There's only one Darren Sproles

February, 28, 2012
2/28/12
3:59
PM ET
Check out this Insider post that looks at draft prospects that could be the next Darren Sproles.

Chris Rainey, LaMichael James, Devon Wylie, Isaiah Pead and Rodney Stewart (not to be confused with singer Rod Stewart) are the guys listed as candidates.

They’re all short, very quick and each of them did some very good things in college. But I think it’s a stretch to call any of them the next Sproles.

That’s almost entirely because there is only one Sproles. He’s a unique player, who has defied all the stereotypes about being too short and too light. The caveat with those usually is that the player can’t be durable enough to be a long-term factor.

There’s truth in that because small guys often get hurt when they’re hit by big guys. But Sproles has been the exception to that. Look back at his track record. He’s missed precisely one game since 2007.

Then, there’s the fact that when Sproles joined the New Orleans Saints last season, he suddenly was used more than he ever was in his days in San Diego. The Saints used Sproles as a runner, receiver and a return man. They also found out he could make a bigger impact as a runner than even they thought and that’s why they gave him a 87 carries and he responded with a career-high 603 rushing yards.

Sproles also was used as a receiver out of the backfield and sometimes even lined up as a receiver. He caught a career high 86 passes and set a new NFL record for all-purpose yards in a season.

Not every undersized running back can do what Sproles does. In fact, I’ll make the case that there’s not anyone else out there that can do what Sproles does.

He’s a unique talent with uncommon durability. He’s also playing in a unique system with a very unique coach (Sean Payton). Right now Sproles is the perfect guy in the perfect situation and that’s just not going to happen everywhere.

Heck, Sproles wasn’t even the Sproles we’re talking about now until he got to New Orleans.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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