Sproles replaces Tomlinson, but does it matter?

Updated: September 18, 2009, 5:26 PM ET
By Eric Karabell
Well, I guess game-time came a lot earlier than we thought for LaDainian Tomlinson. By mid-day Friday, a full 48 hours before the Chargers and the Ravens prepare to do battle, the San Diego Chargers ruled their starting running back out for Week 2. Some fantasy owners will really be scrambling here, while others were down on him for this game to start with. He's out. That's actually good news. Now as fantasy owners we can really prepare for Sunday, knowing we must remove him from lineups. In a weird way I like this, even though I have Tomlinson on multiple teams. Game-time decisions stink … unless teams make the final judgment two days before the game.

Obviously Darren Sproles moves way up in our rankings, which he should since he's now the starter, but one very important thing has not changed: The Ravens are still the defense, and a formidable one at that. I expect Sproles to get plenty of touches, but not to do a whole lot with them. I moved him from No. 39 at running back to No. 26, which means he's still more of a flex option for me, at best. The running backs directly behind him in my rankings are Jonathan Stewart, Reggie Bush, Derrick Ward, Ronnie Brown and Larry Johnson.

Sproles remains unproven in a starting role, and I guess I'm just not willing to take that chance to make him a safe RB2. He's 5-6 and maybe 180 pounds, and I expect him to have more success as a receiver out of the backfield than trying to run between the tackles. Could he score a touchdown? Sure. Could he total 100 yards? Absolutely. Am I hedging my bets on someone who has never been in this position before and faces a signature tough defense? You betcha. Sproles is a worthy flex option for some, moving up in my rankings there to No. 49. Just be careful here if you're assuming he does what Tomlinson normally would.