Fantasy Football 2012: Why Mark Ingram Isn't a Smart Pickup

James ShimCorrespondent IAugust 7, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012: Why Mark Ingram Isn't a Smart Pickup

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    New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram had a prolific college career at the University of Alabama. In his sophomore year in 2009, he set Alabama's single-season rushing record with 1,658 yards, won a Heisman Trophy, and also helped lead Alabama to a 14-0 record and the 2010 BCS National Championship. 

    Selected 28th by the Saints in the 2011 NFL Draft, it was hard to see Ingram have an impact for fantasy owners last year. However, some fantasy owners still drafted Ingram because of the level of talent he showed while at Alabama. With injury problems and a crowded backfield in New Orleans, though, it was hard for Ingram to contribute much. 

    With fantasy drafts underway, some are wondering if Ingram is worth the risk this year. Despite the talent he showcased while at Alabama and glimpses of a solid running back last year, Ingram is not a smart pickup for your fantasy team. 

    At best, Ingram is a No. 2 flex option or a No. 3 RB for your fantasy team, and he should not be a player you "reach" for in your draft. 

    After a disappointing first year with the Saints, Ingram does not look to be a smart fantasy pickup this year, and here's why. 

1. The Crowded Saints Backfield

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    One of the biggest nightmares for a fantasy owner is a crowded backfield. 

    Unfortunately for Mark Ingram, he falls into what is called a "running back by committee." This means that a team, such as the New Orleans Saints, utilizes more than one running back in a prominent role. 

    In New Orleans, the Saints use a committee of three running backs in Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram, and even sometimes utilize a fourth in Chris Ivory. 

    When Ingram was drafted by New Orleans, everyone knew that he landed in a horrible place for fantasy value. Because the Saints utilize so many different running backs, it makes it difficult for an owner to receive a consistent level of production. 

    Sure, you can start him based on strength of schedule, but you really cannot determine how many touches Ingram will get every game.

    The only upside is that Ingram will most likely handle the Saints' goal-line duties, where he can rack up touchdowns for your fantasy team. However, it's hard to determine how often Ingram will get carries in the end zone, which brings me to my next point. 

2. The Saints' Pass-Happy Offense

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    The New Orleans Saints have one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks in Drew Brees, and they love to pass the ball. 

    The Saints were ranked second in the NFL in pass attempts with 662. (The Detroit Lions were first with 666.) Although they ranked in the top 10 in rushing attempts with 431, they only averaged about 27 attempts per game, which ranks them 20th in that category.

    On the flip-side, they averaged about 41 pass attempts per game, which still lands them in the top two in that category. 

    With the Saints offense, they scored only 16 touchdowns via the ground attack, but scored 46 touchdowns though the air. 

    The Saints possess a lot of weapons in the passing game that they utilize, from Jimmy Graham to Marques Colston, and the Saints offense practically runs through Brees. 

    The Saints have said they would like Ingram to get 200 touches this season, but with all the success the Saints find through the air, you just never know how many carries Ingram consistently will get. 

3. Durability

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    Mark Ingram has injury issues dating back to his junior year at Alabama. Prior to his junior year, he had minor knee surgery, which caused him to miss three games. 

    His rookie season last year also was cut short to 10 games, as he underwent surgery for turf toe. He later underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on the same knee he had surgery on before his junior year at Alabama. 

    However, reports have stated that Ingram looks healthy in training camp thus far, which brings positive news. However, Ingram's style of play as a hard-nosed runner puts a lot of pressure on his legs, and with his injury history, no one knows if his knees will be able to hold up. 

    It does not help that he has had surgery on the same knee twice in the past three years. 

4. You Can Find Better Options Without Reaching

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    Ingram's average draft position has dropped to about the eighth round, but some owners are still reaching in higher rounds to pick up the back. 

    Ranked 33rd in ESPN's fantasy running back rankings, you can still pick up a more consistent back over Ingram. 

    One running back who can be targeted over Ingram is New York Jets running back Shonn Greene. Sure, the signing of Tebow may take some goal-line touches away from Greene, but the Jets look to be more of a running team, similar to when coach Rex Ryan first arrived in New York. 

    The Jets first utilized a "ground-and-pound" offense, as they were a run-first team. Last season they were more of a pass-first team, and that yielded horrible results. With reports of the Jets offense struggling and not keeping up with their defense, you've got to believe that once the season starts Coach Ryan will implement his old "ground-and-pound" offense.

    This will open up an opportunity for Greene, who has a healthy offensive line in front of him as well. 

    Some other options you can consider are: 

    • Isaac Redman (Rashard Mendenhall is still recovering from ACL surgery) 
    • Stevan Ridley (will most likely be the lead back with the Patriots and averaged 5.1 yards per carry as a rookie last season) 
    • Roy Helu (can easily beat out Hightower on the depth chart because he is more explosive and more of a threat in the passing game; averaged 4.2 yards per carry last season)

5. Sean Payton's Suspension

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    With the "Bountygate" scandal leaving the Saints head coach suspended for a year, many wonder how successful the Saints offense will be without their head coach. 

    Arguably one of the brightest minds in the game, it's hard to see how much of an impact Sean Payton's absence will affect this team. However, you've got to believe that, with his absence, some of the Saints' play-calling will take a hit and slow down. 

    Rotations may be disorganized, and even the play-calling may be disarranged. 

    The loss of Payton for a year is certainly detrimental, and no one knows how this team will respond in light of that.

    The feeling of uncertainty for a fantasy owner is one of the worst feelings throughout a football season. Mark Ingram will give a fantasy owner more uncertainty than he/she would like, which makes me believe Ingram is not a smart pickup for this season of fantasy football.