Darren Sproles: Fantasy Insurance Options for Injured Saints RB

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 04: Marcel Reece #45 of the Oakland Raiders looks to put a move on Ronde Barber #20 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the fourth quarter of their NFL football game at O.co Coliseum on November 4, 2012 in Oakland, California. The Buccaneers won the game 42-32. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The status of New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles remains up in the air for Week 10 as he attempts to make a quick recovery from a hand injury. There have been a wide variety of timetables reported, so it's simply a wait-and-see situation.

Fantasy football owners should have alternative plans at the ready in case he sits out again. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the best backs who are still widely available on the free-agent market that would make for a good insurance policy.


Vick Ballard

Ballard keeps producing for the Indianapolis Colts—and fantasy teams—as Donald Brown's injury concerns continue to mount. He's scored at least nine points in each of the last three weeks, but is still available in nearly half of ESPN leagues.

While the Colts have been hesitant to give up on Brown after drafting him in the first round four years ago, it's become clear Ballard is capable of filling the starting role. The rookie has elevated his level of play since being given more touches.

Ballard should be in line for another solid game on Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags have struggled to stop the run, giving up nearly 140 yards per game on the ground and allowing 12 rushing touchdowns, the second-most in the NFL.


Marcel Reece

The Oakland Raiders backfield is a mess due to injuries. Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson are both banged up, which means Reece has a good chance to see his role in the offense increase dramatically once the dust settles.

Reece has been used as a pass-catching fullback through the season's first half, racking up 26 catches and a touchdown. He's capable of handling a larger load, however, and should be a solid short-term option for fantasy owners.

He's averaged nearly five yards per carry in limited duty over the past three seasons and gets to face a Baltimore Ravens defense that hasn't lived up to its usual high standards this season, mostly due to injuries. That makes Reece a wise sleeper target.


Shane Vereen

With the New England Patriots placing a greater emphasis on establishing the running game, there has actually been enough touches for two backs to be useful fantasy options at the same time. So, while Stevan Ridley is the starter, don't overlook Vereen.

The Patriots racked up 52 points and 247 rushing yards the last time they went up against the Buffalo Bills in Week 4. Buffalo's run defense hasn't shown much improvement since then, ranking 31st in yards allowed and dead last in touchdowns allowed.

Expect New England to employ a run-heavy attack once again to wear down the Bills defense, with both Ridley and Vereen getting more than enough chances to post good fantasy scores. Vereen might not put up a Sproles-like total, but he should come close.