NFL Insider Reports Panthers View Miles Sanders as a Three-Down Back: What Does that Mean for His Fantasy Stock?

Carolina RB Miles Sanders is coming off a career year in Philadelphia and will be featured with the Panthers, but is he a fantasy football starter?

Like many of you, I look forward to PFN Insider Adam Caplan’s notebook, and his latest update included some interesting insight into Miles Sanders’ role with the Carolina Panthers — a role that could mean more fantasy football production.

“His position coach, Duce Staley, worked with Sanders during his first two seasons (2019 and 2020) with the Eagles, and sources said Staley and head coach Frank Reich made it known during free agency meetings that the 2019 second-round pick was capable of doing much more in the passing game with his new team.”

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Can Miles Sanders Dominate the Touches in the Panthers’ Backfield?

During his four seasons with the Eagles, Sanders ranked seventh of 27 qualifiers in yards per carry after first contact, a number that tells us what we already know: Sanders is a good NFL running back.

His fantasy football upside, however, has underwhelmed due to his limitations in the passing game after hauling in 50 receptions as a rookie. In 2019, he turned 317 routes into 50 catches and 509 yards. Since then, his 755 routes have resulted in 74 catches and 433 yards.

Do we have a Space Jam situation on our hands where his powers were zapped from him by aliens? It’s possible, but more likely is the idea that the Eagles were looking to maximize a uniquely gifted quarterback in Jalen Hurts by eliminating dump-off passes in favor of designed runs.

Bryce Young is a nice prospect, but he’s not Hurts. I’m of the belief that once you show a skill, you own it, and in that vein, Sanders’ ability to catch the ball is dormant, not absent. Could Young unlock that and prove Sanders to be a bargain at his current RB20 ADP? It’s possible. In fact, it’s very possible. Over the past five seasons…

Completion rate to RBs:

  • NFL average — 76.7%
  • Rookie QBs — 75.3%

Completion rate to WRs:

  • NFL average — 63.3%
  • Rookie QBs — 59.2%

That makes sense, right? Rookie quarterbacks need time to adjust to the speed of the game and the tight windows they are required to throw into. No pass in the NFL is an easy one, but running back targets are low aDOT looks with built-in separation due to them lining up in the backfield.

Case in point? Kenny Pickett completed 55 of 70 (78.6%) passes to Najee Harris/Jaylen Warren, and 92 of 159 (57.9%) passes to Diontae Johnson/George Pickens.

Sanders’ usage is one to watch as the preseason wears on, but Caplan’s report, along with rookie quarterback trends, points to Sanders offering more upside than you’d assume in 2023.

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