“Don’t take me into fantasy anymore; I really don’t care.” Those were the exact words spoken by Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders in a late June interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark.
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The statement, unsurprisingly, sent the fantasy football community into a frenzy. Many people took his comment as fantastic advice, others considered how the offense might perform in 2022, and some simply filed him for draft day.
So why did Miles Sanders say not to recruit him in fantasy football? Who are his running mates in the Philadelphia backfield? Are any of them worth writing? Let’s dive in.
Why did Miles Sanders say not to draft him for Fantasy Football?
Although Sanders’ comments turned heads in the fantasy community, it wasn’t malicious. Instead, he offered a solution to fantasy managers upset with his inconsistent role in the offense. He said, “You’re going to keep getting two or three points if that’s how our offense is.”
It’s certainly been an inconsistent year for Sanders in the Philadelphia backfield. The Penn State product had the worst season of his career, totaling just 754 rushing yards and 158 receiving yards in 12 games. He never found the end zone. Sanders recorded three games with fantastic double-digit points last season, and one of them barely qualified as such: a 10.1-point finish in Week 5. He didn’t appeared only twice on the field for more than two-thirds of the Eagles offense. snaps into place. Ultimately, he finished the year as RB44.
Sanders didn’t play in an offense with too many mouths to feed, and he certainly didn’t end up in a highly competitive backfield. So why did his production falter last season and will he get back on track this year? Let’s take a look at the weapons that surrounded Sanders in 2021, then compare them to the roster the Eagles will deploy in 2022.
Who are Miles Sanders’ running mate?
Quarterback Jalen Hurts actually led the Eagles’ rushing offense in 2021, rushing for 784 yards. He finished just 30 yards ahead of Sanders but 378 yards ahead of third-busiest running back Jordan Howard, who scored three touchdowns but didn’t consider passing play.
While Howard played in less than half of the Eagles’ games, players like Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott were on the roster all season. In his rookie year, Gainwell had 291 rushing yards, 253 receiving yards and six total touchdowns. Obviously, he was more involved in the passing game than Sanders, and he also received bigger opportunities near the end zone. Scott also played a part, rushing for 373 yards while leading the running back room with seven touchdowns.
Howard is gone, but Hurts, Gainwell and Scott remain active members of the Eagles’ offense in 2022. All three (plus Sanders) have a chance to carve out a major workload this season, but Gainwell’s stock is most likely to trend higher given his young age (23) and impressive ability both on the ground and in passing attack. Gainwell’s versatility will earn him more playing time on Sanders and Scott, especially on lows where fantasy points are up for grabs.
Not only is Sanders’ value affected by the running back room, but the Eagles’ wide receiver corps could dictate how Sanders behaves in 2022. Last season, Hurts threw for 3,144 yards and just 16 touchdowns. He used his arm to get downfield, but once the Eagles were positioned in the red zone, he preferred to run the ball himself or put it back instead of passing. The Eagles’ poor wide receiver group likely factored into that passing approach. Philadelphia had Dallas Goedert as their big-body tight end, but the rest of the squad left a lot to be desired.
Rookie DeVonta Smith had just eight red zone targets, which ranked 59th among NFL receivers. Overall, the Eagles ranked 23rd in red-zone targets (58) and 20th in red-zone receptions (38). It proves that Philadelphia threw the ball in the red zone well below the league median (73.5 targets), relying instead on rushing offense to find money. The result? Still zero touchdowns for Sanders and just 15 for the backfield as a whole.
Heading into 2022, the Eagles’ red-zone splits won’t be as favorable for running backs. Hurts are expected to throw the ball more and the team has added big AJ Brown to the receiving body. The former Tennessee Titans wide receiver had 11 red-zone targets and three red-zone touchdowns last year. The injured will have a lot more opportunities to throw the ball near the end zone this coming year, which doesn’t bode well for any of the running backs, especially Sanders and Scott.
Facing increased competition and unfavorable use of the red zone, Sanders’ fantasy stock is unlikely to be any better in 2022 than last year.
Which Eagles running backs should I draft?
Sanders is currently drafted at an 87 ADP, making him the 31st running back on the board. In theory this means he should have a medium to low RB3/FLEX value every week. Although he didn’t even reach that level of production in 2021, he finished as RB24 in 2020 and RB14 in 2019, so he’s used to delivering solid value in the lineups.
He is also entering a contract year and is fully healthy after missing nine games over the past two seasons. Both of these factors bode well for Sanders continuing a positive regression toward fantasy relevance in 2022, whether he likes it or not. It’s worth writing at its current price, but fantasy managers should recognize that it can’t guarantee legitimate fantasy points every week.
Gainwell enters the fantasy draft season with an ADP of 128, which equates to RB46. He’s certainly on the rise and offers promise in the passing game, but it’s still hard to trust him as the fourth-best running back on your list. His current ADP has drafted him ahead of intriguing names like Tyler Allgeier, James Robinson and Ronald Jones. He is also drafted 25 spots before fellow NFC East returns, JD McKissic. If you’ve established a strong core running back in the early rounds of your draft, you can try swinging for a home run with Gainwell at his current price. Otherwise, it is a little too expensive at the moment.
The final piece of the puzzle is Scott, who has an ADP of 271 (RB76). Assuming you still have roster spots available at this point in the draft, this is a good option, especially if you picked Sanders earlier. He offers no pace in the passing game, but certainly showed a knack for physical running and finding the end zone last season. Scott is a fine bench reserve in the deep leagues and is being drafted around players with similar stocks, such as Chuba Hubbard, Rex Burkhead, Mike Davis, Jeff Wilson and Samaje Perine.
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