Miles Sanders Fantasy Football Outlook & Value 2021

It was somewhat of a disappointing season for Miles Sanders, the second-year running back out of Penn State, as he played in just 12 games and finished as just the RB21 on the season. He was just the RB19 with 13.0 half-PPR points per game. The Philadelphia Eagles scored just 20.9 points per game, the seventh-fewest in the NFL, and that limited offensive output certainly didn’t help Sanders. After an up-and-down 2020, the Eagles invested in some competition for Sanders at the running back position. While Sanders is still the top rusher on this team, can he build on a disappointing campaign?

2020 Recap 

RUSH YDSRUSH TDSRECSREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
867628197013.0156.4

After getting 11.2 carries per game as a rookie, Miles Sander saw 13.6 rushing attempts per game last season. His YPC average also jumped from 4.6 to 5.3 despite the Eagles seemingly putting out a different starting five on the offensive line every week. Sanders scored twice as many touchdowns on the ground as in his rookie season in fewer games, as well. However, his receiving work took a significant downturn from 509 receiving yards in 2019 to 197 last year and 3 receiving touchdowns to none last year. If Sanders can get back to a more significant role in the passing game, he should produce more for fantasy football.

2021 Projection 

RUSH YDSRUSH TDSRECSREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
1,123.6845.1379.22232.913.7

Towards the end of last season, Jalen Hurts earned the starting quarterback job over Carson Wentz and played well enough to remain the starter heading into this season as Wentz was traded to the Colts. Sanders racked up 14 carries per game in the four games Hurts started last season and also had four receptions in two of those games. Those numbers support the idea that Sanders could reach 300 touches this year. I don’t quite have him at that mark, but I do think he’s good enough to put up some career-best rushing numbers and finish as a top-15 RB in half-PPR scoring.

ADP & Auction Value 

ADP: 32, Round 3, RB15

Auction Value: $30

Miles Sanders is currently being drafted as about the 15th running back off the board in half-PPR leagues, which is right around where I have him in my projections. Some running backs are currently going ahead of him in some leagues I have projected as scoring fewer points; those include J.K. Dobbins, Josh Jacobs, and Najee Harris, among others. Nevertheless, Sanders has great upside if the Eagles’ offense can start clicking more this year, and he’s a great value pick in the third or even fourth round of some leagues.

Floor

The Eagles added Jordan Howard and Kerryon Johnson in free agency while drafting Kenneth Gainwell, but I still see Miles Sanders as a near-lock for 200+ carries if he can stay healthy. Over a 17-game pace, 200 carries are about 11.7 per game. His career average is 12.2 rushes per game, and he hasn’t even been the first-choice back for that entire span. With a career average of 4.9 YPC despite some offensive line woes, it would be somewhat surprising to see Sanders not finish with 1,000 rushing yards if he plays a full slate. For reference, only eight running backs ran for over 1,000 yards last season. Sanders also has the added upside of being a dynamic receiving threat who can make plays out of the backfield. We’ve seen a trend in the NFL of run-heavy, dual-threat quarterbacks such as Jalen Hurts not throwing to their running backs as much, but Sanders still averaged 3.5 targets per game with Hurts as the starter last year. If Sanders stays healthy, it would be astounding to see him finish outside the top 20 running backs, so you’re locking in an RB2 baseline when you draft Sanders.

Ceiling 

There are a ton of reasons to expect improvement for Sanders this season. For one, the offensive line can’t possibly be more of a mess than it was last year amidst a barrage of injuries. Sanders is the type of runner who is not a grinder and really relies on that initial creation of space from the blocking in front of him, so better health from the O-line should do wonders for his efficiency. Sanders should also really benefit from Nick Sirriani, the Eagles’ new head coach who comes from Frank Reichs’ Indianapolis offense that was one of the most run-heavy teams in football. Compare that to Doug Pederson, who rarely made running the ball a priority, and Sanders should be in line for an uptick in touches as well. With 300+ touch upside and the potential to improve already elite career efficiency marks, Sanders has clear-cut top-10 upside at the running back upside if things break his way this season.

Philadelphia Eagles Offense 

Philadelphia EaglesNew head coach Nick Sirianni was the offensive coordinator for the Colts from 2018 to 2020, a span during which Indianapolis’s offense averaged 25.9 points per game and was an above-average scoring offense every year despite having a different starting quarterback in each season. New offensive coordinator Shane Steichen was the offensive coordinator for the Chargers last season. While that team finished just 18th in points per game, they dealt with many injuries across the board, and Steichen coaxed an unprecedented level of success out of rookie quarterback Justin Herbert. The Eagles spent their first-round pick on Devonta Smith, the Heisman-winning receiver who caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. He’ll join Jalen Reagor, a 2020 first-round pick out of TCU, as well as Greg Ward, Travis Fulgham, and Quez Watkins in a solid receiving corps. Tight end Zach Ertz is getting older and less effective, but Dallas Goedert is ready to take the mantle. With plenty of pass-catching weapons, Miles Sanders may not be high up in the target pecking order, but I’m expecting this new coaching staff to come in with a clear run-first directive.

Strength of Schedule  

The Eagles play in a division with some talented defensive fronts, and Miles Sanders faces the 11th-toughest schedule in terms of fantasy points allowed to RBs last season. The Washington Football Team, featuring an elite defensive line, allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs last year, and Sanders will have to play them twice. The Giants (22nd) and Cowboys (26th) weren’t nearly as good, but both have some talented front-seven players. The Eagles also have to play the Saints (1st), Buccaneers (4th), 49ers (5th), and Falcons (9th), who was among the top ten defenses last season in fewest fantasy points allowed to RBs. The Panthers (24th), Raiders (29th), and Lions (31st) should provide some significant relief, but this is a difficult schedule overall, and that could prove to be problematic for Sanders’s bottom line in fantasy scoring.

Bottom Line

When you see a running back averaging 5.3 YPC behind one of the most injured offensive lines in football and with a quarterback switch midway through the year, you know you’re dealing with elite talent at the position. Sanders should benefit from the arrival of Nick Sirriani as head coach, who should be much more run-heavy than Doug Pederson and improved health from the offensive line. In addition, Jalen Hurts’s dual-threat capabilities should open up running lanes for Sanders in the backfield, and on an improved Eagles’ offense, his scoring opportunities should increase. All of this will allow one of the better talents at the running back position to put his capabilities on full display, and he has clear top-ten upside at the RB position for fantasy football.

2021 Fantasy Football Player Outlooks
I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. I've been playing fantasy football for as long as I can remember and am now in far more leagues than any person should take part in. There are few things that give me as much joy and excitement as fantasy football, and I'm excited to share my input with you in your journey towards a championship.

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