ROBERT SANDS, S, WEST VIRGINIA
Triangle Numbers: 6-4, 217, 4.57
Positives: Tremendous size for a defensive back, has long arms and big hands, will have no problem winning jump-ball battles against most receivers… Possesses pretty good speed, mix of size and speed a big positive for the position… Recorded five interceptions in 2009, has the ability to go get the football in the air… Durability is not a concern, has not missed a game due to injury… Has experience playing cornerback, is a versatile player who matches up well against tall receivers… Changes direction pretty well, takes a good plant step and explodes out of it, shows pretty quick footwork… Has the ability to make big hits, is a fairly sure tackler with good pop at contact… Is pretty quick to read and react at the snap, does not take many false steps… Can cover a lot of ground in zone coverage, is a long strider with the ability to fly all over the field… Very high motor, gets involved in every play, does not give up on plays… Size will intrigue some NFL teams and perhaps entice an early-round flyer due to physicality, attitude and upside… May get some looks at linebacker due to unique skillset, would make a very good nickel linebacker on passing downs.
Negatives: Could stand to take better angles when coming up in run support, plays fast, but a little out of control at times… Man coverage skills need improvement, will have trouble sticking with quicker receivers on crisp routes… Hips look a little stiff, has good footwork, but does not turn and run well enough to be reliable in man coverage on slot receivers… Will get out of position at times when anticipating plays, can be fooled by play action.
A tall, long-armed safety prospect who has a strong frame and plays with a real passion for the game. Brings it every week and isn’t a guy who is afraid to throw his body around. Displays impressive pop and power as a striker, lowers his pad level into contact, wraps well through the play and consistently brings his legs. Does a nice job filling the alley when asked to attack downhill and is a good open-field tackler. Isn’t as impressive in pursuit. Struggles to consistently take proper angles, will underrun plays and is forced at times to open his hips and use his straight-line speed to track his man down toward the sideline.
For a big guy does a decent job keeping his feet under him and trying to sit into his stance in coverage. Has a tendency to get doubled over at the waist and isn’t the most natural of benders, but because of his compact footwork he does have some click and close ability. Now, his footwork isn’t overly polished and will double step on his back foot, but he doesn’t waste too much motion driving on the throw. Has a very average closing first step when asked to click and close and is a bit tight hipped getting out of his breaks. Possesses good straight-line speed for the position and has the range to make plays sideline-to-sideline once he gets those long legs going. But, he is stiff in his drop, allows his pad level to get too high and is tight when asked to turn and run. Takes him too long to get up to speed and is going to have a tough time in man coverage down the field. Possesses inconsistent ball skills, exhibits good coordination and can go up and make a play at the highest point and adjust to the throw, but his concentration seems to be a bit hit or miss.
Impression: A tall, leggy strong safety who is at his best coming forward. Will have a tough time turning and running at the next level, but as a downhill, in-the-box safety he has a chance to fight for time on a defense.
As a true freshman, Robert Sands quickly developed into a big time free safety at West Virginia. He ended up starting nine games and tallied 33 tackles. However, Sands saved his biggest moment for the biggest game of the year. Sands forced a fumble against North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl which led to the game winning touchdown. That success at the end of the 2008 campaign really catapulted him into the limelight as a sophomore. Once again Sands only started nine games, but he started making more plays and bigger plays. He ended up ranking fifth on the team with 65 tackles and picked off an impressive five passes, which tied for the Big East lead.
Sands is a big hitter and, at 6-5 and 221 pounds, he is a big free safety who can get his body behind those hits. Sands is once again having a solid season and through seven games is fifth on the team in tackles and has also recorded one interception and one forced fumble. Even if West Virginia stumbles to the finish, Sands will grade out very well in postseason workouts and at the NFL combine.
Yet, he is just a junior and Sands may benefit from another year at WVU. Right now he is probably a second round draft pick and has some room to increase his stock. Sands has been at least a part-time starter for three years, so he has plenty of experience and that could make him a potential early entrant since NFL teams have plenty of tape on him.
2/10 Update: Sands did opt to forgo his senior season at West Virginia and enter the NFL Draft. At the time, he was widely considered one of the top safeties in this class. After another year of earning All-Big East accolades, he has proven everything he needs to prove at the collegiate level. However, Sands’ stock seems to be slipping at the moment. Sands has the skills necessary to be a second round draft pick, but he will have to prove it at the NFL Combine or he may find himself slipping further down most boards.
[pro-player width=’530′ height=’253′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_d2vsN8HH4E[/pro-player]
Robert Sands is a really intriguing safety prospect. Huge. 6-4. Almost too big for a safety. Rangy, athletic. Long legs. Made plays throughout his career. If he gains weight, he could be a linebacker. Can do a lot of things with him. Would be great on special teams. He seems to be a bit stiff in coverage, which may relegate him to being strictly a special teams player. Still, there’s a lot to work with, and for a 4th round pick, could be a steal.