Fans of Darren Sproles may be a little offended by the headline, but we are forced to ask the question after ProFootballTalk made a story out of Detroit Lions’ back up quarterback, Dan Orlovsky, compared Riddick to Sproles in an interview on The Ross Tucker Football Podcast.
This kid, he wasn’t covered a single time in OTAs and minicamp,” Orlovsky said on the Ross Tucker Football Podcast, via the Detroit Free Press. “And I think that it’s even going to be easier for him when he gets pads on because, once linebackers just try to start colliding him, and that’s what teams started to do with Sproles sometimes. … You hit the home run once every 10 plays, and then 9 out of 10 times, Sproles wins. And that’s what I think Theo’s going to do for us. Theo’s that kind of guy where he has a really good feel, a really good vision, really good suddenness. If he doesn’t have 50 catches this year, I’ll be surprised. He’s going to have opportunities and he’s really talented at it.
I have been a fan of Theo Riddick since before he even stepped foot on a high school football field. Theo grew up in the town right next to the town I live in, Somerville, New Jersey. There was great debate about where he would attend high school and for a time it was thought that he may come to Somerville High School where I was coaching football at the time. He ended up at perennial powerhouse Immaculatta High School right in the same town and even shared a football field. So instead of getting to coach him I was forced to try and help devise ways to stop him.
Needless to say, but my efforts to devise a plan to stop Riddick were in vain. He was an exceptional high school running back with great balance and packed a punch at the point of attack. He did lack that breakaway speed that all really great high school running backs seem to have. Even though he wasn’t quite Reggie Bush in high school he was an absolute winner and leader. He even led Immaculatta High School to a state title in Basketball his senior year. He went on to be all everything here in the state of New Jersey and eventually his exploits lead to a scholarship to attend Notre Dame. Even as a rival coach, I was so excited for Theo to get a chance to show his skills on such a major stage.
While at Notre Dame, Riddick bounced back and forth from running back to slot wide receiver and back again. His senior year Notre Dame finally decided to lean on him as a runner and he showed he was a capable running back. He topped 900 yards rushing while also catching 36 passes out of the backfield and split out wide. Those statistics were nice, but were pretty pedestrian when compared to players that go onto NFL success. Those stats alone should have meant he would at least get a look as a possible 3rd down running back in the NFL, but it all would be decided in his stats at the combine.
Sadly his combine was extremely underwhelming and it mirrored what everyone saw on tape. He had great hands and was a tough runner, but lacked elite athleticism and speed. These are the main points that one must remember when talking about Theo Reddick possibly being the next Darren Sproles. Even with his bad combine, Riddick was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 6th round of the 2013 draft. Even if Riddick didn’t pan out as a runner they knew he would be a great character guy with a chance to help on special teams and on the scout team.
In contrast the guy Riddick has been compared to the most this off season, Darren Sproles, had a tremendously productive college career at Kansas State. He scored 48 touchdowns in the three years he was featured at running back and ran for 1,986 yards in 2003. His height was always scrutinized as going to be his downfall in the NFL, but it actually became a strength as linebackers and safeties couldn’t set their sights on him as he came out of the backfield on passing plays and rushed the ball on draw plays. His amazing combine should have convinced more teams to figure out a way to use him as an offensive weapon, but it took until the San Diego Chargers in the 4th round for a team to take a chance. Check out Sproles’s 20 yard shuttle time.
This off-season some buzz has been building around Riddick in fantasy circles and I think it’s time to temper the expectations a bit. He definitely deserves to be looked at in full PPR dynasty leagues because I doubt Reggie Bush is a Lion after the 2014 season, but his redraft value is next to zero for me. There are just too many mouths to feed in Detroit this season for Riddick to make an impact, but things could change if there are some unfortunate preseason injuries. If Bush is cut after 2014 than Riddick gets a big boost as the compliment to Joique Bell in the Lions’ backfield. Just don’t do a bat flip like you hit a home run next off season when Bush gets cut. It’s more of a seeing eye single in my book if he gets to share the 3rd down duties in Detroit.
Darren Sproles on the other hand still has some value in redraft leagues, especially full PPR redraft leagues. The Eagles should be able to up the tempo even more in year two of the Chip Kelly era and Sproles could surprise with a bounce back year in Philadelphia. He will probably never approach the running back two status he once had in full PPR leagues, but he could surprise in some best ball formats and as a running back four in PPR leagues. It should be a fun off season to see how things develop for both Sproles and Reddick in fantasy football.
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