As NFL free agency has finally started to pick up with star offensive players signing contracts in new locations, the news came across the wire this morning that New Orleans Saints mainstay and PPR darling Darren Sproles had been traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fifth round pick. It has been public knowledge for about a week that the soon-to-be 31 year old Sproles wouldn’t be returning to the bayou for his tenth NFL season and the DLF team has already discussed that impact on the Saints in depth.
Here, we’ll specifically discuss the impact of this trade from the Eagles’ perspective and try to speculate on what mad scientist Chip Kelly might be scheming up in his laboratory.
Darren Sproles, RB PHI
Those who own Sproles on their dynasty teams are probably ecstatic, and rightfully so, that he’s moving from the NFL’s flagship prolific offense to perhaps the league’s most innovative offense. On paper, this looks like an opportunity for some sort of renaissance for the player who set the NFL’s all-purpose yardage record (2,696 total) in 2011. However, even the most optimistic Sproles owners must realize he’s no longer capable of being the type of feature back he was for Sean Payton a few years ago. The best case scenario here is he’ll put up similar numbers in 2014 as he did in 2013. If he were to finish the season with 220 rushing yards, 71 receptions, over 600 receiving yards and four touchdowns, that should be considered very successful. That’s not to knock his short-term dynasty value too much as those numbers were good enough to make him the PPR RB23 in 2013, but with just one year remaining on his contract, his value is obviously limited to dynasty teams certain to be competitive next season.
If your league awards significant points for return yardage, you might consider giving Sproles a slight bump, but he still shouldn’t be relied upon to end up as much more than a team’s RB3.
LeSean McCoy, RB PHI
McCoy was second in the NFL amongst all running backs last season in total number of offensive snaps played. Sproles certainly wasn’t brought in to replace McCoy, but it’s likely he was brought in to spell him for a series here and there. Overall, McCoy should remain extremely productive and Sproles’ presence will help keep him fresh for the fantasy playoffs. The news of this trade doesn’t give any reason to move him from the top spot in my dynasty running back rankings, either. McCoy owners should proceed as normal.
Nick Foles, QB PHI
As if Foles’ nascent sophomore season wasn’t efficient enough, the addition of a highly reliable set of hands in the short passing game should make his third year even better. It will be borderline impossible to top the 27:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio that he posted in 2013 but his 64.0% completion percentage should get a soft boost. It’s not outside of the realm of possibilities that Foles will throw 40 touchdowns in 2014 and that standard is only made more attainable with Sproles in the mix.
Bryce Brown, RB PHI; Chris Polk, RB PHI
The addition of Sproles definitely doesn’t help the immediate situation faced by either of these third year running backs, but I’m not so sure it hurts them very much, either. Since Sproles is primarily going to be used out of the slot and as a returner on special teams, a role neither Brown nor Polk has ever fulfilled, neither running back should have their role on the team jeopardized. However, if one of these two were to find themselves on the wrong side of a numbers game when it comes time to set the 53 man roster, smart money would be on Brown to be looking for a new team.
This is somewhat ironic given that, between he and Polk, Brown has the higher upside and the better ability to be a three-down back at the NFL level. However, it was Polk who was the much more effective player when given the opportunity to spell LeSean McCoy last season as Brown came across as the type of player that needs volume (the type of volume that does not exist in the Eagles’ offense) in order be effective. Brown probably possesses a decent amount of trade value so his dynasty owners shouldn’t worry too much, but this is a situation worth monitoring, especially during training camp this summer.
Damaris Johnson, WR PHI; James Casey, TE PHI
It is nearly a foregone conclusion that both Damaris Johnson and James Casey will be looking for work elsewhere in the near future. There were high hopes for Johnson (who owns NCAA records for all-purpose yardage) and how he could be used by Chip Kelly. Those hopes never quite came to fruition, unfortunately, as he was part of a group that ranked near the bottom of the NFL in both kickoff and punt return yardage. There were also high hopes for Casey as Kelly raved about his multifunctional abilities last Spring after he came to the Eagles on a three year deal worth 15 million dollars. There still might be a plan to get him involved in the offense, but he rarely saw the field in 2013 and with Sproles now in tow to fill that gadget role, his contract becomes highly expendable. If either of these players were still hanging around on your dynasty roster, that last shimmer of hope for them to be productive has faded.