Week Eleven Analysis:
The 49ers fantasy run defense has been all bark and no bite this season; they're merely a middle-of-the-road matchup for opposing backs in every statistical category. With that in mind, Darren Sproles is certainly a tempting option coming off his huge Sunday night performance against Dallas. However, there've been far more valleys than peaks for him this season. In his last eight games, he's spiked with two different multi-touchdown, 80-plus-yard performances. He's gone scoreless and fallen shy of 80 combo yards in the other six. He's a boom-or-bust option, so he's probably a better play for the underdogs in the crowd than the favorites.
Week Ten Analysis:
Darren Sproles was a full practice participant Wednesday, meaning he's already passed the concussion protocol and will play barring any setbacks. However, that no longer means you need to play him. With Pierre Thomas wrestling away the lion's share of the workload, Sproles had only totaled 114 scoreless combo yards in the three games prior to last week's early exit. He's averaged over five catches per game on the season, and that's the obvious angle here, as Dallas ranks dead last against opposing backs in both receptions and receiving yards. Furthermore, only one team has allowed more than their three receiving scores, so Sproles has an opportunity to get back into our good graces.
Week Nine Analysis:
Last week Darren Sproles delivered a grand total of zero yards in a favorable matchup with Buffalo. Thanks for nothing. Literally. Pierre Thomas' recent hot streak has come at the expense of Sproles, who over the past three weeks, has averaged 7 touches for 38 scoreless total yards. And now he gets the Jets, who allow a league-low 17 receiving yards per game to opposing backs. Sproles is coming off the worst performance imaginable, and this is the worst matchup imaginable, so you're going to have to use your imagination if you're looking for a reason to start him.
Week Eight Analysis:
Despite Pierre Thomas' increased role in the passing game, Darren Sproles still comes out of the bye on pace for 85 catches, five touchdowns and just under 1,300 combo yards. That's a pretty typical Sproles line. His 12 targets in New Orleans' last game were six more than any other Saint. And with Jimmy Graham ailing, Sproles could see even more action. While Buffalo ranks top-five against opposing backs in both receptions and receiving yards, they've struggled against the only two pass-catching studs they've faced. Shane Vereen and Giovani Bernard combined to total 13 catches for 130 yards and a score against the Bills, so Sproles should be just fine.
Week Six Analysis:
Darren Sproles now ranks second in running back receptions… on his own team. We've talked a lot about Pierre Thomas' involvement in the passing game, and he's leapfrogged Sproles to take a 28-to-26 lead in the reception race. Sproles still leads the league in receiving yards, and the 26 receptions rank fifth, but a major chunk of that production came in one game. He's contributing next to nothing as a rusher, and he's now failed to score or reach even 70 combo yards in three of five games. Against opposing backfields, the Patriots are only giving up five catches for 37 yards per game, so tread lightly with Sproles this week.
Week Five Analysis:
Defenses are forced to pick their poison with the Saints, and last week Miami chose the Darren Sproles-colored pill. After three substandard weeks, Sproles enjoyed a major statistical correction against the Dolphins, rushing for 28 yards and a score, while adding seven catches for 114 yards and another score. His 277 receiving yards lead all backs, and put him on pace for over 1,100 yards, which would easily be a career high. Chicago is very good against opposing backs in the passing game, but they just gave up eight catches to Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, and by now we know that the matchup just doesn't matter with Sproles anyways.
Week Four Analysis:
Darren Sproles is averaging over 5.0 catches per game, but he's yet to score, and he's fallen short of 65 combo yards in two straight. A big part of that is Pierre Thomas' involvement in the passing game—he has 14 catches to Sproles' 16. If Sproles isn't going to be monopolizing the running back receptions, he's in big trouble, so keep an eye on this development. Miami ranks right in the middle of the pack against opposing backs in the receiving game, and frankly, breaking down Sproles' matchups is generally useless because he's such a unique player who doesn't have any true comps. Just treat him as you usually would.
Week Three Analysis:
Darren Sproles is averaging a scoreless 86 combo yards through two weeks, but he's now caught at least five passes in eight of his last nine games. Sproles has also carried at least seven times in back-to-back games for the first time in nearly two years, so it's nice to see him chipping in on the ground as well. The Cardinals have allowed just 3.2 yards per carry and have yet to surrender a touchdown to the position, but last week they faced a similar offense against Detroit, and Reggie Bush and Joique Bell combined for eight catches and 85 yards. Expect the usual out of Sproles, but that doesn't mean that a touchdown is out of the question.
Week Two Analysis:
Darren Sproles delivered the usual last week against Atlanta: six catches for 88 receiving yards, with a side of 22 rushing yards. It was the 17th time in his last 21 games that Sproles has scored and/or topped 80 combo yards, making him a consistent No. 2 back in standard leagues and a borderline No. 1 in PPR leagues. Last week the Bucs somehow gave up five catches for 56 yards to a Jets team devoid of a pass-catching back, and Sproles has scored through the air in three straight meetings with Tampa Bay. He's a high-floor, low-ceiling option in the Saints' spread-the-wealth offense.
Week One Analysis:
Darren Sproles missed three games last season and still led all backs in targets, receptions, receiving yards and receiving scores for the second year in a row. A ridiculous 73% of his total yardage came through the air last season, and that pass-catching prowess has resulted in a touchdown and/or 80 combo yards in 16 of his last 20 games. Sproles has faced Atlanta's ordinary defense three times as a member of the Saints, yet somehow he's only totaled 139 combo yards and one score in those three meetings. Still, he's a fine standard league option in this projected shootout, and an every-week starter in PPR leagues.
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In two seasons with the Saints, Darren Sproles has redefined how we view fantasy running backs. He's led all backs in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in back-to-back seasons, despite missing three games last year. His extrapolated receiving averages in New Orleans are 89 catches for 760 yards and eight touchdowns. In two seasons, he's averaged just 29 rushing yards per game, but everything he does on the ground is gravy. Sproles has scored and/or topped 90 combo yards in 16 of his last 20 games, and reports are that he'll be more involved in the run game with the return of Sean Payton. He's a rock-solid No. 2 fantasy back in standard leagues, and a top-10 PPR back.