Football is less about true skill level and more like real estate: location, location, location.
So let’s look at a couple of young backs who appear to be undervalued despite being 'bell calves', if not bell cows, in two of the most exciting offenses in football led by MVP-candidate QB: Miles Sanders of the Eagles and Devin Singletary of the Bills. They are each playing their age 25 season. They each average well over 4.5 yards per carry for their careers. And they're each dominating snaps: 88% last week for Singletary and 67% for Sanders. For the year, Sanders has 72 of 99 RB carries (72.7%). Singletary has just 34/63 (54%), but is trending towards the RB1; in addition to the snap rate, he had 15 of 18 RB touches (83.3%).
The Bills are the No. 5 scoring offense in football with Josh Allen at the helm and the Eagles are No. 4 with Jalen Hurts.
While Sanders famously didn’t score a TD all of last season, he has three already. He’s been on the field at RB for 10 of 24 plays inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. Singletary has seen 23 of 26 RB snaps in this area of the field. Sanders runs just 16.7% of third- and fourth-down RB routes while Singletary runs most of them (17 of 31).
Two older players — Nick Chubb and Austin Ekeler, each playing their age 27 season (two full years older than Sanders and Singletary) and who are not bell cows -- each have considerably higher future value. Why? Chubb only gets 56% of snaps and no third downs, essentially, and just 13 of 26 RB snaps inside the 10. Ekeler gets 57% and 12 of 22 snaps inside the opponent’s 10. Chubb is all-time in efficiency and, arguably, pure running ability. But Sanders and Singletary are highly efficient runners, too.
What should their future value be? Let’s look at two 25-year-old RBs that should be the the high and low end of the expected future value of Sanders and Singletary: Saquon Barkley and Tony Pollard.
It’s fair to say that Singletary and Sanders will have snap and touch rates (and thus stats) somewhere in between those two for the foreseeable future.
Barkley’s future value is $11.82. Pollard’s is $7.08. If we put Sanders and Singletary right between the two (remember Pollard will have Ezekiel Elliott to deal with for at least another season and probably two), that’s $9.45. If this is where Singletary and Sanders land, that’s a projected 44% return for Singletary and 30% for Sanders. And Sanders and Singletary are in better offenses with younger and arguably better QBs (not even debatable in Barkley's case but somewhat debatable for Pollard's).