Fantasy football drafts are happening all across the world, and Miles Sanders and Josh Jacobs are two of the first players off the board. Both second-year running backs seemingly have complete control of their backfield and should be among the top players at their position. However, if given a choice between the two, fantasy owners should target Sanders.
Note: This article assumes PPR scoring
Draft Miles Sanders Over Josh Jacobs in Fantasy Football
Rushing Volume/Offensive Prowess
Is Miles Sanders a better NFL running back than Josh Jacobs? Probably not. Josh Jacobs looked like one of the best running backs in football last year, while Sanders looked like a good-but-not-great talent. However, talent only gets you so far in fantasy football. The most important thing for fantasy, especially in the case of running backs, is situation.
Both players have complete control of their backfield, at least for early-down work. Jacobs missed three games last year and still managed to outpace the next-closest runner by 134 carries. The team allowed DeAndre Washington to walk in free agency, and there’s no reason to think Jacobs won’t hit at least 250 carries.
Sanders started his career backing up Jordan Howard but earned a three-down role late in the season. The Eagles lost Howard in the offseason and didn’t replace him, so Sanders should lead the team in carries.
From a rushing workload perspective, both players should receive a similar volume. However, not all carries are created equal. Running backs in high-scoring offenses tend to have better fantasy finishes, as there are more scoring opportunities to go around. Sanders should have the edge here, as Carson Wentz and company should have more scoring opportunities than Derek Carr and the Raiders.
Josh Jacobs and Miles Sanders are both talented pass-catchers that have the ability to make a real difference in the receiving game. However, that ability only matters if the coaching staff is willing to use it. Right now, it looks like Sanders will be a major part of the passing game, while Jacobs will be relegated strictly to rushing work.
Sanders saw his role increase over six of the final seven games of the season (Philadelphia rested him early in Week 17 once it was clear they secured a playoff spot). During that stretch, Sanders was on pace for 67 receptions for 547 yards and five touchdowns on 83 targets. This type of passing volume is invaluable for fantasy, and that usage should continue into 2020. The Eagles are already without Jalen Reagor, Alshon Jeffery, and Marquise Goodwin for the start of the season, and somebody needs to catch the ball.
Jacobs, meanwhile, recorded just 20 receptions for 166 yards during his first year in the NFL. Based on the Raiders’ offseason moves, it’s hard to project a major increase to his target share.
Las Vegas re-signed pass-catching specialist Jalen Richard and added fellow pass-catchers Devontae Booker and Theo Riddick. As if that wasn’t enough, the Raiders also drafted Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, and Leigh Bodden with three of their first four picks. Bodden in particular is bad news for Jacobs, as he is essentially a running back in a wide receivers’ body.
Based on personnel usage, all signs point towards Sanders having a much bigger role in the passing game.
Miles Sanders, Josh Jacobs Health
The most important ability in both fantasy and real football is availability. Josh Jacobs has been the picture of health throughout the offseason and has no injury questions heading into Week 1. The same cannot be said for Sanders, as the former second-round pick is reportedly battling a hamstring injury.
However, all signs point towards Sanders being a full-go for Week 1. Eagles beat reporters expect Sanders to be ready for the start of the season, and Philadelphia’s recent roster moves back up that report. The Eagles recently released running backs Elijah Holyfield, Adrian Killins, and Michael Warren. This leaves Philadelphia with just three running backs on the roster, and they wouldn’t do this if they weren’t positive that Sanders would be ready to go in Week 1.
Miles Sanders and Josh Jacobs should both have productive fantasy football seasons. However, Sanders is in the better offense and should have a higher target share. This makes him the better fantasy option and an easy pick at the end of the first round.
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