's little doubt he has the skill set to excel in that role as a pro. 

Look for Pederson to run with that. 

But it's not as though Sanders can't be relied on heavily when the Eagles need to focus on the ground game. He possesses a beautiful combination of size, strength and speed, and when you watch footage of his 2019 exploits, one particular observation from Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller's 2019 offseason scouting report sticks out. 

"Squeezes through rushing lanes and can make himself small to get through cracks and creases," Miller wrote. "Pops out the other side with balance."

Dude can block, too, which is critical when you've got a fragile quarterback like Carson Wentz. 

Look at it all, and it's amazing he wasn't a top-50 draft pick, but the Eagles might have benefited from the fact he started just one season after being overshadowed by Saquon Barkley during his first two years at Penn State, where his pass-catching skills weren't fully revealed.

And so it's likely we still haven't seen the best of Miles Sanders. He played just 53 percent of the team's offensive snaps and ceded 200 carries to Howard and Boston Scott as a rookie. When he finally carried the ball more than 15 times in three separate outings in December, he held up just fine: 56 attempts, 5.1 yards per carry, four touchdowns, 16 catches on the side, no fumbles. 

In fact, he hasn't fumbled since Sept. 22. 

Sanders looks like the complete package, and the Eagles look primed to take advantage of that. 

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter. Or don't. It's entirely your choice.

 

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