Fantasy football: Philadelphia Eagles running back breakdown

Fantasy football: Philadelphia Eagles running back breakdown

Fantasy football player analysis tips and advice

Fantasy football: Philadelphia Eagles running back breakdown


One would be hard-pressed to come up with a team that went through more of a philosophical about-face in 2021 than the Philadelphia Eagles. Through the first seven games, Philly’s game plan seemed to be to put as much on Jalen Hurts’ right arm as possible. To that end, Hurts averaged 35 passing attempts per game over the first seven as the Eagles opened the year 2-5.

After that, the focus shifted 180 degrees to the ground game as Hurts averaged just 24 passes per outing across his final eight with Philadelphia posting a 6-2 mark — Gardner Minshew made two starts down the stretch as well, including a meaningless Week 18 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. When the dust settled, the Eagles had rushed for an NFL-leading 2,715 yards despite not having anyone reach 800 yards on the ground (Hurts led the club with 784 yards and 10 TDs).

Three of the top four backs from last year return; Jordan Howard (86-406-1 in seven games) remains a free agent and appears unlikely to be re-signed, though obviously preseason injuries could change that math in a hurry.

Miles Sanders

In terms of talent, Sanders is the standard-bearer. He has good speed and is a quality receiver out of the backfield, making him one of the focal points of the offense … when healthy. Durability has been a real issue in his young career, however, missing nine games combined over the past two years. In 2020 he suffered a pair of knee sprains, and last season he dealt with a sprained ankle for months and then broke his hand.

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Sanders’ struggles to remain on the field are doubtless a big part of the reason that Philly’s most talented back has rarely been used like a featured player. In 24 games over the last two seasons, Sanders has reached the 20-touch plateau just four times. He’s a little like Green Bay Packers RB Aaron Jones in that way, though Jones consistently reaches the high teens while Sanders had six games with fewer than a dozen opportunities last year. It’s hard to consistently produce when you’re not getting the ball.

Kenneth Gainwell

As a rookie last season, Gainwell logged 101 combined touches for 544 yards and six touchdowns, though his role really dried up over the season’s final two-plus months — only twice during that stretch did he log more than five touches in a game, and one of those was that glorified exhibition in Week 18.

The thinking here is that a full year in the system, combined with his strong receiving skills, should allow him to function as the top passing-down back. Whether he has the size (5-foot-9, 200 pounds) to see an expanded role in case of injury is Sanders is debatable.

Boston Scott

Scott is a stocky back (5-foot-6, 203 pounds) who has shown the ability to find the end zone in his career (13 career TDs on 228 carries) due to his athleticism and deceptive power. He’s a solid receiver as well, though perhaps not on the same level as Sanders or Gainwell.

Scott saw double-digit carries in six of his final seven games last year and projects as the more likely backup in case Sanders gets hurt. He should battle it out with Gainwell for the No. 2 job during training camp.

Fantasy football takeaway

When factoring in an intended increase in passing volume following the addition of wide receiver A.J. Brown, along with potential to lose ground scores to Hurts, this backfield may be more detrimental than beneficial to fantasy lineups many weeks.

Having three backs with similar skill sets makes them interchangeable, which in turn makes it tough to determine the roles they’ll fill — there is currently no one of Howard’s bruising disposition on the depth chart, but someone is like to pick up his nearly 90 touches.

Sanders has RB2 upside, but his low usage and injury history make him better suited as an RB3. Gainwell seems to have a higher weekly ceiling than Scott, but neither player is worth more than late-round consideration as roster depth.


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