According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Eagles running back and return specialist Darren Sproles is “staying away” from offseason team activities (OTAs) until trade interest is “sorted out.” Rapoport says teams were interested acquiring Sproles during the NFL Draft.
Sproles, 32, is in the final-year of his contract. His cap hit is $4.5 million, his base salary is just $3.5 million, while he has a dead money value of only $1 million.
Last season Sproles rushed for 317 yards, tallied 388 more through the air, accumulated 446 punt return yards, and scored six total touchdowns.
The “Darren Sproles role” goes where Darren Sproles goes. Since 2009, Sproles has averaged 62 receptions and 67 rushing attempts per season with the Chargers, Saints, and Eagles. Wherever he lands, that team’s primary running back is sure to lose valuable receptions.
The 49ers are a superficially appealing fit, as new coach Chip Kelly was Sproles’ coach in 2014 and 2015, and Carlos Hyde doesn’t seem to be much of a pass catcher. But the 49ers project to be really bad in 2016. It doesn’t make sense to bring in a veteran like Sproles to steal opportunity from potential receiving threat Mike Davis.
The Patriots always take a featured role in rumors about veterans on cheap contracts. And if they’re concerned about Dion Lewis’ health, Sproles could step in and do most of what Lewis does.
If Sproles leaves Philadelphia, he leaves fifth-round rookie Wendell Smallwood in a prime position. Aside from Sproles, only Ryan Mathews is ahead of Smallwood on the Eagles’ depth chart. And Smallwood brings the same versatility that Sproles does. Jon Moore calls Smallwood “a poor man’s Duke [Johnson].” A Johnson-like 60 receptions would easily double Smallwood’s price in dynasty leagues.
Moore isn’t even the highest on Smallwood. Shawn Siegele called him “a potentially elite RB prospect” because of his receiving ability and noted that Smallwood is exactly the type of player trending upward in fantasy football and the NFL. And Anthony Amico came away impressed with Smallwood’s college production, including his high workload and use as a returner.
Before today’s Sproles news, Smallwood was going in the early third round of rookie drafts. He’s a worthwhile pick anywhere after 2.06. More enticingly, he’s basically free in MFL10s:
Even if his ADP jumps after Sproles leaves, Smallwood is likely a bargain in PPR redraft leagues.