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Darren Sproles has been traded from the New Orleans Saints and to the Philadelphia Eagles, and now the little engine that could joins an already dynamic offense that could not only bolster his fantasy stock but that of his quarterback.
Sproles has been the league’s premier pass-catching running back since teaming up with Drew Brees in the Big Easy three years ago, accumulating 1,067 rushing yards, 1,981 receiving yards, and 21 total touchdowns donning the Black and Gold. In 2011, he set a single-season record for all-purpose yardage with 2,696.
Two years removed from his record-setting campaign, Sproles played in about one-third of the Saints’ offensive snaps last season, still leading to 71 receptions for 604 receiving yards and four touchdowns, the third consecutive year in which he had 70+ catches. In addition, Sproles still contributed as a return specialist. Now, that productivity is being shifted to the City of Brotherly Love where Chip Kelly is waiting for his new weapon with a grin from ear to ear.
Not only should Eagles fans be excited about the addition of Sproles, so should fantasy owners.
Sproles has been a pretty steady flex option since relocating to New Orleans, and that should not change as he swaps his jersey for Eagles green. More importantly, though, his presence on third-downs and passing situations makes him all the more attractive in PPR leagues and as a RB3.
His role on the league’s No. 2-ranked offense should improve the stock of quarterback Nick Foles as he enters his second year as the starter. In 13 games last season, Foles threw for 2,891 yards and 27 touchdowns. Factor in three more starts and he’s a 30-touchdown, 3,000-yard quarterback in 2014. Foles often found LeSean McCoy out of the backfield, and the playmaker that Shady is was able to move the chains. Sproles’ main role will to be that pass-catching back, and with the Saints he proved to be a threat to break the play open every time the ball is in his hands.
A headache for defensive coordinators, Sproles has averaged better than 8.0 yards per reception each of the past three years, including a 8.5 yards per catch mark in 2013. It’s actually a little bit less than McCoy’s average (10.4), which in 2013 was a career-high mark after averaging 7.2 yards per reception during his first four seasons. With Sproles and McCoy interchangeable in passing situations, Foles is the benefactor because the offense should not miss a beat when McCoy goes to the sidelines.
In terms of rushing, don’t expect Sproles to cut into the workload of McCoy too much. Shady led the league with 366 touches last season, but it is expected Kelly would want to tone that down a bit. Sproles will get a handoff here and there, but he’s not a threat to get more than 10 attempts per game.
Here’s Pro Football Focus’ projection for Sproles in Philly, which reflects a drop-off in both receptions and yardage.
59-263-2, 48-421-2 is the initial Darren Sproles projection. #Eagles
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) March 13, 2014
Sproles can also line up in the slot, which was more of a need in Philadelphia last season with Jeremy Maclin injured. It does give Kelly the ability to go four or potentially five wide, with Sproles, Maclin, Riley Cooper, and DeSean Jackson at wideout and McCoy in the backfield. Scary, I know.
As for the Saints: Sproles is now out of the loop, and taking his place with New Orleans will likely be Pierre Thomas. The veteran re-upped with the Saints for two more years, and last season Thomas had a career year as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. He is not nearly the dynamic threat that Sproles is, but with ground-and-pound style backs in Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson the other options, coach Sean Payton will turn Thomas into the main third-down back.
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