Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on CBS Fantasy and was written by Dave Richard.
The Philadelphia Eagles finished 11th in running the ball last year, averaging 113.3 rush yards per game, despite failing to produce a running back with even 700 rushing yards on the season.
That's a heck of a magic trick.
They also, somehow, managed to finish tied for 10th in the league in rushing scores with 16, just as many as run-hungry squads like Carolina and Tennessee.
Philly had one rusher with more than two touchdowns -- Ryan Mathews with eight, and all were scored from 8 yards or closer.
And he's just been replaced by touchdown grinder LeGarrette Blount.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson wasn't always honest about how he'd use his running backs, which led to many weeks of frustration for Fantasy owners. On only seven occasions did one Eagles rusher hit 15 carries or more, and only three times did a back tally 20 or more touches in a game.
Be it because of injuries or not-so-special play, it was obvious that the Eagles preferred to use many people to create a run game. That's bound to continue, but there should be a little more definition to it now.
Don't assume that Blount will simply replace the 11.9 carries per game Mathews had last season. His skill set is pretty well defined -- an early-downs, between-the-tackles romper with a penchant for scoring at the goal line. When the Eagles try to kill the clock, or when they're inside the 10, Blount should be on the field. When they're in their two-minute offense or trailing in the second half, Blount will be on the sideline.
The hunch is Philly will be trailing more often than the 2016 Patriots did when Blount chugged along 299 times for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns -- 15 from inside the 10. But between the defensive upgrades and powerful offensive line, not to mention a schedule that isn't anywhere near as dreadful as last year's, Blount should have a shot at scoring eight or nine times. That's enough to put him directly into the No. 3 running back discussion as a touchdown-or-bust ball-carrier. He's going to get sniped by Round 8.
The good news is that Blount's defined role creates a clear view of what to expect from Darren Sproles. In what might be his last season, Sproles should be in a spot to work just about any down Blount doesn't -- no-huddles, playing from behind and playing at the end of the half should all be primo spots for Sproles. In pretty much that exact role in 2016, Sproles averaged 6.3 carries and 3.5 catches per game. He finished just outside the top 30 in non-PPR and inside the top 30 in PPR formats last year. Expect more of the same, making Sproles a late-round pick regardless of format.
If Blount struggles or gets hurt, Wendell Smallwood is probably the best bet to replace him, though Sproles could pick up more playing time, too. Rookie Donnel Pumphrey is a clone of Sproles and seems like the understudy to the pass-catching role. Those guys aren't worth drafting unless they flourish in training camp and the preseason.
As for Mathews, the writing is on the wall. At 30 years of age and coming back from neck surgery, it's unlikely he'll finally be in a strong role -- for the Eagles or anybody else. He might not even be ready to play by August or September. Fantasy owners shouldn't expect much of anything from Mathews.
There weren't many destinations Blount could have ended up in that would have been genuinely good for Fantasy. Philadelphia is one that is very friendly for Fantasy.
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