A closer look at Darren Sproles, RB, San Diego Chargers

In terms of Fantasy Football, I really dont get the hype around Darren Sproles. I dont dislike him personally nor do I have anything against the Chargers, and I think Sproles makes a fine handcuff to LaDainian Tomlinson (LT), but I’ve seen him go absurdly high in some mock drafts I’ve read or participated in.

Consider the following facts:

1. During the 2008 regular season, Sproles had:

– 9 games where he carried the ball 2 times or less
– 2 games where he carried the ball 0 times
– 6 games where he had less than 10 receiving yards
– 15 games where he had 3 or less receptions

Outside of Week 17, when the Chargers played a Broncos defense that had basically mailed it in, Sproles:

– had only one game where he had 100+ yards combined
– didnt have a single game where he registered double-digit carries.

2. So, I’m sure people will say: “Oh, but he’s going to get more carries this year because of LT’s age/health.”

It’s true that LT has logged a ton of carries over his career and has hit the dreaded age of 30, the “death knell” for an NFL RB. But, you also have to consider other facts:

LT’s lack of production last season was largely the result of a turf toe he suffered in Game 1, which dogged him all of last year. Even with that, he STILL had over 1100 yards rushing, over 1500 combined yards, and 11 rushing TD’s.

LT is one of the hardest working players in all of football, with an offseason conditioning program matched probably by only T.O.. With critics pointing to his age and wear-and-tear and calling him “over the hill” or “washed up”, I think he’s in for a traditionally LT-esque season in ‘09.

Peter King recently wrote that Norv Turner indicated LT will still be a 300+ carry RB for the Chargers. Now, all bets are off past the ‘09 season, as father time catches up with everyone, but I would not sleep on Tomlinson going into next season.

3. The myth that “Sproles will get more carries to spell LT and reduce the wear-and-tear on him”:

Norv Turner has never been a guy who will give his 2nd string RB a significant amount of carries when he has his workhorse guy. Evidence ? Take a look at the carry-splits between his 1st string and 2nd string RB over the past 8 seasons under offenses ran by Norv Turner:

2008: 292 to 61
2007: 315 to 71
2006: 312 to 44
2005: 272 to 60
2004: 112 to 85
2003: 392 to 41
2002: 383 to 44
2001: 339 to 53

Average: ~302 to ~57

Again, Turner has already said that he plans for LT to tote the rock in the neighborhood of 300-320 carries next season, so I really dont see how Sproles’ stats are going to jump that significantly past what he did last year (61 carries).

The bottom line is that Sproles is ranked higher by some fantasy publications (including ESPN) than guys like Beanie Wells, Felix Jones, Donald Brown, Jerrious Norwood, and Leon Washington, all of whom I think will have more carries, as well as rushing and/or combined yards than Sproles will next year.

Sproles may be a decent flex starter, but I would still take any of the above mentioned players before him. If your league counts kick return yardage, then Sproles does become much more valuable; he is currently listed as the starting Kick and Punt returner on the Chargers’ depth chart, as of 8/19/09.

But otherwise, I would be very careful about the hype.

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