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."
A second-team all-state pick out of high school, Sands started nine of 13 games and had 33 tackles and forced a fumble as a true freshman. League coaches recognized him as an All-Big East second-team pick after a breakout 2008 season where he picked off five passes, broke up eight others and made 65 tackles (3.5 for loss). As a junior, his production lessened (53 tackles, 6.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks, one interception), but was still named All-Big East first-team.
Some scouts wonder if Sands' height will be a detriment. Typically, 6-foot-4 defensive backs have a hard time changing direction in coverage against quick NFL receivers. His continuing battle with in-game injuries, especially to his shoulders, also presents a red flag to scouts. A team will take a chance on his talent in the top half of the draft.
Strengths: Tall, wiry but strong. Has speed to reach either sideline to prevent big plays. Length affects passing lanes on the blitz and running down the seam. Plays with attitude on every snap. Likes to make the big shoulder-first hit and churn his legs to stop ballcarriers' forward progress. Covers running backs on wheel routes and can handle tight ends in man coverage. Aggressive filling to stop the run, attacks plays behind the line when playing the box. Long arms allow him to wrap up most ballcarriers when technique is good. Fair ball skills and straight-line speed to intercept jump balls and late throws over the middle.
Weaknesses: Height and aggressive style put him at a disadvantage when breaking down to tackle in space. Slides off the target because he leaves his feet or bends at the waist making tackles. Slow, high backpedal. Takes time to transition from pedal to attack. Long-striding running style does not allow him to change direction quickly; must throttle down more quickly. Overaggressive, gets moved by quarterbacks' eyes too easily. Instincts and ability to diagnose play are questionable. Makes easy picks but struggles to catch balls outside his frame."
Sands is a product of the Miami Carol City High School program where he was a three star line backer recruit. He switched to safety and has been starting in games for West Virginia since his freshman season.
Everybody that sees Sands falls in love with his size. He’s tall and thick at 6’5. Sands is physical and athletic. He can hit you over the middle and doesn’t mind helping in run support. He can locate the ball quite well and his height gives him an advantage. Sands has an excellent motor and is always looking for a bit hit. He doesn’t have reliable hands, but he can still pick the ball out of the air and his long arms help him deflect passes. He is best in a two deep zone, but can play centerfield if needed, as he has the speed to do so. He hasn’t missed a game since starting as a freshman. He has the versatility to play both safety positions.
Sands struggles at times in man coverage, as he plays a bit stiff at times and doesn’t change direction very well. His instincts are average at best, and sometimes his eyes get caught in the backfield. He tends to go for the big hit at times, rather than playing the ball. He doesn’t always wrap up, and tries to shoulder tackle up high, causing him to miss tackles. When going to tackle, he takes bad angles at times, and has to redirect to get back in his proper lane.
Sands’ athletic ability should propel him a bit higher in the draft than he may deserve to go. He’s a third round talent that could go as high as the late second round, and should fall no later than the beginning of the fourth. Look for him to come off the board between picks 70 and 90 with Dallas, Houston, Oakland, Detroit, St. Louis and Miami being excellent spots for him to be selected.
NFL Comparison: Taylor Mays "
Positive: Big, physical safety who is best playing downhill. Forceful up the field, strong at the point, and reliable as a tackler. Hard-hitting and looks to intimidate opponents. Explosive, shows a burst of closing speed, and works well with cornerbacks.
Negative: Inefficient and does not consistently take proper angles to the action or play within himself. Doesn't change directions quickly. Has marginal ball skills and reacts slowly.
Analysis: Sands can be an intimidating force in centerfield, yet he is a long-strider with limitations in coverage. He's best suited to play a conventional strong safety position or in a system that puts him in the box."
Negatives: Overall production has been marginal at best (109 tackles and six interceptions in three full years)... 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."
Weaknesses: A FS who will over-run plays. Lacks elite COD for a free safety, and may never be a real enforcer in the NFL the way he was in the Big East despite his size Narrow hips, and may wind up with some durability concerns. Will bump tackle instead of wrapping, and will miss tackles. May struggle getting back on deep seam routes, and will struggle cutting with (staying with) shifty slots, and backs out of the backfield. Best bet may be to add some muscle and convert to SS. Should have stayed in school, matured, and had a monster senior year in order to enhance his draft status.
Projection: Late 3rd round-early 4th, following his early declaration for the 2011 NFL draft and pending post-season workouts."
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."
Robert Sands is a ferocious Tackler, but is fatally slow in Coverage: His Verticity ~ Turn + Burn ~ is sluggish as hell, and he is neither Quick nor Fast.
He is listed as a Free Safety, but will almost certainly have to switch to Strong Safety to survive for any length of time in this league. He looks like a 3rd or 4th Safety to me, and might be best suited as a Rover.
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