Mark Ingram had the weight of the world on his shoulders as a rookie with the New Orleans Saints. This year, however, even though the projections are still pretty high, the expectations are not nearly what they were for the former Heisman-winning running back.
Of course, fantasy owners love to hear this news. They are scraping for all the bargains they can, though Ingram is not exactly off the radar at this point in his career.
What we are going to do is tell you all the information you need to know about the Saints running back before your fantasy draft commences so you can make the most informed decision.
Average Draft Position: 98 (per ESPN.com)
Position Rank: 36 (Per CBSSports.com)
In a very deep running back class, it is easy to forget about Ingram. He had just 474 yards on 122 carries as a rookie, though he did have five touchdowns and led the Saints in carries despite missing six games.
The problem with trying to establish value for Ingram is two-fold. First, the Saints have Drew Brees at quarterback, which means they are always going to be a pass-first offensive team.
Second, and even more problematic than Brees, is the way the Saints use their running game. They like to feature multiple backs who can do different things. Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles are still on the roster, so Ingram is going to be the No. 3 back most of the time.
What Round Should Ingram Be Taken?
Ingram could easily turn into one of the biggest bargains in this year's draft class. His talent has not diminished after one season, though it would be nice to have some assurances that he will play in more than 10 games.
Still, given the way the Saints offense works, Ingram should have his share of opportunities to score touchdowns. It is hard to say just how many yards he will get because, as mentioned before, there are a minimal number of carries available.
Injury Assessment/Latest News
Ingram missed six games last season due to heel and toe injuries. He has to prove that he can stay healthy to be the runner the Saints envisioned him to be when they took him.
His knee also has been a problem dating back to his time at Alabama. He sat out the Saints' preseason finale just as a precaution.
Like the Saints, it is best for fantasy owners to play it cautious with Ingram because of his injury history.
Per ESPN: 765 rushing yards, 41 yards receiving, seven total touchdowns
Those numbers seem incredibly optimistic given the competition in the Saints backfield and the feeling of inevitability that Ingram will have to miss at least a few games due to some kind of injury.
At some point the Saints will have to see what they have in Ingram, though I don't imagine it is going to come right out of the gate this year.
I would count on around 600 yards with five touchdowns from Ingram in 2012.
Saints Bye Week: Week 6
Expect Ingram to get about 40 percent of the carries this season, with Thomas handling about 35 percent and Sproles getting the remaining 25 percent.
Same-Tier Players You Should Take Before Ingram
David Wilson, Donald Brown and C.J. Spiller all strike me as potential sleepers in the same vein as Ingram, but they are much more likely to play a significant role in their respective team's offense for 16 games than Ingram.
I keep harping on this, but it is crucial: Ingram has to prove capable of staying healthy before you commit to him. He has value, just as the three running backs mentioned do, but they have a little more than he does because of the way their teams are run.
Same-Tier Players You Should Take Over Ingram
On the flip-side, Ingram is a safer bet than Cedric Benson, Beanie Wells and Isaac Redman.
Wells is on his last legs as a true fantasy starter each week.
Redman is going to get a chance as the Steelers feature back because of Rashard Mendenhall's knee injury, though he tends to be very hot and cold.
As far as Ingram is concerned, I think he could turn into one of the steals of this draft as long as the Saints make a commitment to the 2011 first-round pick, which is not easy to do given his injury history.