As the 2011 season approaches, the St. Louis Rams find themselves without a reliable backup running back behind star Steven Jackson.
Last week I discussed the possibility of signing Reggie Bush and how that would benefit St Louis. This week we'll take a look at another potential free agent that could fit the mold: the San Diego Chargers' Darren Sproles.
Sproles is the definition of a role player. Not built to be a starter at 5'6" and 190 lbs, he found success in San Diego as a change-of-pace back that was capable of making a big play every time he touched the ball.
With a game built around speed and agility, Sproles would provide a completely different dimension for the Rams offense. He brings reliable receiving skills to the table, catching 59 passes for 520 yards and two touchdowns in 2010, and he makes the most out of limited touches, averaging 5.3 yards on 50 carries.
His size should warrant some struggles in pass-blocking, but Sproles is a very capable cut-blocker and can effectively buy his quarterback more time. He is regarded as one of the better third-down running backs.
His skills as a running back do have some flaws, however. He lacks ball security and has fumbled nine times in the past three seasons. His awareness isn't great (which may be connected to the fumbles) as he rarely is able to feel pressure coming from behind or beside him.
Another way he could contribute is via the kick return. Most Rams fans thought Danny Amendola did a superb job last season as the return man, but analysts speculate St Louis may lessen Amendola's kick returning duties to protect him from the vicious hits he took on occasion in 2010.
Not only would Sproles be able to give Amendola the benefit of being strictly a receiver, but he would also provide an electrifying presence. His small stature allows him to hide behind the larger players on kickoffs and he is an expert at using his speed and agility to emerge from wedges effectively.
If the Rams were to sign him, the deal would most likely end up in the 4-year, $26 million range; Possibly a little more, possibly a little less. So if St Louis is willing to shell out a few million on a backup who could be a vital role player, should Sproles be the man they go with?
Rushes - 50, Yards - 267, AVG - 5.3
Receptions - 59, Yards - 520, AVG - 8.8
Punt Returns - 24, Return Yards - 166, AVG - 6.9
Kick Returns - 51, Return Yards - 1,257, AVG - 24.6
Touchdowns - 2