Miles Sanders is very much on the verge of finally having a breakout season in 2021. His rushing totals in 2020 just barely surpassed his 2019 totals (867 to 818) but his receiving output was a disappointment from year 1 to year 2 (50 receptions, 509 yards, 3 touchdowns in 2019; 28 receptions, 197 yards in 2020.) Keep in mind though that he missed 4 games due to injury so it was very likely that he could have matched or even exceeded his rookie numbers. This isn’t just me speaking as an Eagles fan; Sanders truly has breakout potential written all over him for 2021.
In 2020 when he did play, he was a home run threat every time he touched the ball, as evidenced by his 5.3 YPC average. (Three of his biggest runs came against teams that had premiere run defenses: PIT, BAL, and NO). His play was good enough to land him a pro bowl nod but as a high second-round pick in 2019 and evidenced by his play when he was healthy there is reason to believe he can be even better.
His new coach, Nick Sirianni will be leading the Eagles in 2021. Sirianni served as the Colts Offensive Coordinator from 2018-2020. Sirianni employed a two-man runningback rotation, first with Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines for the first two years, and then turned out a rookie-of-the-year caliber season from Wisconsin standout Jonathan Taylor. Sirianni was able to get solid production out of all three players, no matter who was starting or spelling for the other. Strange introductory press conferences notwithstanding, Sirianni offers intrigue for the Eagles RB room in 2021.
Jordan Howard, who was on the Eagles in 2019 will be back in 2021 and figures to be the goal-to-go and short-yardage back for the Eagles but that should not be a reason to shy away from drafting Sanders. Nyheim Hines has posted 63 catch seasons in 2 of 3 years playing under Sirianni as a 3rd down back and receiving specialist. Sanders is much more than a specialist. He has shown ability as a between-the-tackles runner that can get the tough yards when needed. Sanders had mental lapses at times early in 2020, trying to make the big play instead of the correct play but showed better vision and judgment as the season progressed and trusted his linemen more.
The Eagles also added running back Kenneth Gainwell through the 2021 NFL Draft and picked up former second-round pick Kerryon Johnson off waivers after the Detroit Lions cut him last week. While the initial reaction is to panic over their potential impact on Miles Sander’s fantasy value, there is another way to look at this. Miles Sanders has proven that he can be the lead dog in an offense that looks to run the ball this season as Jalen Hurts looks to get some real NFL action this season as the new start for the Eagles. If there’s anyone that should be panicking over these new additions, it’s not Sanders but Jordan Howard and Boston Scott. Howard and Johnson are built nearly the same in size but Johnson is the younger, better pass catcher between the two. Boston Scott may have all but had his fate sealed once the pick came in to bring Kenneth Gainwell to the team as well as his dynamic speed and pass-catching prowess dwarfs Scott, who is also on the final year of his contract with the Eagles.
The Eagles offense will also look vastly different in 2021; Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffery, Jason Peters, Desean Jackson are gone and fan-favorite Zach Ertz could soon follow. This team is starving for playmakers to aid in the growth of second-year starter Jalen Hurts and Sanders is their best one at this time. If Sanders can minimize his minor fumbling problems (4 total, 2 lost) and stay healthy he could wind up being one of the best backs in the league this year, averaging 20-25 touches per game which is plenty for a player of his capability. Due to the heavy talent in the RB pool following last year’s success at the position, I’d look for him to go in drafts towards the middle of the 3rd round as a high-end RB2 with upside. I’m looking forward to watching his growth both as a player and a fan of my hometown team he plays for.
1300-1400 rushing yards (8-10 Touchdowns)
55-65 receptions, 400+ yards (3-5 touchdowns)