Down the stretch of the 2019 season, Miles Sanders didn’t want to talk about his chances to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was focused on winning games.
Now that the Eagles’ season is over, though, it’s a discussion worth having. Because Sanders should definitely be in the mix.
On Thursday, the Eagles’ running back was on the FS1 show “Undisputed” and was asked about his chances to win the annual Associated Press award.
“I think I have a pretty good shot,” Sanders said. “With the other guys that's being nominated, there's Josh Jacobs, [he] had a good year too and Kyler Murray too. All had great rookie years. But I got a lot of confidence in myself based on the type of production that I gave, basically, I think, in half of a season, with (Darren) Sproles going down, going on IR, and Jordan Howard going down for the rest of the half of the season.”
While he didn’t want to talk about ROY late in the season, it’s pretty clear Sanders knows when he’s been slighted.
The Eagles haven’t had a Rookie of the Year since tight end Charle Young won the award way back in 1973. But Sanders definitely has as strong case for his performance in 2019.
After a pretty slow start, Sanders got better with every week and then he helped carry the Eagles once Howard went down and was a big reason why the Eagles got into the playoffs. He finished with 818 rushing yards, 509 receiving yards and six total touchdowns.
Sanders set an Eagles rookie record and led all rookies this season with 1,327 yards from scrimmage.
There’s plenty of competition, though. Jacobs was just named the PFWA Offensive Rookie of the Year a couple days ago but that doesn’t always match the AP list, which is considered the real award. Jacobs, fair or not, might have an advantage as a first-round pick.
And then there’s Murray, who might have an advantage as a quarterback.
Why does Sanders think he has a chance over an impressive rookie QB?
“I think you can say how important those last four games were, that run that we went on. And just knowing that we had to win those four games in order to get to the playoffs. … I think those four games were big and I stepped up pretty well. They asked me to do a lot, they like to find ways to get me the ball. And I’ve been doing well as far as each game just getting better and better at it.”
Sanders is right. He stepped up in those big games. In the final four games of the regular season, he averaged 4.73 yards per attempt and averaged 112 yards from scrimmage per game. And unlike Murray and Jacobs, Sanders helped get his team to the playoffs. He was sixth in the entire NFL in scrimmage yards in December.
Let’s take a look at the top candidates for Offensive Rookie of the Year and their respective cases:
RB Miles Sanders (Eagles): Finished with 818 rushing yards, 509 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns, led all rookies with 1,327 yards from scrimmage, added 314 return yards earlier in the season
QB Kyler Murray (Cardinals): Led rookie quarterbacks with 3,722 passing yards and 544 rushing yards, threw for 20 touchdowns (12 INTs) and rushed for 4 more. Led bad Cardinals team to a 5-10-1 record.
RB Josh Jacobs (Raiders): Led all rookies with 1,150 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns, finished second with 1,316 scrimmage yards, had five 100-yard games
WR A.J. Brown (Titans): Finished with 1,051 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns to lead all rookies, averaged 20.2 yards per reception, team is in AFC Championship Game
There’s definitely some stiff competition this year. Any of those four guys would be deserving but Sanders definitely has one of the strongest cases. And a running back has won in four of the last six years.
So does Sanders think he’s going to win?
“I could just say I feel confident in myself,” Sanders said. “I just pray to God I could be blessed with the opportunity. That would be a blessing and a dream come true.”