As you rigorously prepare and research leading into each season and week of DFS, different factors are always going to change the landscape. “Next Man Up” is a series that examines players who are now being propelled into a starting role (thus creating a larger opportunity for that player), whether it be via injury, suspension or simply a change to the depth chart.
Darren Sproles has been leading the Eagles backfield in snaps all season, but it’s been Ryan Mathews getting the more consistent/meaningful touches. That’s changed significantly over the past two weeks.
Mathews has watched his snaps shrink all the way to a mere 16 over that two-game span, handling just 11 touches for 26 yards. Meanwhile, Sproles has been on the field for 123 snaps, which translates to over 80 percent of the team’s plays, per Football Guys.
As head coach Doug Pederson has finally conceded, Darren Sproles is the next man up in Philly’s backfield. Although Sproles is clearly in line for a value boost, the breakdown is a little more complex than just penciling him into the featured role.
Next Man Up: Darren Sproles
Let’s start with the good. Through six games, Sproles had been averaging 5.2 carries for 23.6 yards as a runner. Those numbers have dramatically improved to 14 carries for 71.5 yards in two games as the starter.
Better known as a receiving threat, Sproles targets have also climbed to new season-highs each of the past two weeks — seven against DAL, then nine vs. NYG. Although he’s only hauled in eight of 16 targets for 31 yards, the volume is certainly encouraging.
The major difference with Sproles’ value going forward is he can now be viewed as more of a consistent option with the touches he’s being given. There’s more certainty to go on than simply taking a flyer on Sproles to go off (which occurred just once – six catches for 128 yards and a TD vs. the Steelers in Week 2). Sproles’ ceiling is still capped, but his floor is far higher than it was two weeks ago.
What hurts Sproles is that Mathews is still getting the goal line work, having scored touchdowns in back-to-back games since being removed as the lead back. Even worse, Sproles doesn’t appear to be on Pederson’s mind near the goal line at all unless it’s an obvious passing down — evident by Kenjon Barner’s three-yard TD run in Sunday’s close loss to the Giants.
But even taking rushing touchdowns out of the equation (which for a RB sounds like a crucial element), we’re not talking about a high-salary play in Sproles. The beauty is that his salary comes in at just $4,300, which is an absolute bargain for a running back playing 75+ percent of the snaps and receiving 18 touches.
Expect Sproles to makeup the majority of his fantasy points in the receiving game, where he brought in nearly 81 percent of passes thrown his way to begin the season, before catching only half his targets in the past two games.
The final thing to consider with Sproles is that he doesn’t need to receive goal line work to score. Although he doesn’t have a rushing TD this season, the shifty speedster is now seeing 10 more touches per game than he’s used to (a number that could go up if he holds onto more passes). The additional reps make it far more likely for him to scamper into the end zone from far out, as he did for a 73-yard reception against Pittsburgh.
Sproles isn’t your typical feature RB by any means, but he’s a heck of a value due to his new role.
For questions or comments hit me up on Twitter @julianedlow
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.