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Sproles Proof That Size Does Not Matter

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Darren Sproles of the Saints may be one of the smallest players in the NFL, but the 5-6, 190 pound running back continues to put up huge numbers in New Orleans. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.
Darren Sproles of the Saints may be one of the smallest players in the NFL, but the 5-6, 190 pound running back continues to put up huge numbers in New Orleans. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.

The New Orleans Saints are off to one of their best starts in franchise history, and the success of the team falls on the shoulders of several players. One player who deserves a lot of the credit is RB Darren Sproles. His ability to be a nightmare for the opposition and a spark plug for the offense makes Sproles a valuable asset to have on the field. Fans are hoping he does not fall prey to injury as he did last November, when he broke his hand and was sidelined for three games.

Sproles is one of the league’s most versatile offensive players and a vital piece for the offense and QB Drew Brees. He is a dynamic player who excels as a running back, receiver, kick returner and punt returner. The fact that he has more receptions than rushing attempts this year exemplifies his ability to be utilized so frequently on passing plays. Sproles is extremely effective on screen plays and check downs from Brees, an asset every team wishes they could get from the running back position.

Sproles has proven to be worth every penny of the four year, $14 million contract he signed with the Saints in 2011. The San Diego Chargers are probably scratching their heads trying to figure out why they let him go. In his past two seasons, Sproles has racked up 4,273 all purpose yards, leading the league in 2011 with 2,696 - well ahead of Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, who finished second with 2,211. That same year, Sproles ranked second in kickoff return yards with 1,089, less than 100 yards behind former Redskin Brandon Banks’ mark of 1,174.

Sproles has proven to be a consistent player when it comes to putting up big numbers. Since 2007, Sproles has the most all purpose yards gained with 12,533. In addition, he has put up exceptional numbers at the running back position in his career, averaging over five yards per carry and over eight yards per reception, which ranks him fourth among active players. Given his small stature, those are some eye-popping numbers which speak volumes about his ability to break tackles and elude defenders. For those of you who do not know, Sproles stands at 5-6, weighs 190 pounds and is one of the smallest players in the NFL. But his statistics do not support that.

At the end of Week 6, Sproles has 26 receiving and 10 rushing touchdowns to go along with three punt returns and two kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career. We all must remember most teams do not have the luxury of being able to use one player for all four situations and that alone makes him one of, if not the most, multifaceted offensive players in the league. His offensive explosiveness came full circle against the Miami Dolphins, when he carved up their defense for 114 yards on only seven receptions. Sproles added a rushing and a receiving touchdown to go along with that.

If he keeps up his current pace, Sproles will eclipse his career high of 710 receiving yards this season. Currently, he ranks fifth in the league in yards after catch with 224, second amongst running backs behind only teammate Pierre Thomas. In addition, his 366 reception yards rank him first amongst running backs in the league. Also, Sproles is averaging 61 yards per game, making him second only to Tennesse Titans WR Nate Washington, who is averaging 62.8 yards per game.

Sproles is a large reason why the Saints are off to such an impressive start this season and as long as he remains healthy, the team should be well on its way to another NFC South division title and will be a serious Super Bowl contender.

I guess big things really do come in small packages.