Heading into Monday Night Football against the Miami Dolphins, Sproles boasted the sixth-most receptions for a running back. After recording seven catches—all in the first half—in the short-passing game, Sproles drew even with Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte for the top spot.
His 277 receiving yards this season are good enough for 26th in the league among all receivers. That top number is thanks to an impressive early-game performance against the Fins on Monday. At halftime, Sproles totaled 114 yards receiving, including an explosive 21-yard outburst on a 3rd-and-20 conversion and a 13-yard touchdown.
The biggest threat he provides isn't a great prowess with route running. It's his explosive quickness in space that gives him a lopsided speed advantage over linebackers tasked with covering him out of the backfield. ESPN's Monday Night crew noted how productive he was after the catch before the intermission:
Of Sproles’ 114 receiving yards, 95 of them have come after the catch. (Via @ESPNStatsInfo)— ESPN Monday Night (@ESPNMondayNight) October 1, 2013
Plus, Sproles is still a competent situational rusher when the Saints dial up the right play. He strolled into the end zone untouched from five yards out to begin the scoring against the Dolphins on Monday night.
But the Saints aren't a good running team, and they employ the short-passing game to make up for that shortcoming. Early on Monday night, it appeared they abandoned the run altogether, as Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune pointed out:
Looks like Sean Payton has seen enough. The Saints have abandoned the run. Will go with short passing game for yards.— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) October 1, 2013
If teams continue to blitz Drew Brees to try to limit the prolific passer, he has no problem checking down to Sproles on designed screen plays or improvising when the situation calls for it.
As we saw Monday night, Sproles is one of his best weapons, so it makes sense that he’ll continue to look in the running back’s direction as the season moves forward.
Teams could attempt to neutralize the speedy running back—if you can call him a back—but that will open up so many other things for the team’s passing game. And if Sean Payton wants to keep the Saints rolling, he’ll find creative ways to get the ball into his most explosive player’s hands.
Did you bench Sproles in Week 4 (be honest)?
From a fantasy perspective, Sproles is a goldmine in point-per-reception (PPR) leagues, but his value in traditional formats is going to vary from week to week. He’s one of the biggest boom or bust options out there, but one you can’t afford not to have in your lineup each week.
Bottom line: you own Sproles, you start him. It’s really that simple. And if you benched him this week after his steady but slow start, now you know better.
If you're planning on trading him, don't. But if you feel compelled to, now is probably the best time to do it. His value was already high, but after his biggest game of the year you could probably commandeer two viable starters in the process.
But, again, don't trade him.