Darren Sproles Traded
In a rare swap of fantasy-relevant talent between contenders, the New Orleans Saints shipped running back Darren Sproles to the Philadelphia Eagles for a 2014 5th round draft pick.
Though it was a bit of a surprise to see New Orleans trade their pass-catching specialist to a team that the Saints just paired up with in the NFC playoffs, it was public knowledge that New Orleans intended to trade or release Sproles in recent days.
The Saints’ salary cap situation dictated that tough choices would need to be made to keep the club amongst the Super Bowl contenders. When news broke that the club might release the 9-year pro, enough interest was generated from other teams that the Saints began to attempt to engineer a trade, rather than just release Sproles.
This caused contention from Sproles and his wife, as they made their dissatisfaction of the Saints’ about-face very public by going to Twitter to voice their collective dismay.
In the end, all parties seem pleased. Sproles joins a fellow contender in the NFC that employs a dangerous offense, while the Saints get an extra 2014 draft pick and salary cap relief, rather than just cutting Sproles and having no control over his future destination.
The Saints and Eagles squared off in the NFC playoffs last season, so Eagles head coach Chip Kelly got to see first hand what kind of player Sproles was during his 3-year stint playing in the Big Easy. Known for his aggressive and complex offensive philosophy, Kelly is expected to utilize Sproles in much the same way that Sean Payton did- as a running back/receiver hybrid that goes in motion and lines up in the slot to create mismatches.
Last season, in Chip Kelly’s first year as an NFL head coach, the Eagles finished with the NFL’s second ranked offense, behind Denver. Under Kelly’s tutelage, Philadelphia’s dynamic attack featured the NFL’s leading rusher, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, who finished ninth in the league with 1332 yards and nine touchdowns.
Joining McCoy in the backfield will now be one of the biggest matchup nightmare in the NFL. Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy are both capable of lining up anywhere on the field and using lateral quickness to break big plays at any time. Opposing defensive coordinators are going to have their work cut out, all season.
Now, Eagles fans can expect even more fireworks in 2014. In addition to a full season with Pro Bowl MVP quarterback Nick Foles under center, Philly’s offense will be further bolstered by the healthy return of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who missed the entire 2013 campaign with a knee injury.
The Philadelphia Eagles surprised many by winning the NFC East last season, but the addition of a dynamic playmaker like Darren Sproles to the NFC’s top-ranked offense makes Philly a very dangerous squad, and among the early Super Bowl favorites.
The rich get richer. Sproles is coming off of his worst season in New Orleans, but is still a dangerous dual-threat athlete and his arrival gives the Eagles one of the most formidable pass-catching duos in the league. Look for Chip Kelly to utilize Sproles in a similar manner to how he used De’Anthony Thomas at Oregon, as a versatile pass-catcher and rusher who can line up anywhere on the field and present huge matchup problems for the opposition.
From a fantasy football perspective, this trade probably helps Darren Sproles’ 2014 draft stock, as he’s been on a slow decline for three years now in New Orleans. Sproles will remain a part-time player, but should put up excellent fantasy statistics, especially in a PPR format.
Keep in mind the long, but troubling history of players, like LeSean McCoy, who fall apart the year after leading the NFL in rushing. Should McCoy, who has never been the healthiest guy, miss some major playing time, Sproles could become a top-10 fantasy running back.
Look for Sproles to be a high-upside PPR back that will likely fall in most drafts, as age and undefined role will scare off many owners. Sproles could easily be an RB3, drafted in the sixth to seventh round who ends up being an RB2.