In the last edition of the Monday Morning Sleeper, I profiled a running back named Paul Perkins who is entering his second season with the Giants, and who is primed to take a huge leap forward in the ranks of fantasy football. Just this week, Giants Coach, Ben McAdoo named Perkins the starting running back for the Giants. This further paves the way for his breakout season.
This week, I will be profiling a player with a similar opportunity. That player is Wendell Smallwood, and he is a sophomore running back playing for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Release May Lead to Opportunity:
[the_ad id=”384″]Philly is in a state of flux at the running back position right now, and there is an opportunity there for a young running back to seize his opportunity. While Ryan Matthews has yet to be released from the Eagles this preseason, unfortunately for him, his health concerns have become well documented and an ongoing concern. He is going to be turning 30 this season, which is generally past a running backs expiration date, and his release is expected. While this isn’t great news for anyone sitting with Matthews on their Dynasty roster, it could be a chance for another player on the Eagles to step up and take the opportunity by the horns… or wings.
Smallwood Big for Mountaineers:
Enter the 23-year-old sophomore from West Virginia, Wendell Smallwood. His college career was impressive, but more so his final season as a Junior with the Mountaineers. In his final stand-out season, he averaged 6.4 yards per carry, on 238 carries, for a total of 1519 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns. Those are some impressive stats that could be indicative of his career potential. Over his three years in West Virginia, he also added 68 receptions for 618 yards. While those numbers are not off the charts, it does show that he has an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, which could make him valuable in PPR formats, should he be utilized by Philly in that role.
Big Name Set to Retire:
Unfortunately for Smallwood, that role traditionally belongs to Darren Sproles. However, there may be an opportunity there as well. Darren Sproles is still on the Eagles roster, but he will be 34 by the time the season begins and is definitely in the twilight of his career. Last season, Sproles had 52 receptions for 427 yards and 2 touchdowns. If Smallwood has an opportunity to cut into that role, he could see a significant increase to his weekly production.
Right now, his only competition for the starting job, from inside the organization, is from Kenjon Barner, Byron Marshall, and Terrell Watson. Smallwood should easily earn the starting gig and distance himself from the competition early on in training camp.
Don’t Worry About Donnell:
The Eagles, while rumored to be interested in acquiring a top-ranked running back early in the 2017 NFL entry draft, only made a minor splash by drafting Donnell Pumphrey in the 4th round, 132nd overall. Donnell Pumphrey, coming in at 5’8″ and a 176 pounds, finished his college career with 6 yards per carry on 1,059 carries, and added 62 rushing touchdowns. Unfortunately, he is a smaller than average running back, who lacks the strength to fight through the blocks. While he could find a role with the Eagles, it is unlikely he will win the starting back duties from Smallwood. That being said, Pumphrey could be a valuable handcuff for Smallwood, and could one day develop into a reliable pass catching back, with potential PPR upside.
Last year Smallwood showed a small glimpse of his potential before suffering a season-ending MCL sprain. With his rehab almost complete, he should be %100 for training camp, and ready to compete for the starting job. While he didn’t have a great rookie campaign, he had 77 carries and averaged 4.1 yards per carry, he did show glimpses of his potential but was cut short when he suffered the injury in week 13 against the Redskins.
Smallwood is currently ranked 180th overall, and 56th at running back. As long as Philly doesn’t sign a superior talent, I predict that Smallwood will finish in the top 30 at running back in standard leagues with a slight bump in PPR formats. I would take a chance on Smallwood around the 9th or 10th round, as it stands right now.
Thank you for reading, and check back next Monday for another addition of The Monday Morning Sleeper.