Fantasy Football: Is Mark Ingram Worth the Investment?


Sep 14, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) scores a touchdown against Cleveland Browns inside linebacker Craig Robertson (53) during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns won 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints’ running back Mark Ingram began the year in strong fashion.  After rushing for 143 yards (on just 24 carries) and three touchdowns in the first two games, Ingram began to display some of the talent that made him a first round pick and former Heisman Trophy winner.  Yet, football can be unkind and it was to Ingram when he broke his thumb during the Browns game.

Mark Ingram is now healthy and will be returning this week against the Lions.

Because the Lions possess an incredibly stout defense (2nd in the league against the run), it’s unlikely Mark Ingram will put up big numbers the way he did against the Falcons and Browns.  But going forward, Ingram could be worth the investment for many fantasy football owners out there.  It’s actually this presumed struggle this week that may make current Ingram owners more likely to trade him now.

Currently Ingram is owned in 63% of Yahoo leagues and 79.9% of ESPN leagues.  It’s likely he’d have to be received in a trade regardless of the league.  But if you happen to be one of those leagues where he’s available, you are in luck.  Either way, Ingram may be an investment worth making if you’re a team in need of depth or looking for some playoff power.

Ingram has a very favorable schedule the rest of the year.  He only has two difficult matchups the rest of the year–Week 10 versus the 49ers and Week 12 versus the Ravens–and both happen before fantasy playoffs and during bye weeks, so your opposing fantasy team could be weaker.  Speaking of bye weeks, Ingram’s has already passed, which adds to his value going forward.  During fantasy playoffs (presumably Weeks 13-16), Ingram faces Carolina, Chicago, and Atlanta who are giving up the 2nd most, the 20th most, and most points to running backs in the league respectively; we all know Chicago’s defense is very susceptible to being picked apart despite their 20th ranking as they have given up 104 yards/game thus far this year.  Clearly the schedule favors Ingram’s acquisition.

Another factor to consider here is where both the Saints’ offense and defense currently stands.  There’s no doubt the Saints have one of the league’s most dynamic offenses.  But the Saints have struggled to finish drives at times and having a big, tough back like Ingram to pound the opposition in the red zone is always appealing.  More than that, the Saints’ defensive struggles would be only negated by a strong running game.  The Saints high-powered aerial attack is appealing and always fun to watch.  But the problem is it’s likely to force their defense onto the field more times than the Saints prefer.  If Sean Payton is smart, he’ll be more likely to utilize a balanced attack going forward, which would allow the Saints to keep the ball more often and hence, keep their porous defense off the field.  This outlook only increases Ingram’s potential usage.

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Finally is the discussion regarding Ingram’s small sample size this year.  Admittedly, Ingram’s two games may have been strong, but there’s of course concern over it being only two games.  Beyond this, the games were against the Falcons weak defense and the Browns who have looked nearly as vulnerable.  Yet, it’s important to consider that if Ingram’s average fantasy point production, 18.75 (6th amongst fantasy running backs), was lowered to just 15, he’d still rank as the 10th best running back in fantasy.  Ingram’s output looks to be possibly strong going forward.

The last thing fantasy owners must consider is Ingram’s potential competition and usage.  This is where Ingram takes a fall.  Through his first two games, Ingram was used on only 27.6% of snaps.  This percentage was second-most on the team to Pierre Thomas, who is used slightly more often as the Saints favor his receiving ability in their high-powered attack; on the year, Thomas has been used on 40% of snaps.  Also to consider is Khiry Robinson, who’s made a name for himself since Ingram’s absence.  Robinson took a backseat to Ingram while he was playing, so this could happen again, but with his production and the Saints’ feelings regarding him, a further timeshare could be in order.

All in all, Mark Ingram is an intriguing type of player.  His early fantasy value looked promising as does his potential role in the offense if the Saints look to nullify their defense.  His schedule is intriguing and could be worth the risk for a fantasy team who’s in dire need of depth and/or a favorable playoff schedule.  But his acquisition via trade comes with some risk.  Will Ingram continue to see the red zone opportunities?  Will the Saints want to finally give him a chance to prove his merit before Ingram hits free agency in 2015? Are the Saints willing to adjust their offense to leave their defense less exposed?  He’s an appealing player and if he has a big game upon his return, owners will want to continue to hang on.  So if you choose to take the bait on Ingram, make sure you do so with caution.