There has been a lot of debate regarding the draft status of Miles Sanders in 2020 fantasy football drafts. I have seen him ranked as the third-highest running back. In contrast, others express hesitation due to Doug Pederson’s unwillingness to give the bulk of the opportunity to one RB, as well as his injury history. So, where should you feel comfortable drafting Sanders this year? Let’s dive in and find out.
How early is too early to draft Miles Sanders in 2020 fantasy drafts?
For full disclosure, I have taken Sanders as high as third overall in fantasy football drafts this summer, and I’m aware that is well above consensus. According to Flea Flicker’s average draft position (ADP) data, Sanders is the RB13 (12.5 overall) in 0.5 points per reception (PPR) leagues, RB9 (9.8 overall) in full PPR formats, and RB9 (8.5 overall) in Best Ball leagues.
On average, he is going in the second half of the first round. Due to the importance of getting a top-flight RB in the first few rounds, I have no problem taking Sanders anywhere around that range. However, there is some risk involved, considering he is currently nursing a hamstring injury. Sanders will start Week 1, and while it isn’t believed to be severe, you would rather him not have an injury before the season begins.
That said, I believe he has the highest projected snap share of the RB’s in that range and should also be in line for the most targets among those RB’s. Targets are worth nearly three times as much as a carry, so while players like Josh Jacobs and Nick Chubb should see more carries than Sanders, their target projections don’t stack up.
As for the snap share, I am not concerned with Boston Scott and Corey Clement taking meaningful snaps away from Sanders, regardless of Pederson’s history managing his backfield. I’ll go into more detail regarding his snap share and targets below, but if you’re drafting in the back half of the first round and aren’t scared of the hamstring injury, fire away at Sanders as your RB1. I also support any bold drafters who want to take him in the first half of the first round, just not over Christian McCaffrey.
Will Doug Pederson’s running back by committee (RBBC) approach affect Sanders 2020 fantasy stock?
Some fantasy players choose to rely on coach-centric analysis as the basis for their decisions. While I am not naive enough to believe coaches play no role in what players receive the most opportunities, I also do not subscribe to the idea of “position X has always done well in coach Y’s offenses.” I believe that coaches, for the most part, look to get their best players the ball.
From 2016-2018, no RB received more than a 45% snap share (Darren Sproles 2016) in Pederson’s offenses. It is true to say Pederson has never opted to use a “bell cow” back. However, I also believe it to be true that Pederson has never had an RB good enough to be used as an every-down player.
I think Sanders is easily the best RB Pederson has ever had on his team. While he commanded just a 52.66% snap share in 2019, Sanders ran away with the job following the team’s Week 10 bye, where he saw 71% of the offensive snaps. Jordan Howard suffered an injury during their Week 9 game against the Chicago Bears, which opened the door for Sanders to receive a larger role on offense. If you take out the Week 17 game where he left early with an injury, that figure increases to 77%.
For context, those figures would have been the eighth-most and sixth-most amongst RB’s in 2019, respectively. Nick Chubb, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, Aaron Jones, and Joe Mixon all fell below a 71% snap share on the season.
I realize all of those RBs had different circumstances to deal with, but the point remains that Sanders is a favorite to be one of the few RB’s to approach an 80% snap share on the year, as long as he is healthy. Sanders’ Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.49 trumps Clement’s score of 1.74 and is higher than Scott’s 8.87. Once Howard suffered his injury in Week 9, neither Clement nor Scott could take Sanders off the field, for the most part.
I do like Scott as a late-round RB target or handcuff to Sanders, but I don’t expect him to receive any more than the 31% snap share he saw after Howard’s injury. The fact that the Eagles did not draft anyone of note or sign any free agents makes me believe they have full faith in Sanders as an every-down RB. Sanders will dominate this backfield.
How does Sanders projected opportunities stack up to other first-round RB’s in 2020?
If we go off of the sample size of when Howard was injured, Sanders projects to see one of the better workloads in 2020. From Week 10 on, Sanders saw 14.7 carries and 4.42 targets per game, which equated to 18.7 touches per game. Those 4.42 targets resulted in a 12% target share, which would’ve been the ninth-highest mark in the league over a full season.
Part of the reason he had an elevated target share was that the Eagles had suffered an excessive amount of injuries to their wide receiver corps. That said, they don’t look that deep at WR entering 2020. I like Jalen Reagor as a prospect, but he is only a rookie and is already hurt. A 12% target share for an above-average receiving back is a very reasonable projection.
For reference, Dalvin Cook saw 17.8 carries and 4.5 targets (15% target share), which amounted to 21.6 touches per game. Cook is a great pick, but Sanders isn’t that far behind.
Final thoughts on Miles Sanders 2020 fantasy outlook
Sanders dominated the Eagles backfield once Howard suffered an injury, received an impressive 12% target share, and the Eagles brought in no one of note to compete with him in 2020.
All of the above reasons are why I am drafting Sanders with full confidence in 2020. If the hamstring injury bothers you, I understand. However, he will be ready for Week 1, which is all we can ask for before the season starts. Given that projection, I would draft him with the utmost confidence.