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Miles Sanders 2023 Fantasy Football Outlook

Miles Sanders - Fantasy Football Rankings, Injury News, NFL DFS Lineup Picks

Miles Sanders put together the best season of his career last year in Philadelphia and just at the right time. After having struggled to stay healthy the first three years of his career and largely leaving a "what if..." question in their head while watching Sanders play, he finally put it all together in 2023. He stayed healthy and after never having rushed for over 900 yards in any session prior, finished the 2022 season with over 1,250 yards. However, the statistic that is currently impacting Sanders' fantasy value the most right now is his touchdowns. After scoring 12 total touchdowns in his first three seasons, he scored 11 last year. Don't think for a second that isn't going to impact his 2023 ADP.

Previous Fantasy Football outlook articles based on some of the biggest NFL free agency moves this offseason

While Sanders having the best season of his career did allow him to cash in, it's fair to wonder just how much the change in locale will affect his effectiveness and his fantasy value. We'll be looking at what fantasy managers can expect from Sanders this year in Carolina and how leaving Philadelphia is going to affect his fantasy value.

Be sure to also check our other Week 14 fantasy football waiver wire pickups articles:


Who is Miles Sanders and What Does He Bring?

Miles Sanders spent the first four years of his career in Philadelphia and for the most part, it was an up-and-down experience, with more downs than ups. However, it all came together in 2022.

As a rookie, Sanders came in and had to compete with Jay Ajayi and Jordan Howard, but that didn't stop him from making an immediate impact. He finished his rookie season with 1,327 scrimmage yards on 227 touches. For his fantasy football value, he showed true three-down potential. He finished with 63 targets, 50 receptions, and 509 receiving yards. It was a tremendous rookie season, one that saw him average 12.1 half-PPR PPG and finished as the RB20. He averaged 5.8 yards per touch that season, which ranked seventh among running backs.

Going into the 2020 season, the sky was the limit. There were expectations he could ascend to RB1 status and after the rookie season he had, those expectations were justified. He looked electric as a rookie and showed a true three-down skill set, finishing 13th in targets, 12th in receptions, and 7th in receiving yards despite having a snap share hardly over 50%. Unfortunately, for Sanders and his fantasy managers who believed, the wheels came off in his second and third seasons a bit.

He missed four games in his second season and finished with 1,064 scrimmage yards in just 12 games. Surprisingly, his second season was the best fantasy season of his career. He averaged 13.0 half-PPR PPG. Last year, he averaged 12.2 over the full season and 12.7 if we eliminate Week 18. Still, plenty of red flags began to surface. After catching almost 80% of his targets as a rookie, that rate fell below 54%. That large drop in effectiveness resulted in a role change by year three.

His seasonal target totals dropped from 63 to 52 to 34 and finally to the 26 we saw last season. Ladies and gentlemen, we are moving in the right direction, but it isn’t just his target total that’s been going down. His receptions have gone from 50 to 28 to 26 to 20. His receiving yards have gone from 509 to 197 to 158 to 78. His YPR has gone from 10.2 to 7.0 to 6.1 to 3.9. In three straight seasons, every single one his receiving stats have gotten worse and worse and worse.

It should also be noted that his decrease in receiving stats in three straight seasons in just about every meaningful receiving stat has come under two different coaching staffs (Doug Pederson and Nick Sirianni) and two different QBs (Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts). That’s incredibly concerning.

His 26 targets in 2022 ranked just 45th among running backs, a dangerously low place to be for a valuable fantasy football running back. That's actually 11 fewer targets than Nick Chubb and 15 fewer than Derrick Henry. Down in this range, he needs to be an incredibly efficient rusher and he needs to find the end zone with regularity if he's to maintain his fantasy football value. Is that something fantasy managers can expect in Carolina?


Philadelphia vs Carolina

When it comes to running backs, the strength of their team can have a big impact on their fantasy scoring. Typically, the running backs we see who can overcome their team's dreadfulness are the ones who catch a lot of passes. We've seen this with D'Andre Swift and Christian McCaffrey in recent seasons. Even Josh Jacobs last year caught 53 passes last year. Running backs who do not catch passes and play for bad teams with low touchdown potential have historically been very bad bets. Is that where Sanders finds himself in 2023?

Unfortunately, for Sanders, it looks as though he does. The differences between Carolina and Philadelphia are substantial and to pretend that won't have a negative effect on Sanders' fantasy value would be unwise.

Last year, the Panthers' averaged 2.8 yards before contact. The Eagles averaged 3.3 yards before contact. Sanders' himself averaged 3.2 yards before contact per attempt and D'Onta Foreman, the Panthers' leading rusher from 2022, averaged 2.5 yards before contact per attempt. That's over half a yard less, with each attempt, that his offensive line will be providing to him in Carolina.

He finished the 2022 season with 259 carries and 1,269 yards. However, if he averaged 2.5 yards before contact per attempt like Foreman did, as opposed to his 3.2 average in Philadelphia, that equals 181 yards or 18.1 fantasy points. That's fairly significant and we haven't even gotten to the concerns about the dip in touchdown scoring.

Last year, the Panthers finished 20th in scoring and 29th in yards. They averaged 20.4 points and 306.2 yards per game. The Eagles, however, were third in both categories and averaged 28.0 points and 389.0 yards per game. That difference for a player who scored 32% of his fantasy points via touchdown is significant and it paints a concerning picture for those wanting to invest in the new Panthers' running back.

Because Jalen Hurts was such a force around the goal line, I looked at the rushing stats from each team compiled by only running backs. No Laviska Shenault. No Jalen Hurts. After completing this, I found the Eagles' running backs scored a touchdown on every 20.4 carries. Sanders himself scored a touchdown on every 23.5 carries. Meanwhile, the Panthers' running backs scored a touchdown every 34.5 carries. To emphasize the difference here, had he scored every 34.5 carries as opposed to the 23.5 carries he did score at, he would've finished with 7.5 touchdowns as opposed to 11. That's a difference of 21 fantasy points.

If you combine that with the 18.1 points he would've lost based on the difference before his yard before contact per attempt average vs the Panthers' running backs and all of a sudden you have 39 points or 2.3 points per game. This certainly amplifies the concern for Sanders going from a top-five offense to one that is likely to struggle in 2022, even with the likely draft selection of rookie quarterback, Bryce Young.

Last year, according to PFF, the Eagles' offensive line graded out as the No. 1 unit in the NFL. The Panthers were at 15th. For a running back who scored just 1.04 half-PPR points per game from his involvement in the passing game the decline in rushing efficiency and touchdown scoring could prove to be very significant.

Over the past three years, Sanders has averaged just 2.7 targets, 1.8 receptions, and 10.5 receiving yards per game. That's approximately 2.4 half-PPR points per game. Last year, he averaged 1.5 targets, 1.2 receptions, and 4.6 receiving yards per game. At this time, his rookie season's receiving stats look like a clear and obvious outlier. Over the past three years, he's scored 467.3 half-PPR points. 80.3 of those points came from receiving, just 17%. Last year, just 8.5% of his points came from receiving. The alarm bells sound be blasting out loud and clear.


Final 2023 Outlook

To say that fantasy managers should be cautious when drafting Miles Sanders is an understatement. He currently finds himself in what has become to be known as the dead zone for running backs. Sanders is a great example of why this area is a dead zone for running backs. When you look at the other running backs around him – Dameon Pierce, JK Dobbins, Javonte Williams, Cam Akers, David Montgomery, and Isiah Pacheco – one thing they all have in common, is concerns around their involvement in the passing game.

There's virtually no chance his involvement improves in 2023 either. The Panthers running backs, which includes the six games McCaffrey was in Carolina, finished with just 81 targets. The entire running back group finished with a 17% target share. After CMC was traded, that dropped to 13.6%. They had 37 targets from Weeks 7–18 out of 272 targets. That's a huge red flag.

Fantasy managers should be expecting a pretty similar workload from Sanders in 2023 compared to the one he had last year. That would give Sanders roughly 260 carries, 30 targets, and 23 receptions. The problem for him is going to be the dip in efficiency. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry and 3.3 yards before contact per attempt. His true yards per carry average was 4.7. D'Onta Foreman averaged 4.5 yards per carry. 2.5 yards before contact per attempt, and had 4.2 true yards per carry.

Foreman actually bested Sanders in yards created per touch (1.86 vs 2.43). Sanders' juke rate, according to PlayerProfiler was also worse than Foreman's (22.9% vs 25.0%). Sanders broke a tackle every 19.9 attempts and Foreman was at 20.3 attempts. What this shows us is that Foreman was a slightly more effective runner on his own.

If Sanders has 260 carries, instead of the 1,270 yards he had in Philadelphia, fantasy managers should be expecting something closer to 1,150. With 30 targets, fantasy managers should expect about 23 receptions for 135 yards, which is using his 2020–2022 yard-per-reception average. Foreman scored a touchdown on every 41 carries compared to Sanders' 23.5. Carolina's running backs as a group scored at a slightly better rate than Foreman. If we give Sanders 260 carries, if he scores every 35th carry, he'd finish with seven touchdowns.

This gives us a final stat line of 1,285 scrimmage yards, 23 receptions, and 7 touchdowns. This would result in 182 half-PPR points and a 10.7 PPG average. That PPG average would've finished as the RB26 in half-PPR scoring last year. In 2021, it would've been RB27. His current ADP is right around the RB20 range.

Right now, fantasy managers should have virtually no interest in Sanders at his current price. If his ADP drops to the RB2/3 range, now it becomes more of an option if you're a true believer in Bryce Young, which is more than fair. However, at RB20 fantasy managers are being forced to draft him at his realistic ceiling in Carolina and there's no room for upside at that cost.

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