When we make decisions in fantasy football on how we want to move forward, it’s always important to look back. In this series, I will be doing just that. I’ll be looking back on players selected in the 2019 NFL Draft and pitting them against a peer selected in the same draft class. First up, we have a battle of the Running Backs, Josh Jacobs Vs Miles Sanders.
Josh Jacobs was taken in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the formerly known Oakland Raiders (now Las Vegas) with pick number 24. He was the highest running back off the board. It wasn’t until round 2 that the next running back was taken off the board. With the 53rd pick of the draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Miles Sanders.
In this article, I compare the seasons of two of the more productive Running Backs of the 2019 draft, their 2020 season outlook and how they may have been impacted by their teams offseason activity thus far.
Tale of the Tape
|Josh Jacobs||Miles Sanders|
|Yards per rushing attempt||4.8||4.6|
|Receptions (targets)||20 (27)||50 (63)|
|Fantasy Points STD/PPR||171.6 / 191.6||168.7 / 218.7|
By analysing the stats, it’s quite easy to see which role each player was able to carve out in their teams’ respective offence.
Josh Jacobs was very much used as the bell cow back in Oakland’s offence. His 242 carries ranked 13th in the league. It is worth noting at this point that Jacobs also only featured in 13 games. Had this been a 16 game season for Jacobs, he was on par for over 290 carries and 1415 rushing yards. This would have placed Jacobs in the top 10 of fantasy Running Backs in standard scoring. An impressive feat for his first season in the league! His 1150 rushing yards ranked 7th highest in the league in 2019. Dive deeper and Jacobs’ stat line is even more impressive given that on 20.25% of his snaps, Jacobs faced 8 defenders stacking the box (this ranked 4th highest % of the top 10 Running Backs).
In comparison, Miles Sanders had a much more varied role in his team’s offence. He shared carries with Jordan Howard up to the Eagles Bye week. Seeing a lot of his work through the air on passing downs. However, Sanders shone following the Bye week (10) and made the starting role his own in Howard’s absence to injury. In the 7 games following the Eagles Bye, Sanders managed 482 rushing yards and 204 receiving yards. Sanders was also able to better his season average during this span of games. Increasing his yards per carry to 4.68 on 103 rushing attempts.
2020 Season Outlook
It’s plain to see that both Running Backs had impressive rookie campaigns. However, dependent on your league settings, you may want to pump for one over the other.
Jacobs rarely featured in Oakland’s passing game in 2019. A role which was often occupied by the ever-elusive Jalen Richard and Deandre Washington. Jacobs hauled in 20 receptions on 27 targets. Which equates to a 23% share of targets for Raiders running backs in 2019. Contrastingly, Sanders was a feature in both his teams rushing and passing offence frequently. His 63 targets (50 receptions) meant he had 55% of the targets among Eagles Running Backs. That’s a huge difference!
Receiving is an area the Raiders have recently been quoted as saying they hope to get Jacobs more involved in this coming season. The messages coming out of Las Vegas are a little mixed, however. The Raiders invested significant draft capital improving their receiver corps. Selecting both Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards in the 2020 draft. In addition to this, the Raiders drafted Lynn Bowden in round 3 with the 80th pick of the draft. Bowden is a hybrid offensive weapon, who can be deployed out of the backfield or as a receiver. This further muddies the waters in Las Vegas, and potentially applies a ceiling to Jacobs Fantasy output, certainly in PPR format, as competition for receptions increases.
In comparison, Sanders appears to have a much clearer path to overall fantasy success in his teams’ offence. Jordan Howard has now departed Philadelphia. Sanders’ only competition comes in the form of Boston Scott (who will be entering his third year) and Corey Clement. Both Backs are likely to see work on passing downs. However, I don’t expect either to take a significant cut out of Sanders’ workload. Especially on the ground. I suspect Sanders will now take the majority of his team’s carries following the departure of Jordan Howard. There was enough sample size in the last 7 games of the 2019 season to prove Sanders can be effective as Philadelphia’s lead back. A fact seemingly echoed by Philadelphia’s 2020 draft. Whereby they completely ignored the Running Back position. Instead of choosing to fill other team needs.
Off the Board
Currently, Jacobs’ ADP in standard leagues is 9.3, whereas Miles Sanders currently sits at massive 25.7! That gives you an opportunity to potentially snag both depending on your draft position, maybe even as late as the third round for Sanders depending on your league size. If you are in a position to grab both, you absolutely should.
PPR leagues still have Jacobs being taken highly, just outside the top 10 with an ADP of 10.8. Sanders closes the gap here at 17.1 in PPR, meaning you may not have a choice of who you draft if it comes to the second round. Both may be off the board early. Jacobs should fall at the end of the first round or the beginning of the second, Sanders shortly thereafter. That said if either falls to you in the second round… BUY, BUY, BUY!
Whether you are playing Dynasty, Redraft or any other league format, this one comes down to the scoring for me. In a standard scoring league, I may have more faith in Josh Jacobs as a bell-cow back. His workload and output last season show that the Raiders have a lot of faith in Jacobs on the ground, and with good reason!
However, if I’m playing PPR, I’m unanimously going for Miles Sanders. The work he will see both on the ground and through the air will sway this match up. Coupled with the fact Philadelphia’s Running Back situation appears as clear as it has been since 2014! Sanders had a whole 27.1 points more than Josh Jacobs in PPR scoring. Given Sanders should see even more work in 2020, this could be a deal-breaker!
I’d love to hear who you guys are drafting, and who you own more shares in! Next time, I will be comparing a couple of the Wide Receivers from the same class. Until next time Rush Nation!
-Nick Owen @nickofwigan