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Buy Low Target: The Case for Miles Sanders

Miles Sanders
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders in action during an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Philadelphia Eagles have been stockpiling running backs this offseason. This is one of the reasons the dynasty community is currently down on the team’s lead running back, Miles Sanders. On the surface, the Eagles depth chart behind Sanders has changed considerably since 2020. Philly spent a fifth round pick on Kenny Gainwell, a 2020 opt-out from Memphis. Two weeks later they claimed Kerryon Johnson off waivers after his fateful end with Lions. The Eagles also brought back Jordan Howard, and still has Boston Scott, 2020’s primary backup to Sanders. Scott is likely to see his backup role decreased while staying heavily involved in special teams in 2021. The team is excited to use Gainwell, particularly inthird down situations. Johnson and Howard will likely be battling for the fourth RB spot with the remaining one joining the practice squad.

These acquisitions to the running back room, as well as Sanders injury plagued season (to himself and his offensive line), has pushed Sanders dynasty rank down over the past couple of months. According to Dynasty League Football’s startup rankings, Sanders value has dipped, and he is now an optimal target to buy low. In Superflex leagues (Chart 1), Sanders peaked in December 2020 as the 21st ranked player across all positions. Today, he’s 37th. In 1QB leagues (chart 2), Sanders peak was the 17th ranked player and is now at 31.

Chart 1: Miles Sanders Dynasty Super-flex Ranking History

Chart 2: Miles Sanders Dynasty 1QB Ranking History

Okay, these are just rankings, does that mean the community is down on him, or just the experts? The ADP data tells the same story. In July 2020, Sanders was being drafted as the 7th overall running back in dynasty startups. By the draft this year, Sanders was down to RB 15. Post draft, he’s barely a top 20 RB, sitting at number 19.

Chart 3: Miles Sanders Running Back Dynasty ADP

The Eagles are a very different team going into 2021 than they were in 2020 and year’s past. Doug Pederson is out at head coach, and Nick Sirianni is in. Most if not all of the coaching staff has been turned over, including Eagles running back coach Duce Staley. The new head coach, Sirianni, hails from Indianapolis where he served as the team’s offensive coordinator. Under Sirianni, the Colts offense ran the ball a lot. In 2020 they were top ten in team running percentage. In 2019, the Colts were top five. The Colts commitment to running the rock translated to fantasy success for multiple running backs. In 2020, Jonathan Taylor finished his rookie campaign as PPR RB6 for the year (weeks 1-17) while playing in 15 games. Nyheim Hines, the team’s change of pace and passing down back, finished as RB15.

Bolstered running back depth

The Eagles bolstered their running back depth for several reasons. One of those reasons is the number two RB spot on the depth chart. Boston Scott at 5’6’’ is a specialist, not a primary ball carrier. The team needed an upgrade and likely have that in Kenny Gainwell. Additionally, the Eagles are going to run the ball more under Sirianni than they did in previous seasons under Pederson.

Pederson was not a coach that was committed to the run, nor was he committed to using Sanders effectively and consistently. The 2021 Eagles are going to have more running plays to go around than the previous regime called, and that is going to mean more opportunities for Sanders, as well as Gainwell, Scott, and either Johnson or Howard. Lastly, the team is expected to have a healthy (yet aging) offensive line that will bolster the team’s running game heading into the new season.

In conclusion

Miles Sanders is being treated as a mid to low end RB2 currently, and his ADP and ranking values may continue to fall. He is more than capable of putting up a top 12 RB season in 2021. As a rookie, Sanders nearly finished as an RB1, ending 2019 as RB15. 2020 was a down year for Sanders due to 4 games missed to injury, Carson Wentz woes, and a depleted offensive line.

2021 looks bright for Sanders as he should have more opportunities per game under the new run heavy coaching staff. Sanders is a damn good running back, scoring more fantasy points per touch in 2020 than Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones, Jonathan Taylor, and Nick Chubb. If Sanders usage sees an increase in 2021, I fully expect to see him finish as a top 12 running back. He’s still only 24 and should be a reliable RB for several years.

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