The Saints lost their first four games of the season, and the once powerful Drew Brees-led offense certainly lost some pop during those four games, which undoubtedly affected Sproles.
Sproles had a touchdown in Week 1 and 128 receiving yards in Week 2, but he didn't even carry the ball once until Week 3.
So far, Sproles only has 26 carries on the season. As usual, he's operating as more of a receiving threat with 39 catches on the year, but overall he's still being underutilized.
And to make matters worse, Sproles has missed the last two games with a hand injury that required surgery (according to NBC Sports).
Sproles injured his hand during the team's Week 8 loss to the Denver Broncos, and apparently the injury did not cause great discomfort, as Sproles didn't even realize his hand was broken until the following morning (according to CBS Sports via Twitter).
#Saints RB Darren Sproles says he had no idea his hand was broken after Denver game until woke up in pain Monday, had X-rays.— Saints RapidReports (@CBSSaints) November 16, 2012
It has only been three weeks since the injury, which hasn't provided ample time to heal, but Sproles is surely anxious to get on the field.
The Saints take on the Oakland Raiders this Sunday, and since the Oakland defense modestly ranks 23rd in the NFL, the presence of Sproles is certainly something New Orleans would prefer.
But despite a short three-week healing period, Sproles returned to practice on Thursday and Friday (according to NFL.com), and it's already rumored that he'll return to the lineup on Sunday.
Darren Sproles Injury Return Set for New Orleans Saints vs. Oakland Raiders ... sns.mx/9Glhy3— Darren Sproles (@SprolesNews) November 17, 2012
But even if Sproles is active this Sunday, it doesn't guarantee that he'll be a viable fantasy asset.
Darren Sproles Fantasy Outlook
With five losses on the season already, Darren Sproles and the Saints have little margin for error if they wish to preserve their playoff hopes, which could explain why Sproles is rushing back to the lineup.
If Sproles can play like his normal self, he's obviously a solid option against a weak Oakland defense. He has a touchdown in three of his last four games, while he has exceeded 50 total yards in five of his seven games.
But for now, it's best to hold off and take a wait-and-see approach, as long as you have other options at running back.
Sproles is back in the practice lineup, but that doesn't guarantee that he'll receive the same typical workload. It's possible he'll receive just a handful of reps, while there's also a chance that he's only suiting up to handle his responsibilities on the return team.
If you're out of options, rolling the dice with Sproles is better than searching the waiver wire, but if a solid backup is waiting on your bench, then it's time to use him.