NFC South top 25: No. 5

We continue our series of my projected top 25 players in the NFC South for the 2012 season with No. 5:

Darren Sproles, running back, New Orleans

What he did in 2011: In his first season with New Orleans, Sproles set a new league record for all-purpose yards. The Saints knew they were getting a good player when they signed Sproles, but he turned out to be even better than in his San Diego days. The Saints used him as a running back, receiver and a return man. Coach Sean Payton said several times last season he pleasantly was surprised by Sproles’ ability to run between the tackles. That’s why Sproles wound up with career highs in rushing yards and carries.

Why he’s No. 5 in 2012: The Saints did a great job of getting Sproles involved in their offense last year when they didn’t have the benefit of a full offseason. Now that Sproles has had a chance to go through a full offseason program and the coaches have a better grasp of his talents, I’m expecting Sproles to once again put up big numbers.