The Philadelphia Eagles’ running game has been dominated not by a running back but by second-year QB Jalen Hurts. The question on many fantasy football managers minds is, “Are any Philadelphia RBs startable?” Ahead of Thursday night’s showdown against Tampa Bay, let’s weigh Miles Sanders’ chances of breaking through for your fantasy lineup.
Miles Sanders and the Eagles Fantasy Running Backs: An illustrious history
Philadelphia has long been a place where NFL running backs go to thrive. Brian Westbrook amassed five straight RB1 seasons from 2004 to 2008. As his career started winding down in 2009, LeSean McCoy’s was kicking off. McCoy enjoyed two consecutive top-two finishes in 2010 and 2011, was No. 7 in points per game in 2012, and then resumed his RB1 ways in 2013 and 2014.
In 2015, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Matthews, and Darren Sproles combined for 2,414 total yards, led by Murray’s RB2 output. This marked a new phase in the fantasy impact of Eagles RBs.
No longer trusted bell cows, they were now situational streamers. Any of two or three or even four running backs could step up one week and produce for fantasy managers. While Miles Sanders was the first Philly RB to climb back into the RB2 sphere in 2019, his 13.7 points per game made him only marginally better than a streamer.
Should you start Sanders in Week 6?
After another RB2 campaign last year, Sanders entered the 2021 season as somewhat of an enigma. Could he earn enough touches to reach the RB1 plateau? Or would he suffer the same fate as so many other Philadelphia backs these past few years, earning inconsistent touches and only sporadic fantasy startability?
On some metrics, Sanders appears sound. His 4.5 yards per carry are quite respectable, and a lack of touchdowns is not necessarily indicative of a prolonged drought. He’s also on pace for a healthy 54 receptions. Essentially, he looks the part of a bell-cow back.
But his touches are lacking, as he’s on pace for only 218. He’s also losing out at the goal line, with Hurts having scored on two 1-yard runs and two 3-yard passes. Sanders also has taken a backseat at times to rookie Kenneth Gainwell, who’s scored twice inside the 8-yard line.
Making matters worse for Thursday night’s contest, the opposing Bucs are yielding a league-leading 2.9 yards per carry and only 1 rushing touchdown. At his best, Sanders might net 10+ points in yards and receptions and a decent chance at a touchdown. But that’s a lot to ask for as a fantasy manager. He has fewer fantasy points than RB handcuffs like Alexander Mattison and Tony Pollard, and he’s less than a point ahead of Gainwell.
Don’t start Sanders thinking he’s a sure bet for RB3+ numbers. He’ll probably need 5+ receptions to crack the top 40 and a touchdown to reach the top 30. The odds are not in his favor.