by Alec Chapman
If you haven’t heard, Miles Sanders is an extremely underrated talent… and he’s about to show out in 2020.
Despite his promising career thus far, the 23-year-old Pittsburgh native has yet to draw too much attention to himself, likely because he fell to the late-second round of last year’s draft and because he played behind Jordan Howard (still an unfathomable concept) for half of the 2019 season. Similarly, Sanders was never used to his full potential at Penn State; he spent his first two years overshadowed by the generational Saquon Barkley and as a result he only started to thrive during his third season. Even then, he was held back as he wasn’t used to his full potential, securing only one receiving touchdown and 30 receptions in his three-year stint. On the Eagles, though, Sanders is set to be a star.
At 5’11” and 211 pounds, Sanders lacks the powerful build of a Derrick Henry-esque back. But so what if he can’t just put his shoulder down and run through a team? That’s not where his game is. Instead, Sanders can leap over them. He relies on his versatility and natural athleticism, demonstrating a game that in many ways mirrors that of premier duel-threat backs Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey. He’s smart, too. Sanders has excellent vision with allows him to recognize the defense and explode through gaps into the open field, allowing his speed to really come to life. As he comes to evolve, we should expect to see some exciting results in Philly.
Last season, Sanders may have slipped under your radar. Despite a few outstanding performances, the Eagles’ rookie back posted respectable, but very underwhelming numbers . He totaled 818 rushing and 509 receiving yards (with three touchdowns from each) while averaging 13.7 FPPG in PPR leagues despite an incredibly frustrating RBBC approach by Doug Pederson. This RBBC kept Sanders from reaching his peak and led to some frustrating performances. Despite his volatility, he finished as the RB15 and should be primed for stardom in the coming years.
In his breakout games, Sanders showcased his ability to be a premier duel-threat back. Following Howard’s injury, Sanders was one of only eight backs to average more than 5 yards-per-carry, and one of only two (the other being Aaron Jones) to do this while racking up significant receiving yards. Additionally, he was one of just six players to accumulate 500 yards both on the ground and through the air. While his fantasy numbers only show one side of the story, know that he demonstrated some serious potential for stardom.
Last season, Sanders was held back by the RBBC approach. With Jordan Howard finding a a new home in South Florida, Darren Sproles finally deciding he was ready to retire, and Boston Scott’s unconvincing numbers having cemented him as a depth piece, Sanders sits alone atop the Eagles’ RB depth chart . In addition, the Eagles had ten draft picks this year, none of which they utilized to add another back, further promoting the notion that Sanders is their guy moving forward and setting the stage for him to have a breakout season despite some free agent rumblings.
Doug Pederson will be an interesting person to have pulling the strings, as well. Pederson is familiar with talented backs, having coached players such asLeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, and Darren Sproles, three guys who have similarly flashed an ability to thrive as both rushers and receivers. All of those players had the ability to create yardage by themself, a trait that Sanders also possessed (345 yards created in 2019 alone despite a 53.7% snap share). This, combined with the eighth easiest schedule in the league, should give Miles Sanders the opportunity he needs to become a fantasy football stud.
I’d take Miles Sanders as early as the second round, and expect him to shine quickly (the Eagles play the Redskins in their season opener). He may not be the most underrated running back in the league, but he’s close. At the very least, Sanders is a high upside RB2. If he fulfills his potential, you’re looking at a stud that can carry your team to a fantasy football championship.