Firstly, no one is saying he's exactly the same as Darren Sproles, please no one get their underwear in a bunch. They're both 3rd-down specialists who are short & shifty, it's worth a comparison. I'll look at Sproles with us '08-10, and Woodhead '10-12
***(IGNORE THE "TOTAL" LONG RUN/CATCH IN THE TABLES, I JUST NOTICED I DIDN'T CHANGE THE SUM-FUNCTION FOR THOSE COLUMNS (AND DON'T WANT TO RE-SAVE ALL TABLES TO IMAGES), IT'S PROBABLY NOT INDICATIVE OF MUCH ANYWAY)
(Feel free to ask for explanations of any abbreviations, but I'm not going to get into all of them just for a fan-post)
First, here's what they brought to their pre-NFL tests:
Sproles Combine (noted, now listed at 190)
Woodhead's Pro-Day (note, now listed at 200lbs)
For the most part, they are fairly close. Similar bench numbers, Woodhead has the advantage in dash times & jumps, while Sproles in agility drills. If we combine the jumps and cone drills respectively, we can get "Explosion" and "Agility" numbers (then divide Explosion by Agility to get a single metric).
We can that Woodhead has more "lower body explosion" and Sproles has more "quickness", and with the single-metric Woodhead comes out ahead, but it's probably a wash.
Next, we examine the grades from PFF:
Both are very good in the receiving game, with Sproles coming out a bit ahead. However, Woodhead has shown up more in the running game (we'll examine their rushing metrics next, so it can be up to you to decide how much of that was because NE had a much better OL than the Chargers (though I'd imagine grades reflect that)). Both are close enough in pass-blocking (averaging out to about league-average of zero).
Rushing stat comparison:
Both have consistently been good at getting yards after contact, and while their yards before contact average (sometimes an indicator of vision) are roughly equal, the difference between Woodhead's and the average of his other teammates is smaller, indicating he's working with a better line. Their fumble %s are roughly equal as well. Sproles takes a lead in % of runs that resulted in 20+ yards, and forced Missed Tackle %.
Next is PFF's "elusive rating" which combines missed tackles (running & receiving) and yards-after-contact/att.
It's not terribly different between the 2, but Sproles edges Woodhead out. Both are not great when compared to other RB, and this is likely because both are more of "space players" who can quickly eat up yards in open space and make cuts to change direction when they are not even close enough to defenders for them to even attempt a tackle (that could be missed).
Next is Breakaway %, the % of a RB's rushing yards that come from runs that were 15 or more yards (I also calculated the % of runs that resulted in 15 or more yards, and the average of their 15+ runs
This may be the final result of Sprole's higher elusive-rating & agility numbers, he breaks off 15 yard runs much more than Woodhead and he gets much more of his yards on such runs (although, it could be argued that Woodhead would be more consistent when not breaking off big gains).
Now here's where we get to the real value of guys like these, the pass-catching. (I also included Ronnie Brown's 2012 to see what we were "working with" last season).
Woodhead's yards-per-route-run is lower (by a yard) than Sprole's, but he was also targeted less frequently (~10% less) and this could be a comment on the depth of talent in the receiving group during those 2 3-year periods (Sproles was relied upon much more heavily). Although it could change with a different team, we can see that Woodhead was catching passes on average almost 2 yards further down-field than Sproles (which basically just gives some context to the rest of the numbers). The receiving game is where the things equal out in terms of dynamic play-making. They are roughly equal in % of receptions going for 20+ yards, and in missed tackle % (with Woodhead edging out in that regard). Woodhead also was slightly more sure-handed than Sproles.
As suspected, Brown was leaned on as heavily as Sproles but was much less dynamic. Woodhead seems to be quite the upgrade in that regard & if he gets anywhere near the reps we've given half-backs in the passing game recently, he'll be providing us with a spark in the short-passing game we have lacked as of late.
This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.