When we talk about upgrading the Jets' weapons in the passing game, we usually limit the discussion to wide receiver and tight end. The Jets could also use help out of the backfield. Chris Ivory is a nonentity in the passing game, and Bilal Powell and Tommy Bohanon are only marginally productive receivers. Darren Sproles, a potential cap casualty of the New Orleans Saints, is arguably the best receiver out of the backfield in the game.
Sproles is almost exclusively a pass catcher. While he has a robust 5.1 career average per rush, he has never hit even the modest 100 carry threshold in any season of his career. You can use him on a surprise draw play on a passing down, but he isn't going to carry the load rushing. For a guy used primarily in the passing game, he also does not do much pass blocking. He was left in only 14 times by the Saints in 2013, probably because his receiving skills are so good that his team doesn't want to waste those by leaving him in.
Although he is 30 years old, Sproles is showing few signs of slowing down. He registered 71 receptions for 604 yards in 2013. Those are both top four receiving stats for running backs in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Sproles led all running backs with 2.28 yards per pass route run. Who topped that in the NFL? The list is Rob Gronkowski, Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson, Josh Gordon, Justin Blackmon, Anquan Boldin, DeSean Jackson, Antonio Brown, Alshon Jeffery, and Andre Johnson. A.J. Green was also at 2.28.
Lest you think Sproles is a product of New Orleans' well-designed screen game, he led backs in receiving yards per pass route three times during his career with the Chargers. He has great vision, speed, acceleration, and agility. He makes the most of what is in front of him. Sproles also has experience as a return man, but his productivity has been more pedestrian in these roles.
I think of Darren Sproles as the player the Jets hoped Mike Goodson would become. Yes, the Jets need a gamebreaking player on offense, but they also need to drastically upgrade their complimentary parts. Having a legitimate threat in the screen game and a checkdown target can make life a lot easier for the offense the the 2014 quarterback. Sproles' contract with the Saints is around $3-3.5 million per year. If it stays in this neighborhood, I think the Jets should have some interest.