Fantasy Football: Don’t Sleep on Mark Ingram
If you watched Saints games last season or read any articles breaking down their fantasy production you may have reached the same conclusion that many in the fantasy community have: Sean Payton hates Mark Ingram. My personal theory is that Ingram wore muddy shoes into Payton’s house, kicked the dog, and then went to the fridge and drank milk straight out of the carton. All jokes aside, it really seems like there was something behind the scenes holding Ingram back. He was clearly the most talented running back on the roster by a wide margin and yet other RBs continued to siphon of opportunities. In this article, we are going to dig a little deeper into the conundrum that is Mark Ingram and why I think it is still safe to draft him in 2017.
The perception from 2016 is that Mark Ingram has ball security issues and that’s what drew disdain from head coach, Sean Payton. While Ingram did lead the team in fumbles at the RB position, he only had 2 which is a far cry from being a “fumbling problem”. So, the fears going into 2017 that he may lose his job or opportunities because of ball security issues are overblown. Especially when you consider his competition for carries primarily comes from Adrian Peterson who has 39 career fumbles and has basically invented new and exciting ways to drop the football.
In 2016, Ingram was wildly efficient by just about every metric. His yards per carry was 5.1 and his fantasy points per touch was 0.965. In a vacuum, that number seems a bit abstract. To put it in perspective Ingram’s mark of 0.965 was higher than Le’Veon Bell (0.944), Ezekiel Elliott (0.919), DeMarco Murray (0.849), and even Jay Ajayi (0.750) who was basically known for explosive plays. In fact, Ingram was the 4th most efficient RB in the league with at least 250 touches. This efficiency allowed Ingram to be the only RB to finish in the top 12 with fewer than 280 touches (he had 251). He’s shown that he can excel in the passing game as well as goal line situations, both of which make him an extremely valuable asset in what is perennially one of the most high-powered offenses in the league.
The 2016 Saints were once again at the top of the league in pass attempts but were surprisingly still a middle of the road team in rush attempts. Their 25.2 carries per game ranked them 18th in the league. I expect this number to increase in 2017 for a couple reasons. First, Drew Brees will be 38 years old this season and will be playing without his blindside defender, Terron Armstead, who will miss the season with a shoulder injury. The best way to preserve an aging QB when dealing with possibly suspect pass blocking up front is to run the football. The Saints also traded the talented Brandin Cooks to New England for a 1st round pick that they used on OT Ryan Ramczyk. That to me indicates a shift in focus this season. The Saints want to be a more physical team that can take some pressure off of the aforementioned Brees, as well as their defense. The Saints aren’t going to become a run first team overnight, nor should they, but I expect more opportunities to come.
The additions of Adrian Peterson and rookie Alvin Kamara have many fading Mark Ingram’s value in 2017. However, it is worth noting that Tim Hightower has left the team via free agency and Travaris Cadet looks like he will be casualty come time for roster cuts, so there are 199 touches available without having to reduce Ingram’s workload. The additions of Peterson and Kamara are actually perfect replacements for the types of carries that walked out the door. Set aside any concerns that Peterson will recapture his glory days, or that Kamara is the second coming of Reggie Bush. Peterson is an aging veteran, not unlike Hightower who can probably be effective in light duty, as he has shown signs of his advanced age when given a full workload, and Kamara projects best as a change of pace/third down back similar to Cadet.
Remember that Mark Ingram has finished as an RB1 in each of the last two seasons despite seeing only 47.8% of the teams rushing attempts over that span. Ingram is not an RB that needs 300+ carries, or even 250 to be successful.
For all the talk about Ingram being in the doghouse, he still finished as an RB1. Imagine what he can do if he gets back in Payton’s good graces. Mark Ingram is in a prime position to repeat his success from 2015 and 2016 when he finished as the 12th and 8th best running back in fantasy, only now you can get him at as a steal according to his ADP on Fantasy Football Calculator. Ingram is the 31st RB off the board and is being drafted an entire round and a half after his backup, Adrian Peterson. A starting RB with a track record of finishing as an RB1 is a no brainer at the back of the 6th round. Do yourself a favor and don’t sleep on Mark Ingram in 2017.