After parting ways with Darren Sproles, the New Orleans Saints lost a little depth in their backfield. A running back was not a top priority in the 2014 NFL Draft, so instead of selecting one, the team waited and signed rookie undrafted free agent Tim Flanders.
As an Oklahoma prep, Flanders rushed for 2,134 yards and 34 touchdowns his senior year before playing college ball. Initially, he went to Kansas State and redshirted in 2009, but he then transferred to Sam Houston State in order to see increased playing time. He enters the NFL as the Southland Conference‘s all-time rushing and scoring leader after carrying the ball 999 times for 5,664 yards (5.7 average) and 66 touchdowns. The three-time Walter Payton Award finalist finished in the FCS all-time top 10 in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and scoring.
Flanders’ outstanding career at Sam Houston is undeniable, but college and professional football are two different games. He is someone who will require patience by coaches in the development process. He has a great build and good run vision that helps him hit the holes, but his tiny hands, lack of top-end speed and below average ability to break tackles may haunt him in the NFL. Flanders will need time to evolve, but he may end up being a nice little steal for the Saints.
Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas will be splitting time as New Orleans’ top two running backs. Following them, Khiry Robinson looks to be a lock for a majority of the carries after a solid rookie campaign in 2013. Flanders will be competing for playing with Travaris Cadet and Derrick Strozier, another undrafted free agent. Because of experience, Cadet has the upper hand, but Flanders is right behind him. We could see Flanders jump to fourth in the rotation with a strong performance in training camp.
With time he may develop into a reliable option in the backfield. He is a tough, competitive runner with a knack for learning and gaining knowledge. It will be interesting to see what Sean Payton and the Saints have in store for the young talent.