Doug Pederson finally admitted what we already all knew, that Darren Sproles was his starting running back, usurping Ryan Mathews as presumptive lead back and not changing anything in reality. Sproles got his highest snap percentages in back-to-back weeks in his long career in the last two weeks, and has become the lead back in Philadelphia, even if we all realized it before Pederson did. While this seems to work for the Philly offense, it isn’t a great idea to try to get it to work for your fantasy football lineups this weekend. Sproles may be the lead back, but he isn’t worth getting into your starting lineup.
Sproles has traditionally been an “air back,” who gets most of his yardage through short passes and catch-and-runs. He hasn’t been a running back in the traditional sense, never once topping 95 rushing attempts once in his career. He’s also never mustered more than a hair over 600 yards rushing in a single season. He’s a through-and-through air back, getting over 58% of his 7,549 career yards through the air.
This has held true this season, with Sproles getting 28 carries over the last two games as the primary back. He’s done well with those opportunities, turning them into 71.5 yards on the ground per game. Unfortunately for those trying to use Sproles in fantasy football, his increase in carries, where he is traditionally not as effective (despite recent production), comes with a decrease in productivity in the passing game. His yards per reception has cratered from 12.35 in the first six games to 3.88 yards/reception. He’s become worse through the air than he’s been on the ground, which is a complete turnaround from his traditional skillset. You can bet on this continuing, or you can bet on an entire career of production trumping a tiny sample size.
The Falcons make for a questionable matchup for Sproles, as they are middling against the position so far this year at thirteenth. They’re neutral, but on the positive side of neutral for RBs on a fantasy points per game basis. This number is skewed by two massive games from Melvin Gordon and Thomas Rawls, two backs whose styles Darren Sproles wouldn’t want to emulate if he wants to get more than five or so carries into this game. Outside of those two, starting running backs have punched in just two touchdowns on the season. They stifle the opposing running back, and Sproles will be no different. I would avoid Sproles this week if you can, but it’s understandable if you cannot.