Not often does an article just write itself when it comes to Devy prospects. Last year I had quite a bit of success when it comes to the running back department. While this year may not have the volume it most certainly will have the quality.
Raheim Sanders came into Arkansas as a 4-star prospect who stood 6-2 and weighed 220. Size is always a must when it comes to analyzing Devy running backs. I am sure most fans get tired of reading it and I get tired of saying it but the same mistakes continue to manifest every season. Luckily, Sanders (who has the nickname Rocket) already has the requisite alpha size. Rocket came into college with a track background and a curious high school career. His senior was the most impressive of all, averaging 15.9 yards per carry and 16.3 yards per reception. The issue was that he only saw 20 carries and 24 receptions that season. This likely is a factor when it came to the schools he got scholarship offers from.
The Razorback Rocket
Much like the NFL, once a prospect sets foot on the field at the next level of competition, what he did previously matters none. Raheim Sanders did not find a ton of opportunity his freshman season, as shown with his 31.8 backfield dominator rating. Rocket ended the year with 114 carries and 11 receptions. He amassed 578 rushing yards and 109 receiving yards and 6 total touchdowns. Given the fact that he had less than a third of the total opportunities out of the backfield and is a freshman, I was wowed by that stat line.
Rocket shared the backfield last year with Trelon Smith, Dominque Johnson, and AJ Green (no not that one). Trelon Smith transferred to UTSA, Dominque Johnson got injured in the spring and AJ Green does not figure to be highly impactful in the backfield. A few days ago Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendal Briles stated “Sanders is a dependable player that can do everything needed to be a great running back. He catches the ball well, he’s extremely tough, he finishes runs, he’s got some really good elusiveness too him and he is really smart.” (quote found here)
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Cardinal Red Numbers
Traditionally, any running back with a Backfield Dominator (BDR) as low as Raheim Sanders would have rather uninspiring metrics. For Sanders that was quite the opposite. Despite his low BDR, Sanders saw a dominator rating of 16.6-percent which is in the 56th percentile. Equally as impressive, the efficiency metrics were strong having 1.67 yards per team attempt. My threshold for freshman is 1.5 and higher, which does not take into context outside pertinent metrics like his BDR. Prior to the offensive coordinator’s comments a few days ago, Arkansas already signaled their intent with Rocket when he was able to produce 58-percent of the team’s rushing yards.
The area of concern for Rocket revolves around his pass-catching opportunities and breakaway run rate. PFF.com has his breakaway run percentage at 15.4, for reference, Jonathan Taylor had a career average percentage of 42 and Christian McCaffery had a career average of 37.1. I think with more rushing opportunities and experience that percentage will climb. Rocket had a target share of 2.67-percent, which is awful, of similar concern the entire running back room only saw 29 receptions his freshman year. While that is cause for concern the departure of Treylon Burks and the fact he was utilized as a pass catcher in high school does not have me sounding any sirens yet.
Numbers are fun, but a wise man once said “numbers are the what, the film is the why.” Let me show you why Raheim Sanders is primed and ready to blow up this 2022 season.
Finished watching Treylon Burks last night but couldn’t help but notice #Arkansas freshman RB Raheim “Rocket” Sanders dual threat ability.
Stoutly built frame, flashes great vision, hard to bring down in open field. Natural catcher out of backfield.
Averaged 5.1 YPC in 2021. pic.twitter.com/xMifP9ATSp
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) January 25, 2022
This video really encompasses what I love about Raheim Sanders. The first clip shows mainly Sanders burst, identifying the hole he changes his path fights off shoelace tackles. Finishes strong by initiating contact and driving the defender into the red zone. In the third cut-up, Sanders shows off his route running abilities, creating a little separation with a stutter step and readjusting very well to a ball thrown to his back shoulder. The last cut-up shows Sanders’s dynamic abilities in the open field but making the first defender miss and then utilizing his physicality and contact balance to gain extra yards.
Raheim Sanders has some stupid lateral agility for a 6’2, 225-pound running back. pic.twitter.com/PUTPk8YbTG
— Christian Williams (@CWilliamsNFL) July 5, 2022
Why Raheim “Rocket” Sanders
Raheim Sanders has the ideal blend of size, athleticism, and opportunity I want when identifying running backs in Devy. Much like Sean Tucker for me last year, Rocket gives me similar feelings. I’ve outlined what and why I love what Rocket does on the field. The biggest selling point for me is that he is a running back that you can consistently get around pick 18-24 in Devy Startups. A player at a discount, with the size and dynamic abilities that Rocket Sanders possesses, makes him a must-roster player in Devy.