Just because the fantasy football season is over doesn't mean you can't start getting ready for the next one.
Ray Rice and Darren Sproles each had phenomenal seasons and were big reasons why the Ravens and Saints each made the playoffs. The same could be said for fantasy owners.
Rice and Sproles are even more valuable in leagues with a point-per-reception (PPR) scoring format. The task at hand is deciding which one should be selected before the other in PPR drafts.
The Case for Ray Rice
One might infer that a guy who gains over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 15 total touchdowns would probably be the best option for running backs in PPR leagues or standard leagues. Rice's 76 catches were second only to Sproles, among running backs.
Where Rice has the distinct advantage over Sproles is in rushing yards (1,364 vs. 603) and rushing touchdowns (12 vs. two). After seeing those numbers, one might be inclined to wonder how this can even be a contest, but we'll get to Sproles soon enough.
The nice thing about Rice is that he's one of the few featured backs remaining in the NFL today. Plus, he doesn't have a lot of injury concerns to burden owners with.
Think about it. Who besides Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson and Rice can say that? Even Adrian Peterson should be considered a risk nowadays with his injury concerns, and Michael Turner is getting old.
Rice was one of only three running backs in 2011 with at least 290 carries. The other two were Jones-Drew and Turner.
No other running back in the league can say they see around 300 carries and 100 targets a season. Rice was targeted 104 times in 2011.
The Case for Darren Sproles
First off, the guy set the record for total yards in a season with 2,696. The totals were 603 rushing yards, 710 receiving yards and 1,383 return yards. He did everything for the Saints in 2011.
He wasn't very involved in New Orleans' rushing attack, where he only scored twice, but he made up for it in receiving and returning. Sproles totaled only two touchdowns rushing, but had seven receiving touchdowns and even one returning, giving him double-digit touchdowns for the season.
Sproles also led all running backs in catches (86) and targets (111). The 111 targets were four more than teammate Marques Colston.
The fact that Sproles caught 77 percent of the passes thrown his way is pretty good, even if he's a running back.
It's somewhat hard to believe that Sproles could be so effective and productive when he splits time with fellow running backs Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram, but the numbers speak for themselves.
Don't pay too much attention to his lack of carries or rushing yards. Sproles wasn't brought to New Orleans to carry the ball. He is the most effective pass-catching running back in the league, and his size and speed give him a big advantage.
The fact that Sproles can stay healthy despite all the work he does is also a huge bonus.