What is Fair to Expect of Miles Sanders in 2018?

By Nick Polak on August 14, 2018 at 10:00 am
Miles Sanders signing autographs during Blue White Weekend.
Adriana Lacy - Roar Lions Roar

Miles Sanders isn't Saquon Barkley. You know that, I know that, and if his offseason quotes are any indication, he clearly knows that. Being the headstrong and confident young man that he is, Sanders surely has a sense of what he expects from himself as he prepares to replace a Penn State legend, but what should the fans be expecting from the former five-star prospect?

When it comes to trying to predict what Sanders's future statistical output shows, it's important to remember that he likely won't dominate the workload on the ground in the same way Barkley did. Instead, a look back to 2015's carry split may provide a better idea of what to expect. When Barkley was a freshman, he received 182 carries, Akeel Lynch had 55, Nick Scott had 30, and Mark Allen had 27, and Johnathan Thomas had 11.

If Sanders breaks out the way that many are predicting, this could end up being a decent projection of how the carries will be split once again (with Sanders, Allen, Thomas, Journey Brown, and Ricky Slade all chipping in).

For his career, Sanders has accumulated 375 rushing yards on 56 carries, good for 6.7 yards per carry. Seeing as the majority of those yards have come in garbage time, it would be silly to expect his average to remain that high (Barkley's career ypc was 5.7), but Sanders's ability to surprise defenders with his power and subtle shiftiness should be good enough to keep him around the 5.3-5.8 range.

Finally, perhaps the biggest factor in fine-tuning expectations for Sanders will be the (hopeful) improvement of the offensive line. Four starters are back, and big things are expected from former blue-chipper Michal Menet. A line that is able to open up holes for the run game would be a big boon to Sanders's efforts, but even more helpful would be a line that doesn't allow their rusher to get stuffed multiple times per game in the backfield.

Where does that leave us with Sanders? Firstly, it's important to remember that he won't be asked to do nearly as much as Barkley was in the passing game. That's not because he's not a capable receiver, rather the staff will likely use the depth at the position to make sure they can keep everyone fresh. So while Sanders's stat line likely won't mimic that of a starting slot receiver like his predecessor, don't be surprised if he puts up a more productive season on the ground thanks to the improved offensive line.

Miles Sanders stat prediction: 188 carries, 1,090 rushing yards (5.8 ypc), 25 receptions, 365 receiving yards, 16 total touchdowns