Wendell Smallwood ranked as the third-highest running back picked up off the waiver wire in the last week according to ESPN Fantasy Football. Here are a few reasons why you should consider picking him up as well if you haven't already.
Last week against the Giants, Smallwood ran for a career-high 71 rushing yards on 12 carries. Next up are the Chargers who have given up the second-most rushing yards per game behind, you guessed it, the Giants.
"I feel good, it feels like a regular week to me. I'm just dialing in on the game plan, everything that I have to do and knowing that it's going to be a heavier increase for the running back group," Smallwood said after Darren Sproles was placed on Injured Reserve this week. "Sproles was the rider guy to this offense so we know all four of us have to step up. Be ready to make some plays and take on a bigger role."
Smallwood has been entrusted as the lead guy at running back to see his reps go up. Sproles played in 45 percent of the team's total snaps on offense last season and made 52 catches. With Smallwood as the likely candidate to replace Sproles as the team's pass catcher in the backfield, who's to say Smallwood won't build upon last week's performance? He's been thrown to three times through three games this season with Sproles in the lineup compared to being thrown to six times all of last season.
"A lot of teams don't have three guys, we have four at first that can go in and play and do a lot of things, but I definitely think that we're in a better situation with one guy going down and having three that can come in and step in and take as much ownership of what Sproles did on our own," Smallwood said.
It will take a focused and tireless backfield to replace what Sproles brought on the field. Off the field, Sproles' loss as a leader and mentor won't go overlooked as well. But as things would shake out, running back Kenjon Barner's return to Philadelphia provides Smallwood with a veteran presence from his rookie season. Barner was brought back to take over Sproles' punt return duties but as a byproduct comes to serve as a mentor to Smallwood.
"It feels good. Just a guy that's similar to the system and knows how things go around. When he got back it feels like he wasn't even gone for long. It's kind of like welcome back home for him," Smallwood said. "He knows everything that's going on. We've changed a little but he knows most of it and he's still kind of that vet guy to me when I came here and showed me a lot. So I think it's good for me to have him back in the room since I lost Sproles a little bit."
For Smallwood, he'll face the challenge of trekking through another talented defensive line on another winless team. Despite the fact that the Chargers have given up a lot to opposing ground game defensively, the team is loaded up front with the likes of Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Corey Liuget. For Smallwood, Sunday's game will be a great test to see if the second-year back can handle the load.
"They've got a good defense. We've been watching them all week. They might be 0-3 but whatever's going on; they've been in the games. They haven't been getting blown out. They played the Chiefs as well as us. They have a good front," Smallwood said. "They've got a good defense and we know they're hungry for this game so we've got to come even hungrier. (I'm) ready for them to be their best on the field that day so we have to be our best."
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