If you scamper around the web, many online rankings and mock draft results will have Mark Ingram falling to around a seventh-round selection, or ranked in the 25 – 30 range for running backs.
It seems many experts and fantasy owners are still scared to draft a Saints running back because of all the rotational use over the past few years with Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush and others. This is understandable as many fantasy owners have been let down by Bush’s disappointing career and Thomas’s constant health issues.
While Ingram has to prove he can stay on the field, at the pro level, he seemed to have no problems with durability at Alabama, outside of his hamstring injury that cost him a couple of games to start last season.
If you look at the Saints failures last season, they were one of the worst running teams in the league, and it was the poor health of their running backs that was the main culprit for this lack in production.
As a result, Ingram is now with the Saints, Bush is gone as soon as the lockout ends, and Thomas is still rehabbing from his nasty ankle injury.
Before Ingram is ready to make a fantasy impact, we need to see him win the starting job in camp, and hopefully flash a few big plays in preseason games.
There is a reason why coach Sean Payton traded back up into the first round to acquire Ingram, and that was to get the running game fixed. With Thomas still coming back from his ankle injury, Ingram should be a (dare, I say) feature back on this team.
Again, I can’t blame fantasy owners for being gun shy at the idea of viewing Ingram in that light, on draft day, but they will be kicking themselves come October if they don’t.
Yes, the Saints will have a couple challenging games to start the season as they face the Packers and the Bears. Then again, perhaps the best time of year to face winning teams is at the beginning of the season, and especially this year, because they are still getting their legs underneath them.
After that, Ingram has one heck of a run as he faces the Texans, Jaguars, Panthers, Buccaneers, Colts, Rams, Buccaneers all in a row. All those defenses were poor against the run last year, and will likely struggle again.
I anticipate Ingram’s value will move up during the preseason, but fantasy owners should look to Ingram as high as a late fourth round pick. By next season, Ingram may go as high as a first round pick, as he’s in a high-scoring offense, with a great offensive line, to make him a successful player, year after year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ingram posts over 1,300 yards rushing with over ten touchdowns, but expect nothing less than over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns in his rookie year.