He is not Darren Sproles
First thing first, I want to get this out of the way. Donnel Pumphrey is not Darren Sproles. Before someone tweets at me, emails me or yells at me on the street. Donnel Pumphrey is not Darren Sproles. Yes, they are both undersized, both have receiving prowess, but that’s about the extent of their similarities. Sproles is two inches shorter and 10 pounds heavier than Pumphrey which leads to much higher BMI of 29.9(45th percentile) compared to Pumphrey’s 26.8 BMI(2nd percentile). For someone uninitiated in BMI, the closer a BMI is to 32 the better when it comes to running backs.
Or even more bluntly the thicker, the better. It seems that every small back that comes out of college that the fantasy community has a fondness for is compared to Darren Sproles. Sproles is unique; he has a 127.5 Sparq-X score which is in the 87th percentile, he’s an outlier.
Donnel Pumphrey can do Darren Sprole’s-like things
Pumphrey is an undersized, record-setting running back who most doubt will be able to make much of an impact at the NFL level. Though he’ll never be a three-down back, his PlayerProfiler comp of Lance Dunbar is an intriguing one. Before tearing his ACL in week 4 of the 2015 season, Dunbar put up 215 yards on 21 receptions. That’s an 84 reception pace. Pumphrey not only comps to Dunbar physically, he also has shown he is a capable receiver out of the backfield like Dunbar. During his time as SDSU Pumphrey averaged 24.75 receptions per season, as well as being a real workhorse back week in and week out.
The NFL is a different beast than college football, so I can’t see anyway whatsoever that Pumphrey even remotely approaches the workload he had in college. But Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson showed in his lone season as the primary play-caller that he doesn’t fear using a small back to run the ball. Darren Sproles obliterated his previous season high for rushing attempts in 2016 with 94 carries for the year. Okay obliterated is perhaps a tad strong, he bested his previous high by 1 carry. But he did it in only 15 games. Imagine what he could have done with that one additional game? He might have even broken the 100 carry mark!
Pumphrey comes into the league off a senior season that saw him carry the ball nearly 25 times a game. Pederson is a creative play caller that can find a way to scheme Pumphrey somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-10 carries a game. Not every rushing attempt has to be 3 yards and a cloud of dust. I’d expect the Eagles to utilize Pumphrey on draws, delayed handoffs, some counter plays with Trey Burton in the fullback role, basically every and any misdirection run play in the playbook. It’s hard to hit what you can see. Pumphrey is going to have built-in deception in his game due to only standing 5’8″ tall. He’ll be well hidden behind the Eagles offensive lineman.
The NFL is a different level, but I feel duty bound to report that in 4 seasons at SDSU Pumphrey missed exactly 0 games. Zero games missed in four seasons. Four seasons in which he toted the rock 1,059 times. As I said earlier, Pumphrey will never approach those numbers at the pro-level, but I do believe he can handle a workload of 8-10 rushing attempts on a weekly basis.
During rookie camp, Pumphrey lined up in the slot frequently. This has continued through at least Day 1 of the Eagles full squad OTA’s, with Sproles in the backfield and Pumphrey lined up in the slot. It’s clear the Eagles offensive coaches know that Pumphrey is a weapon and they’re flexing their creative muscles imagining ways to utilize him in the receiving game.
On average, Pumphrey contributed 1.83 receptions a week during his college career. He lined up in the slot or would often go in motion out of the backfield during his time at SDSU. While it’s impossible to imagine him duplicating his college rushing workload I can easily see him surpassing his receiving totals. If Pumphrey didn’t have to run the ball 25 times a game at SDSU it’s not hard to conclude that his receiving totals would have been more impressive. Watching film of Pumphrey, it’s easy to see he possesses natural receiving skills.
As an added benefit, Pumphrey returned punts during Senior Bowl week and has done so during Eagles rookie OTA’s and the full squad voluntary OTA’s.
Donnel Pumphrey is the Eagles next Darren Sproles
I began this by stating Donnel Pumphrey is not Darren Sproles. He is not and never could be Darren Sproles. But the value he’ll provide to the Eagles, and more importantly, your fantasy roster is going to be similar to what Darren Sproles provides. Do not look for much if any production out of Pumphrey in 2017, he’s the heir apparent to Sproles and will make little to no impact in 2017.
Sproles is already on record as saying this upcoming season will be his the last in the NFL. Look for Pumphrey to sit behind Sproles this season and hopefully soak up every moment he can and learn from one of the best small backs of all time. I’ve been drafting Pumphrey in the 4th round of rookie drafts, which is a fair price for someone with the upside of a weekly flex option.
As always thank you for reading and you can find me on Twitter @DFF_Shane.