After April's NFL Draft, we did a recap on the four Mountaineers taken in the NFL Draft. Now, we're going more in depth now that the dust has had time to settle from what was the NFL Draft. In Part 2 of our four part series on the newest Mountaineers to get drafted into the NFL, we will discuss how Robert Sands will fit in with the Cincinnati Bengals using quotes from his new coaches and GM as well as take a look at how the local media percieves the Bengals selection of Sands. Are they excited about it? Optimistic? Or Disappointed? We'll tell you.
Robert Sands- 5th Round Pick #134: After impressive individual workouts at the NFL Combine and lackluster position drills at the Combine and WVU's Pro-Day, many scouts did not know how Sands would translate into the NFL. Is he better suited to play his college position at safety, or is his physical feature set better suited to OLB in the NFL? Immediately after selecting Sands, the Bengals made it clear: they drafted him to play free safety. The Bengals have two other players at that position now who are going into the last year of their contracts with Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson. The Bengals have lacked someone receivers fear as they come across the middle, and they believe that Sands hard-hitting nature will fill that void. He is called the 'Predator' after all. As we'll reveal below, the media is of the opinion that he is going to make the move to strong safety. He will immediately see time on special teams and in run-stopping situations. Although the Bengals cannot have official contact with Sands, they have already announced that he will wear jersey number 49.
Here is what Sands' coaches have to say:
"Robers Sands is a big, physical safety. He has good speed and has shown a great ability to cover ground back there. He's been a great insert-guy when he's needed to. He's been able to play in the deep spots of the field, and I think he has a lot of growth and improvement with coaching that we can help him with here. He has some of the things that you can't really coach, and that's his size and speed and ability to go play the ball in his range."
"We're very happy to be able to choose Robert Sands at this point in the draft. He's a guy with some unique qualities. He's very tall -- an angular guy -- who's six-foot-four and 217 pounds. He has played in a lot of different spots in the scheme they run at West Virginia. They've utilized him in a lot of places because he's a rare athlete who can run. He has some very good football instincts."
"He's very aggressive, runs the alley and makes plays on balls out in space, which impressed us because he is a big guy," Croyle continued. "When you see tall guys like this, you want to see if they get broken down and make tackles on the smaller athletic guys, which he did and did it pretty consistently throughout the year. He's a guy who has that type of athleticism. Because of his size, I think he'll have a lot of opportunity to help us.
"He has the size to play as a strong safety. That's a concern of ours. We continue to build depth at that position," Croyle told Bengals.com. "We have some returning players like Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson who don't have his type of size. They are more like free safeties. He's played both in their (the Mountaineers) scheme. He has played in deep coverage as well as in the box."
"He's a physical guy and an instinctive football player. When you play the tape, the thing that impressed us the most was his ability to be decisive and to attack the line of scrimmage. He plays with a really good feel for the game. He has range in deep coverage."
"He played with very good effort and intensity. A lot of time, you don't see that when (teams) are starting players."
Here is what the local media thinks that the Bengals got in Sands:
Sands will likely make the switch to strong safety after playing free safety for the Mountaineers. He possesses the physical skills to play the position, but will need to add strength in the weight room. The Bengals love to play their strong safeties down inside the box as well as in blitz packages. Sands may find it difficult to compete against bigger and more physical players doing only 12 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press (at the Combine).
The 6-foot-4, 217-pound Sands is a big hitter with good straight-line speed and attacks the runner. He's a solid performer when the play is in front of him, but could be a liability in coverage due to poor hips transitioning/ change of direction. Sands considers himself a ball-hawk, but is somewhat of a gambler in coverage and must improve his reads.
He has the talent and potential to be a solid pro, but will need to be coached up during film studies to be successful.
The Bengals hit another need with West Virginia safety Robert Sands in the fifth round. The 6-5 217-pound Sands, a junior, is an excellent special-teamer who is known to play the run and worked in some games at five different spots during games.
It looks as though Sands is in a position to make a name for himself as a Bengal. In Sands, the Bengals have a player on their hands who's combination of size and speed, if he excels, could redefine how the safety position is played. From the sounds of it, Sands is going to be put in several different positions to see where he fits best. Maybe going into his second and third seasons as a Bengal, after some current starters move on, Sands has the the opportunity to settle himself into a role where he could be the anchor for the Bengals defensive backfield for years and the Predator could give opposing wide receivers second thoughts about coming across the middle.