Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood Updated Fantasy Outlook After Jay Ajayi Injury

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2018

Philadelphia Eagles running back Jay Ajayi carries during the first half of the team's preseason NFL football game against the New England Patriots on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

The Philadelphia Eagles' backfield is in for a shake-up after starting running back Jay Ajayi was placed on injured reserve and his season reportedly came to an end with a torn ACL, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Let's examine how his potential absence could impact Corey Clement, Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood in the world of fantasy football.

           

Corey Clement

Clement showcased promise during his rookie season last year despite being behind LeGarrette Blount and Ajayi, a midseason acquisition, on the depth chart.

The 23-year-old University of Wisconsin product averaged 4.3 yards per carry and scored six touchdowns (four rushing and two receiving) on just 84 offensive touches. That gave the franchise enough confidence to let Blount leave via free agency.

Clement could emerge as a high-end No. 2 fantasy running back. It would be difficult for him to push into the No. 1 range consistently because the Eagles tend to utilize a committee approach.

And Clement himself has missed the past two weeks with a quad injury, leaving his short-term value in flux.

Of all the options out of Philly's backfield, however, Clement likely is the best long-term play.

Clement should be owned in all formats, but don't expect him to be much more than a low-end RB2 or flex consideration given the other options behind him.

           

Wendell Smallwood

Smallwood is the player you want to add to your team immediately, as he'll be the top dog in Philadelphia if Clement and Sproles remained sidelined. The benefit of adding Smallwood is that he can either serve as the between-the-tacklers option or as a receiving, third-down threat out of the backfield. 

He's averaging a healthy 6.0 yards per carry and has added 10 receptions for 96 yards and a score, so until Clement and Sproles return, he's a safe bet to produce in the RB2 range. Once those players are back in the fold, however, he's nothing more than a depth option and isn't a player who should be started.

Darren Sproles

Sproles, 35, has been one of the NFL's most versatile weapons throughout his career. Whether it's rushing, receiving, returning punts or returning kicks, he's found a way to make a major impact.

His value likely won't change much once he's healthy, as his role was always specific and didn't overlap with Ajayi's place in the offense. His experience in the third-down role should earn him a lion's share of the snaps in those situations once he's back, and the steady stream of targets should move him into the weekly flex conversation at the very least.

Sproles isn't going to receive 20-plus touches at this stage of his career, even if Clement suffered an injury of his own, so the overall upside is limited. And his value is also in flux because of injuries of his own, as he's missed the past four games with a hamstring injury. But he's definitely worth a waiver claim in leagues where he's available because of the bump in value, at least once he's cleared to play. 

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