Pierre Thomas: Saints Offense Makes RB Must-Start After Darren Sproles Injury

Ethan GrantAnalyst INovember 2, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 28:   Pierre Thomas #23 of the New Orleans Saints scores a touchdown against the New York Giants at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 28, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Saints defeated the Giants 49 to 24.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints have one of the NFL's best offenses, record notwithstanding. Running back Darren Sproles has been ruled out after hand surgery, so Pierre Thomas is in line for a huge role, and as such he should be in your fantasy football lineup this weekend.

NFL.com's Michael Fabiano helped break the news on Twitter, and he echoes the same sentiments about one of the heroes from the Saints' magical Super Bowl run.

Darren Sproles is OUT indefinitely due to a hand injury. Pierre Thomas becomes a nice start in Week 9.

— Michael Fabiano (@Michael_Fabiano) November 2, 2012

Sproles was one of the focal points of this offense, and his production will have to be matched by another back. The three candidates are Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory, the last of which hasn't registered a carry this season.

Thomas is already entrenched as a key piece of an offense that can score in bunches.

He sees anywhere from 10-to-12 touches per game, and he can help turn this rushing game around after it's been thrown on its head as one of the worst in the NFL this season. His lowest number of touches came in Week 1, but he's seen double-digit touches in every game this season since then.

By comparison, Ingram has seen about half of that workload, and Ivory hasn't made any impact after leading the team in rushing as a rookie in 2010.

With the evidence at hand, it's easy to deduce that Thomas will get the lion's share of work in a backfield that's known for keeping defense off balance by using screens and draws in long-distance situations.

Thomas has been stellar in past years at both, using his plant foot for big gains, specifically in the screen game. He was one of the best in the league at it when he was the starter, and the team ran the play almost once or twice a game to get him out in space.

The emergence of Sproles as a change-of-pace back and major contributor in the passing game has somewhat limited Thomas' value on the fantasy field, although it hasn't affected the Saints' ability to score points.

This weekend, look for the Saints to establish the run more with three backs capable of running between the tackles. I suspect Joe Vitt will look at the stretch play and the draw more, and Thomas figures to be the guy to get the first crack at those chances.

If he's available in your league, count yourself lucky that the rest of the participants are brain-dead. If you're lucky enough to have him stashed on the bench, make him an automatic start and watch the majesty that is this New Orleans offense work against the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend.


Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report and a member of the site's Breaking News Team.