Jan 11, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) receives the hand off from quarterback Drew Brees (9) against the Seattle Seahawks during the second half of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
2014 Fantasy Football: Can Mark Ingram Finally Get it Done in 2014?
by Justin Becker, Fantasy CPR
The end could be near for Mark Ingram in New Orleans. The team officially declined his 2015 option earlier this offseason, effectively sending him into the 2014 NFL season as a lame duck.
That makes 2014 a contract year for Ingram, putting even more pressure on the former Alabama star running back to finally live up to his potential.
Doing so certainly won’t be easy, however, as Khiry Robinson impressed enough in 2013 to earn some type of role, while Pierre Thomas was borderline dominant when touching the ball as a runner and receiver a year ago.
Even with the departure of passing down specialist Darren Sproles (traded to Eagles), it’s worth wondering if Ingram will be the odd man out. Specifically for fantasy football owners, he might not have a big enough role to even warrant a selection in fantasy football drafts.
So far, that’s been the case in mock drafts across the country, as Ingram’s ADP (Average Draft Position) is a paltry round 13. That’s better than not being drafted at all and shows fantasy owners at least consider it possible for Ingram to finally figure things out this season.
However, that still puts Ingram pretty far down the pecking order in terms of fantasy appeal, while he’s actually being taken a whopping six rounds after Thomas and four rounds after Robinson. If Sproles was still on the team, he’d probably be taken much higher than Ingram, as well.
But Sproles is in fact gone and Ingram, at least for now, is healthy and ready to make up for being a disappointment through his first three seasons.
With that said, it’s pretty clear by now that Ingram being a disappointment has less to do with his actual ability than the role the Saints give him.
For example, Ingram isn’t the most versatile player in the world, so he’s naturally not going to be a top candidate to be active in the passing game. Thomas and Sproles had been for the past several years, which resulted in 24 total catches for Ingram (never higher than 11).
That alone kept him off the field a good amount, while the Saints also roll with a multiple back rotation and also tend to pass far more than they run.
From the start, even when you factor in injuries and a lack of versatility, Ingram really wasn’t set up to succeed in New Orleans.
That doesn’t mean he’s a scrub or can’t finally bring fantasy owners value in 2014, though. After all, Ingram looked to be at his best in 2013 when he put up 4.9 yards per carry, while he displayed solid Flex value in a limited role through his first two seasons (totaling 10 touchdowns and 1,000+ rushing yards).
Despite the lack of high level production and a seemingly inconsistent role, there is still hope for Ingram. In fact, despite missing five regular season games in 2013, Ingram’s overall production wasn’t all that bad. If you extrapolate his season totals over a full 16-game season, he could have easily ended the year with around 561 rushing yards and about two touchdowns. Not blistering totals by any means, but about on par with the production we saw from him in his first two seasons.
Obviously there’s little here to start speculating that Ingram is going to suddenly light it up. He still has two other quality backs in his way and the Saints (until proven otherwise) still pass more than they run.
Ingram isn’t the most versatile or explosive threat, either, so he’s more than likely limited to early down and goal-line work. That could still put him on pace for his career best totals that he saw in 2012 (602 rushing yards and five scores), when he played in all 16 games.
If he’s actually healthy and effective from the start, that ceiling could rise a bit and get Ingram closer to 750+ rushing yards and maybe 7-8 touchdowns on the ground.
It’s hypothetical, though, so we can’t trust him much in the fantasy realm just yet. Just know that Ingram isn’t some awful talent that can’t provide any value. He’s worth stashing as a late-round flier in the hopes that he stays healthy and carves out a consistent role. If he can do that, he might finally be relevant in fantasy football on a fairly consistent basis. He won’t contend for a spot inside the top-20, but he’ll be worth rostering and using with the right matchups.